Antedating of "Byte"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 8 15:02:49 UTC 2014

byte (OED 1964)

Fred Shapiro's 1962 is by Werner Buchholz writing about IBM's Project
Stretch. Here's some 1956 memos by Buchholz.

June 11, 1956, Werner Buchholz, THE LINK SYSTEM:

Figure 2 shows the Shift Matrix to be used to convert a 60-bit word,
coming from Memory in parallel, into characters, or "bytes" we
have called them, to be sent to the Adder serially.
It is just as easy to use all six bits in alphanumeric work, or to
handle bytes of only one bit for logical analysis, or to offset the
bytes by any number of bits.

STRETCH MEMO NO. 40 (Buchholz, July 31, 1956) also mentions bytes of 6 bits.

And by STRETCH MEMO NO. 45 (Buchholz, September 19, 1956) bytes became

Input-Output Byte Size
The maximum input-output byte size for serial operation will now be
8 bits, not counting any error detection and correction bits. Thus,
the Exchange will operate on an 8-bit byte basis, and any input-output
units with less than 8 bits per byte will leave the remaining bits
blank. The resultant gaps can be edited out later by programming.

Here's a long list of IBM Strech documents. I've checked the
earlier Buchholz ones, as he's credited with coining it, but there's a
slight chance it may appear in other documents. Note some PDFs 404, so just
google for IBM Stretch and the document name (e.g. "IBM Strech
102632284.pdf" without quotes) should bring a working link from the
Computer History Museum).


The American Dialect Society -

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