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From: (Noel Chiappa)
Subject: [TUHS] Re: Does anybody know the etymology of the term "word" as in collection of bits?
Date: Thu,  8 Sep 2022 17:16:35 -0400 (EDT)	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)

    > From: Jim Capp

    > See "The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer",
    > by Maurice V. Wilkes, David J. Wheeler, and Stanley Gill

Blast! I looked in the index in my copy (ex the Caltech CS Dept Library :-),
but didn't find 'word' in the index!

Looking a little further, Turing's ACE Report, from 1946, uses the term
(section 4, pg. 25; "minor cycle, or word"). My copy, the one edited by
Carpenter and Doran, has a note #1 by them, "Turing seems to be the first
user of 'word' with this meaning." I have Brian's email, I can ask him how
they came to that determination, if you'd like.

There aren't many things older than that! I looked quickly through the "First
Draft on the EDVAC", 1945 (re-printed in "From ENIAC to UNIVAC", by Stein),
but did not see word there. It does use the term "minor cycle", though.

Other places worth checking are the IBM/Harvard Mark I, the ENIAC and ...
I guess therer's not much else! Oh, there was a relay machine at Bell, too.
The Atanasoff-Berry computer?

    > From: "John P. Linderman"

    > He claims that if you wanted to do decimal arithmetic on a binary
    > machine, you'd want to have 10 digits of accuracy to capture the 10
    > digit log tables that were then popular.

The EDVAC draft talks about needing 8 decimal digits (Appendix A, pg.190);
apparently von Neumann knew that that's how many digits one needed for
reasonable accuracy in differential equations. That is 27 "binary digits"
(apparently 'bit' hadn't been coined yet).


             reply	other threads:[~2022-09-08 21:16 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 27+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2022-09-08 21:16 Noel Chiappa [this message]
2022-09-08 21:24 ` Dan Halbert
  -- strict thread matches above, loose matches on Subject: below --
2022-09-11 13:30 Douglas McIlroy
2022-09-11 15:08 ` John Cowan
2022-09-11 15:30 ` Bakul Shah
2022-09-11 15:45   ` Paul Winalski
2022-09-11 16:20     ` Steve Nickolas
2022-09-09 19:39 Nelson H. F. Beebe
2022-09-09 20:27 ` Bakul Shah
2022-09-09 21:12   ` Henry Bent
2022-09-09 21:44   ` Dave Horsfall
2022-09-09 18:46 Norman Wilson
2022-09-10  1:35 ` Paul Winalski
2022-09-09 17:26 Douglas McIlroy
2022-09-09  1:33 Douglas McIlroy
2022-09-09  2:12 ` Larry McVoy
2022-09-13 14:23   ` John Foust via TUHS
2022-09-09  2:45 ` George Michaelson
2022-09-16  5:55 ` Marc Donner
2022-09-08 18:20 Noel Chiappa
2022-09-08 19:28 ` Jim Capp
2022-09-08 16:51 [TUHS] " Jon Steinhart
2022-09-08 16:56 ` [TUHS] " Andrew Hume
2022-09-08 17:28 ` Dan Halbert
2022-09-09  0:00   ` Greg 'groggy' Lehey
2022-09-09 15:49     ` Paul Winalski
2022-09-09 18:44       ` Bakul Shah

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