From AppleTalk to the Web: Contrasting ATBinHex and Base64


Could you elucidate the distinctions between the ATBinHex and Base64 encoding schemes?


ATBinHex, short for AppleTalk Binary to Hexadecimal, is an encoding scheme developed by Apple. It was primarily used in the AppleTalk networking system to encode binary files into a hexadecimal text format for transmission over networks that only support text data. ATBinHex encoding represents binary data as a string of hexadecimal characters (0-9 and A-F), with each byte of binary data converted into two hexadecimal characters.

Base64 Encoding:

Base64, on the other hand, is a more widely used encoding scheme that converts binary data into a 64-character set consisting of uppercase and lowercase letters (A-Z, a-z), digits (0-9), plus (+), and slash (/). It is used to encode binary data for transport in environments that are traditionally text-only, such as sending attachments in email via SMTP or embedding binary data within XML or JSON.

Key Differences:


Character Set:

  • ATBinHex uses a 16-character set (hexadecimal).
  • Base64 uses a 64-character set.
  • 2.


  • ATBinHex is less space-efficient, as it requires two characters for each byte of binary data.
  • Base64 is more space-efficient, encoding three bytes of binary data into four characters, making it approximately 33% larger than the original data.
  • 3.

Usage Context:

  • ATBinHex was specific to the AppleTalk environment and is now largely obsolete.
  • Base64 is still prevalent in modern systems for a variety of uses, including web development and data serialization.
  • 4.

Decoding Complexity:

  • ATBinHex decoding is straightforward, simply converting each pair of hexadecimal characters back into a byte.
  • Base64 decoding is slightly more complex, involving the conversion of each quartet of characters back into three bytes of binary data.
  • In

conclusion, while both ATBinHex and Base64 serve the purpose of encoding binary data into text, they differ in their character sets, efficiency, usage contexts, and decoding complexity. Base64’s broader character set and higher efficiency have made it the preferred choice for encoding binary data in modern applications.

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