Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fluency Milestone #7: Bits & Bytes

There are so many interesting (or, "nagging" as Snyder says on pg.240) questions answered in this chapter.

Why is "byte" spelled with a "y"? It turns out that the man who coined it, a project manager at IBM, named Werner Buchholz, wanted to minimize typos from people typing in "bit." He was working on the Stretch project at IBM at the time. He also was at IBM a few years earlier when he was instrumental in the development of the IBM 701, the company's first commercially available electronic computer (complete with internally addressed memmory--sooooooo long punch cards!)

The chapter also reveals mysteries such as why everything in a computer is a factor of eight, how ASCII works, and why computer programmers can balance their checkbooks in hexidecimal.

One of my earliest encounters with a computer was a NEC owned by my best friend's dad (he was a software engineer at NEC in San Diego). It had 9" disk drives, a small green screen, and the ability to do all sorts of things--provided you could tell it in hexidecimal.

"No open toed shoes in the computer lab" was the sign over the door.


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