On 9/8/22 12:51, Jon Steinhart wrote:
One of those questions for which there is no search engine incantation.


The famous 1946 paper, "Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing device",  by Arthur Burks,  Herman H. Goldstine, John von Neumann, contains this sentence. I have this paper in Computer Structures: Readings and Examples, by Bell and Newell, but it's also online in many forms

4. The memory organ

4.1. Ideally one would desire an indefinitely large memory capacity such that any particular aggregate of 40 binary digits, or word (cf. 2.3), would be immediately available-i.e. in a time which is somewhat or considerably shorter than the operation time of a fast electronic multiplier.

I also looked in the Oxford English Dictionary for etymology. It has:

 d. Computing. A consecutive string of bits (now typically 16, 32, or 64, but formerly fewer) that can be transferred and stored as a unit.machine word: see machine word n. at machine n. Compounds 2.

1946   H. H. Goldstine & J. Von Neumann in J. von Neumann Coll. Wks. (1963) V. 28   In ‘writing’ a word into the memory, it is similarly not only the time effectively consumed in ‘writing’ which matters, but also the time needed to ‘find’ the specified location in the memory.

[plus newer citations]
Dan H