For many years basic Latin letters, numerals and symbols were encoded in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), one of the first character coding in computer processing. This standard was introduced in 1963 and uses a 7-bit encoding. Since the very beginning of library automation, however, there was a requirement for more than the basic Latin character set to be coded in bibliographies. Because of this many standards for character sets were developed during the 1970s, the most common being ISO 5426 (extended Latin). 

While for printed bibliographies the main goal of a character encoding standard was to describe all needed printing characters, in an age of international data exchange it is essential that any encoding standard can be interpreted globally. Thus an increasing need for international data exchange led to a standardised universal character set coding: Unicode.