Werner Buchholz (born 24 October 1922 in Detmold, Germany) is a noted German-American computer scientist. After growing up in Europe, Buchholz moved to Canada and then to America. He worked for International Business Machines (IBM) in New York. In June 1956, he coined the term "byte" for a unit of digital information. In 1990, he was recognized as a computer pioneer by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
|Born||24 October 1922|
|Parent(s)||Julius and Elsa Buchholz|
|Awards||IEEE Computer Pioneer Award (1990)|
Werner Buchholz was born on 24 October 1922 in Detmold, Germany. His older brother, Carl Hellmut[nb 1] and he were the sons of the merchant Julius Buchholz and his wife, Elsa. Due to the growing anti-semitism in Detmold in 1936, the family moved to Cologne. Werner was able to go to England in 1938 where he attended school, while Carl Hellmut[nb 1] emigrated to America.
Because of the threat of invasion in May 1940, Werner with other refugee students was interned by the British and later sent to Canada. With the help of the Jewish community in Toronto, he was released in 1941 and able to attend the University of Toronto. He completed his training as an electrical engineer in the United States at Caltech. His parents were murdered in 1942 (Julius) and 1944 (Elsa) in a concentration camp in Litzmannstadt (Łódź).
Werner Buchholz was a member of the team at IBM that designed the IBM 701 and the IBM 7030 Stretch, IBM's first transistorized supercomputer. His work involved setting standards in the field of character encoding on computing systems. In 1956, he coined the term byte as a unit of digital information. A byte was an ordered collection of bits, which were the smallest amounts of data that a computer could process ("bite").
In 1990, Buchholz received the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, awarded since 1981 to recognize and honor individuals whose effort resulted in the creation and vitality of the computer industry.
- Sources differ in regard to the correct spelling of the name of Werner Buchholz' brother. German sources seem to agree on Carl Helmut, whilst some English sources state Carl Hellmut (which isn't a common spelling variant in German).
- Buchholz, Werner (1956-06-11). "7. The Shift Matrix". The Link System (PDF). IBM. pp. 5–6. Stretch Memo No. 39G. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
[…] Most important, from the point of view of editing, will be the ability to handle any characters or digits, from 1 to 6 bits long.
Figure 2 shows the Shift Matrix to be used to convert a 60-bit word, coming from Memory in parallel, into characters, or "bytes" as we have called them, to be sent to the Adder serially. The 60 bits are dumped into magnetic cores on six different levels. Thus, if a 1 comes out of position 9, it appears in all six cores underneath. Pulsing any diagonal line will send the six bits stored along that line to the Adder. The Adder may accept all or only some of the bits.
Assume that it is desired to operate on 4 bit decimal digits, starting at the right. The 0-diagonal is pulsed first, sending out the six bits 0 to 5, of which the Adder accepts only the first four (0-3). Bits 4 and 5 are ignored. Next, the 4 diagonal is pulsed. This sends out bits 4 to 9, of which the last two are again ignored, and so on.
It is just as easy to use all six bits in alphanumeric work, or to handle bytes of only one bit for logical analysis, or to offset the bytes by any number of bits. All this can be done by pulling the appropriate shift diagonals. An analogous matrix arrangement is used to change from serial to parallel operation at the output of the adder. […]
- Blaauw, Gerrit Anne; Brooks, Jr., Frederick Phillips; Buchholz, Werner (1962), "4: Natural Data Units", in Buchholz, Werner (ed.), Planning a Computer System – Project Stretch (PDF), McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. / The Maple Press Company, York, PA., pp. 39–40, LCCN 61-10466, archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-04-03, retrieved 2017-04-03,
[…] Terms used here to describe the structure imposed by the machine design, in addition to bit, are listed below.
Byte denotes a group of bits used to encode a character, or the number of bits transmitted in parallel to and from input-output units. A term other than character is used here because a given character may be represented in different applications by more than one code, and different codes may use different numbers of bits (i.e., different byte sizes). In input-output transmission the grouping of bits may be completely arbitrary and have no relation to actual characters. (The term is coined from bite, but respelled to avoid accidental mutation to bit.)
A word consists of the number of data bits transmitted in parallel from or to memory in one memory cycle. Word size is thus defined as a structural property of the memory. (The term catena was coined for this purpose by the designers of the Bull GAMMA 60 computer.)
Block refers to the number of words transmitted to or from an input-output unit in response to a single input-output instruction. Block size is a structural property of an input-output unit; it may have been fixed by the design or left to be varied by the program. […]
- Buchholz, Werner (February 1977). "The Word "Byte" Comes of Age..." Byte Magazine. 2 (2): 144.
[…] The first reference found in the files was contained in an internal memo written in June 1956 during the early days of developing Stretch. A byte was described as consisting of any number of parallel bits from one to six. Thus a byte was assumed to have a length appropriate for the occasion. Its first use was in the context of the input-output equipment of the 1950s, which handled six bits at a time. The possibility of going to 8 bit bytes was considered in August 1956 and incorporated in the design of Stretch shortly thereafter. The first published reference to the term occurred in 1959 in a paper "Processing Data in Bits and Pieces" by G A Blaauw, F P Brooks Jr and W Buchholz in the IRE Transactions on Electronic Computers, June 1959, page 121. The notions of that paper were elaborated in Chapter 4 of Planning a Computer System (Project Stretch), edited by W Buchholz, McGraw-Hill Book Company (1962). The rationale for coining the term was explained there on page 40 as follows:
Byte denotes a group of bits used to encode a character, or the number of bits transmitted in parallel to and from input-output units. A term other than character is used here because a given character may be represented in different applications by more than one code, and different codes may use different numbers of bits (ie, different byte sizes). In input-output transmission the grouping of bits may be completely arbitrary and have no relation to actual characters. (The term is coined from bite, but respelled to avoid accidental mutation to bit.)
System/360 took over many of the Stretch concepts, including the basic byte and word sizes, which are powers of 2. For economy, however, the byte size was fixed at the 8 bit maximum, and addressing at the bit level was replaced by byte addressing. […]
- "Werner Buchholz" (in German). Detmold, Germany: Gesellschaft für Christlich-Jüdische Zusammenarbeit in Lippe e. V. Archived from the original on 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-04-03.
- Bemer, Robert William (2000-08-08). "Why is a byte 8 bits? Or is it?". Computer History Vignettes. Archived from the original on 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-04-03.
[…] I came to work for IBM, and saw all the confusion caused by the 64-character limitation. Especially when we started to think about word processing, which would require both upper and lower case. […] I even made a proposal (in view of STRETCH, the very first computer I know of with an 8-bit byte) that would extend the number of punch card character codes to 256 […]. So some folks started thinking about 7-bit characters, but this was ridiculous. With IBM's STRETCH computer as background, handling 64-character words divisible into groups of 8 (I designed the character set for it, under the guidance of Dr. Werner Buchholz, the man who DID coin the term "byte" for an 8-bit grouping). […] It seemed reasonable to make a universal 8-bit character set, handling up to 256. In those days my mantra was "powers of 2 are magic". And so the group I headed developed and justified such a proposal […] The IBM 360 used 8-bit characters, although not ASCII directly. Thus Buchholz's "byte" caught on everywhere. I myself did not like the name for many reasons. The design had 8 bits moving around in parallel. But then came a new IBM part, with 9 bits for self-checking, both inside the CPU and in the tape drives. I exposed this 9-bit byte to the press in 1973. But long before that, when I headed software operations for Cie. Bull in France in 1965-66, I insisted that "byte" be deprecated in favor of "octet". […]
- http://www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/878189/Buchholz-Anna.php