What is the relationship of the Unicode and the Computer Modern font family?

I have the impression, after browsing through wikipedia, that Unicode is not a font, but just an encoding, whereas CM has nothing to do with encoding, as it is a font - but I can quite put my finger on the difference.

Reading this, where it's said that "Computer Modern Unicode fonts", it seems that CM is encoded using Unicode. So I guess what I don't understand is, what it means to encode a font in something?

More generally, what are the steps that currently a glyph that we see has to go through from raw binary code to the image that we see?
Is it something like encoding -> (by something like an "Encoder" if that's the correct name) font -> (by a viewer) Image ?

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    It's a family of OpenType fonts based on Computer Modern, collectively called CM-Unicode. These fonts happen to be encoded according to Unicode. But a typeface consists of its glyphs, encoding is just a way for accessing them. – egreg Mar 6 '17 at 13:06
  • @egreg Could you expand that and make an answer what happens "under the hood" when we view for example a pdf with some text? Is Unicode support available in every OS? What would happen if we would open that pdf in an old Windows that doesn't have Unicode? Do there exist fonts that are not encoded in Unicode? You don't have do answer these question individually, I just wrote to indicate that I don't understand the exact relationship between (Unicode) encoding, fonts and how out of these things one makes a display-abe document. – l7ll7 Mar 6 '17 at 13:17
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    I wonder if this is on-topic for us: Unicode in general is probably covered by StackOverflow (it's a broad idea for encoding computer input): the link to TeX fonts is limited. – Joseph Wright Mar 6 '17 at 14:23
  • I agree with @JosephWright: this is only very marginally related to TeX and friends. – egreg Mar 6 '17 at 15:46
  • i can vouch for the fact that the computer modern fonts were defined and created before unicode existed. there was work being done in iso that was headed in the direction of a "global" encoding, but that was co-opted by unicode, which essentially took over the existing iso working group. don't have time to dig through the details, but i was at the time active on a somewhat related iso working group, several years after the original cm fonts were already in existence. – barbara beeton Mar 7 '17 at 1:01

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