A Fascinating History of How the Word ‘Byte’ First Originated Then Was Adapted to Its Current Use

Professor David Brailsford of the Nottingham University series Computerphile, explained how the word “byte” came into existence. Providing a great deal of information upon which to chew, Brailsford shared how the word first originated at Bell Labs, how early computers were word-based and how IBM, being the hardware leader at the time, made the final decision regarding the context in which the word was to be used.

IBM came along and said: “Look, here’s the story. For those of you that have got lots of money- and don’t mind spending it – we have the perfect solution. Stop making the Word be your minimum addressable unit. … But IBM proposed to standardize on the word ‘byte’ being an 8-bit entity. And here’s the win-win situation: for those of you mad mathematicians and engineers, we can arrange the hardware to regard groups of four of those [Bytes] as being a 32-bit Word. It’s a win-win.