ANSI is the acronym for the American National Standards Institute. This institute creates standards for a wide variety of industries, including computer programming languages. ANSI standards currently exist for vast numbers of such seemingly unrelated items as refrigerators, industrial carpet, mayonnaise, and computer parts, among others.
Formed in 1918, this agency is perhaps best known for its efforts in coordinating voluntary standards among public and private industries for computers (floppy disks, magnetic tapes, and other computer parts), video, and programming languages. In particular, the standardization of computer languages, such as COBOL, FORTRAN, and C, has helped to enhance productivity in American industries and increase American competitiveness in the global market.
As an end user (someone who uses the computer to get their work done, rather than programming it), you may still hear of ANSI when someone refers to the ANSI character set.
ANSI released a standard set of computer codes in the late 1950's. The ANSI code is a listing of computer characters (such as the letter A, the question mark, and the comma) with a number code assigned to each one. The ANSI code also includes characters that control the cursor. These control characters include such things as end of-line (a character that moves the cursor to the next line), Backspace, Delete, Home (which moves the cursor to the left side of the screen), End (which moves the cursor to the right side of the screen), and Insert. The ANSI code lists only 128 total characters. The original purpose of the ANSI code was to prevent U.S. manufacturers from creating new codes for every little thing. The Pentagon wanted to purchase computer equipment from multiple suppliers, and in order to ensure that the characters generated by one supplier's equipment would be correctly received and translated by another supplier's equipment, the ANSI agency asked manufacturers to submit a standard listing of characters they could all agree upon. They submitted ASCII (or American Standard Code for Information Interchange), the standard list that IBM had developed, which was then adopted by ANSI with a few modifications.