Unicode: Byte Order (Endianness)

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Byte Order (aka Endianness. big-endian vs little-endian) indicates the order of byte unit, used in file or Binary transmission.

For example, the character ๐Ÿคก

In UTF-16 Encoding, it has 4 bytes: D83E DD21 (Each hexadecimal represents 4 binary digits. So, 2 hexadecimal digits is 8 binary digits, thus 1 byte.)

In UTF-16, the minimal number of bytes for a character is 2 bytes. So, it groups every 2-byte as one single unit, called code unit.

Origin of the jargon Big-Endian, Little-Endian

The term Big-Endian vs Little-Endian for byte-order came from a article written by Danny Cohen, published in 1980.

[ON HOLY WARS AND A PLEA FOR PEACE By Danny Cohen. At Endian_war_1980_Danny_Cohen.txt ]

it alludes to Jonathan Swift's 1726 satire Gulliver's Travels. PART I โ€” A VOYAGE TO LILLIPUT, where the people of Lilliput and Blefuscu fight about which end of egg to crack first.

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