Up to and including HTML3.2, the document character set and the default transmission encoding were iso-8859-1, and this was the only coding that a browser would have to implement in order to satisfy the specifications. In practice, many browsers supported other character encodings to some useful extent, but that lies outside of the scope of this particular discussion.
My original motivation for setting up this area was to offer a briefing on the iso-8859-1 character set and its intended usage in HTML, and to demonstrate the extent to which authors could (or could not) rely on it having been implemented correctly, or at all, in the browsers available at various times. Many (though not quite all) of those historical problems have been resolved over time, leaving room of course for some new ones...
I was also muttering on usenet about some earlier contact with techniques facilitating the internationalisation of messages in software applications.
Original materials © Copyright 1994 - 2006 A.J.Flavell