Byte sizes

Tom Jennings tomj at
Mon Mar 14 15:56:20 CST 2005

On Mon, 14 Mar 2005, Eric Smith wrote:

> Any size from 0 to 36 bits.

Yeah, why is everyone so hung up on defining "byte"? It's not like
it's part of some natural order. It's whatever the designers made
up off the top of their head for some particular task.

It's utterly arbitrary. There's varied interaction with the
'character' unit over time, but the two are not the same.
Sometimes they coincide; often they do not.

And with UNICODE, who cares any more? Byte don't mean shit no
more, it's just an historic leftover.

* When you ask how many bits in a byte, you have to ask "for what

6-bit characters encompass the old ITA2 (aka "baudot") teleprinter
codes, which were five bits (*) plus a state maintained in
parallel in both sender and receiver (aka FIGS and LTRS).  Five
bits fits the roman alphabet 26 letters plus a few punctuation

(*) Rarely did anyone people before approx. WWII consider the five
time intervals that make up the data portion of a
telegraph/teletype character to be "bits". That's a modern

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