The Miracle of UTF-8

I've written about UTF-8 before and recounted the story of its invention one night over dinner by Ken Thompson and Rob Pike. Now Tom Scott over at has a wonderful video on UTF-8, which he calls the world's greatest hack.

Scott gives a bit of the history—he mentions that it was designed on the back of a napkin (actually, a paper place mat as I recall) but doesn't tell the whole story—and explains how it works and solves almost all the problems that come up with unicode encodings.

The video is under 10 minutes and well worth the time. Scott is enthusiastic about his subject and manages to impart that to his listeners. I recommend it, especially if you don't already know how UTF-8 works.

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  • Well, the video was very interesting. Saying, though, that Unicode is a panaceum and a way to write everything people would like to write is a bit too much, at least for musicians, who really don't care that much about Klingonese as for good old notes... (And yes, I know that Klingon is not the "official" part of the Unicode. But the fact is that it's possible to write Klingon in Unicode, and impossible to write down any musical piece.)