[Oberon] byte vs. octet.

John R. Strohm strohm at airmail.net
Fri Apr 27 03:41:40 CEST 2018

--- peter at easthope.ca wrote:
> From: <peter at easthope.ca>
> To: <oberon at lists.inf.ethz.ch>
> Subject: [Oberon] byte vs. octet.
> Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:02:26 -0700
> Various computing related documents, including some Oberon documents 
> use "octet" rather than "byte".  Appears the terms are synonymous.  
> Use of octet in computing is newer than byte?  Is either  term better 
> or preferable?

Back in the Dark Ages, "byte" did not mean "8 bits".  It meant "the smallest uniquely-addressable unit of storage".  6 bits was not unusual.  12 bits was not unheard-of.  8 bits happened.  The venerable DEC-10 had variable-length byte load and store instructions, which came in handy for dealing with 7-bit bytes packed in a 36-bit word.

When the ARPAnet work started, BBN chose to do everything in 8-bit chunks, and they needed a word that specifically meant 8 bits.  They chose "octet".

I first saw the word in the original Internet Protocol Handbook, ca. 1977 or so.

--John R. Strohm

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