From: Peter Prymmer <>
Date: Thu Jan 15 01:04:11 1998
Subj: Re: Etymologies...

PG Manney wrote:

>Where did the following terms come from?


>-Byte (named after nybble, or vice-versa?)

In support of Eric Raymonds's Hacker's Dictionary Dennis Shasha and Cathy
Lazere* attribute the coinage of the term byte to Werner Bucholz who
was chief architect of the IBM Stretch project. That being the late 1950's/
early 1960's I suspect that spellings such as "byte" and "nybble" were also
puns of another sort: at that time a good deal of comedy material was floating
around concerning the fad that had sprung up after world war II to name various
small businesses along the lines of "Ye Olde Cheese Shoppe",
"Ye Olde Liquore Store", "Ye Olde Flowere Shoppe" and such like. The intent was
to convey some old world charm and respectability but by the early 60's
"Ye Olde Used Carre Lotte" had a humourous ring to it and was lampooned in
cartoons (I think things like Hanna-Barberra's Flintstones poked fun at
"Ye Olde..."). Hence the "binary digit" -> bit (from the 1930s) became "byte"
a larger and more respectable measure of storage (BTW in IBM speak one never
mentions 'memory' it is 'storage'). At that time (early 60's) a four bit
instruction set was not unheard of for computers hence the half byte or nybble
came into being (simple pun on bite/nibble).

*"Out of their Minds: The lives and discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists"
(c) 1995 ISBN: 0-387-97992-1

>-Mainframe (Why not it a computer?)

One of the basic units of IBM packaging is the "frame" which _roughly_
translates to four squarish 19" racks stuck together in a square.
A given computer installation may have one or more frames for DASD
(pronounced Dazz-dee meaning "Direct access storage device" or disk drive),
a DASD controller (no kidding these things occupy a whole frame) and the
Central Electronic Complex (CEC or CPU - a.k.a. the "Main" frame)

>-DB (as in DB-15, 25) I've also heard them called D-sub xx)



Apparently invented around 1964 by Douglas Englebart - according to
Time/Life books "Understanding Computers" series. In the "Input/Output"
volume on page 67 referring to equipment used at The 1968 Fall Joint
Computer Conference in San Francisco:

  Technically known as an "x-y position indicator for a system," it was
  something Englebart had invented four years earlier and had named -
  because of its small size and tail-like cable - a mouse.

Peter Prymmer
Received on Thu Jan 15 1998 - 01:04:11 GMT

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