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string as vector of fixnums ?

A Question on the history;
 When try to get a component of a string as a number, we must
get it as a character and then coerce it to number type.
I think it is ridiculous.
This situation attacked me several times when I wrote codes for
data conversion among lots of machines, deciding to conform Common Lisp 100%.

( historically, many dialects of Lisp can get a component of a string as 
a number easily.
On symbolics, there are art-strings types, with which we can treat a character
of a string as number.)
I feel Common Lisp degrades as for the treatment of characters.
Or, there must be a decision on it I did not know.
Or, CLtL ignores this issue as an implementation-dependent thing.

Any opinions ? or I will appreciate if someone give me
the explanation for the process or the
history on the decision .

Thank you.

Masayuki Ida