[TUHS] IBM 7030 byte size (was: v7 K&R C)

Greg 'groggy' Lehey grog at lemis.com
Tue May 19 13:24:09 AEST 2020

On Monday, 18 May 2020 at  9:58:26 -0400, Doug McIlroy wrote:
>>  [A]lthough these days "byte" is synonymous with "8 bits", historically it
>>  meant "the number of bits needed to store a single character".
> It depends upon what you mean by "historically". Originally "byte"
> was coined to refer to 8 bit addressable units on the IBM 7030
> "Stretch" computer.

It seems that even then it was of variable size.  From G.R. Trimble,
"STRETCH," Computer Usage Communique, 1963,

  the words can be composed of "bytes" with from one to eight bits in
  a byte.

There's more at https://people.cs.clemson.edu/~mark/stretch.html.

> The term was perpetuated for the 360 family of computers. Only
> later did people begin to attribute the meaning to non-addressable
> 6- or 9-bit units on 36- and 18-bit machines.
> Viewed over history, the latter usage was transient and colloquial

Transient maybe, but UNIVAC used the term in its documentation of the
1100 series.  The 1106/1108/1110 could access (but not directly
address) 6, 9 and 12 bit "bytes".

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