[Oberon] Bucky bits

Hans Klaver hklaver at dds.nl
Fri Oct 27 16:23:15 CEST 2023

Talking about keyboard software...

Did you know that Niklaus Wirth used to be quite famous within certain hacker circles as a result of his work on keyboard/editor programs? 

While at Stanford in 1964-65 he "first suggested the idea of an EDIT key to set the 8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII character."(1) 

After his nickname there at that time these bits, used for "extra" shift keys such as the CONTROL and META shift key on the SAIL keyboard, were called "bucky bits". The term spread to MIT and Carnegie Mellon and later was used for bits associated with the SUPER, HYPER, TOP and GREEK keys of the Space Cadet Keyboard.

Also the Alt key of the IBM PC clones and the Command and Option keys of the Macintosh use bucky bits. 
Even today on macOS in certain C framework header files dating from NeXT one can find lines such as:

  #define	NX_WHICHMODMASK	0x0f 	/* bits out of keyBits for bucky bits */ 

Some people are lucky to have a star or planetoid named after them, but I guess for a computer scientist to have widely used bits named after him is more rewarding ;-)



(1) http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/B/bucky-bits.html

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