[Dwarf-Discuss] byte vs. octet

Michael Eager eager@eagercon.com
Tue Nov 30 01:34:23 GMT 2010

travis+ml-dwarf at subspacefield.org wrote:
> Hey all,
> Just curious if the use of the term "byte" in the DWARF base types is
> intended to mean "smallest addressable unit on this processor" or "8
> bits".  RFCs use octet to mean the latter to avoid ambiguity.
> It's my understanding that older machines sometimes had <8 bits in
> a byte, but I also recall a professor who kept talking about the
> death of the 8-bit byte (presumably in reference to unicode).

Byte, as used in the DWARF Spec in Section 5, is a measure of the
size of an object, not the addressing unit of the processor.  This
matches general usage and represents 8 bits.  (See 2.21.)

Modern processors have 8-bit bytes, although there are a few
processors (mostly DSPs) which are not byte addressable.  Many
RFCs date from a time when the Honeywell IMP was used to connect
to Arpanet and they created the word octet because not everyone
agreed on the size of a byte.  Computers which use less than 8
bits for a character are likely to be found only in museums.

Michael Eager	 eager at eagercon.com
1960 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, CA 94306  650-325-8077

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