SAS Encoding: Understanding the Details Reviews

"I am greatly impressed by the depth and breadth of the author’s knowledge—even about the history of writing systems, scripts, and languages. There is a vast amount of interesting and useful information in this book."

John Kohl
author of The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market

"This book provides a very readable description of a topic that has long needed exposure: Why do my characters get garbled on the computer, and how do I fix the problem?

"I would recommend this book if you are the person responsible for resolving character-coding problems (even if you do not use SAS), or if you are merely curious about the technology and why we have such problems. All in all, it’s a very worthwhile purchase.

"The most important thing I can say is that the author succeeds in his three objectives in the Preface.

  1. This book is rather meant to explain things in a generic way, and first and foremost to help folks help themselves when it comes to finding answers to character encoding problems.
  2. It is also meant to give readers background information on characters and character encoding standards.
  3. The book is based on thorough research, but I have tried to write in simple, everyday language, without compromising its technical rigor.

“Since computers can only handle numbers and bits, we need to represent characters as numbers to manipulate them in computers and communicate them in networks. We have many character code standards that describe how to represent various sets of characters as numbers. Herein lies the problem. We have so many of these standards for representing characters that we have a Tower of Babel that can interfere with, rather than facilitate, character manipulation and communication. We’ve long needed a comprehensive text to explain why we have such problems, and more importantly, how to analyze and resolve them. The first chapter introduces the terminology of scripts (essentially, writing systems) and languages. The second chapter introduces character encoding standards and the need for transcoding characters from one code standard to another. The third chapter illustrates the types of problems that can occur when working with characters coded in different character code standards. While the book uses examples from SAS, it is valuable reading because it draws upon Kiefer’s extensive experience to describe general problems that often occur in environments outside of SAS. Finally, chapter 4 examines how to resolve character-coding problems in the SAS environment. It begins with what to check first, and then lists various SAS error messages and the likely causes and remedies."

Edwin Hart
Principal author and editor of the SHARE Inc., ASCII and EBCDIC Character Set and Code Issues in Systems Application Architecture, position paper to IBM

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