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In computing , a nibble occasionally nybble or nyble to match the spelling of byte is a four- bit aggregation,   or half an octet. It is also known as half-byte  or tetrade. A nibble can be represented by a single hexadecimal digit and called a hex digit.
A full byte octet is represented by two hexadecimal digits; therefore, it is common to display a byte of information as two nibbles. Four-bit computer architectures use groups of four bits as their fundamental unit.
Such architectures were used in early microprocessors , pocket calculators and pocket computers. They continue to be used in some microcontrollers.
The term 'nibble' originates from its representing 'half a byte', with 'byte' a homophone of the English word 'bite'. Benson, a professor emeritus at Washington State University , remembered that he playfully used and may have possibly coined the term nibble as "half a byte" and unit of storage required to hold a binary-coded decimal BCD decimal digit around , when talking to a programmer of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. The alternative spelling 'nybble' reflects the spelling of 'byte', as noted in editorials of Kilobaud and Byte in the early s.
Another early recorded use of the term 'nybble' was in within the consumer-banking technology group at Citibank. The nibble is used to describe the amount of memory used to store a digit of a number stored in packed decimal format BCD within an IBM mainframe.
This technique is used to make computations faster and debugging easier. An 8-bit byte is split in half and each nibble is used to store one decimal digit. The last rightmost nibble of the variable is reserved for the sign. Thus a variable which can store up to nine digits would be "packed" into 5 bytes.
Historically, there are cases where nybble was used for a group of bits greater than 4. In the Apple II microcomputer line , much of the disk drive control and group-coded recording was implemented in software. Writing data to a disk was done by converting byte pages into sets of 5-bit later, 6-bit nibbles and loading disk data required the reverse.
Today, the terms 'byte' and 'nibble' almost always refer to 8-bit and 4-bit collections respectively and are very rarely used to express any other sizes. The terms "low nibble" and "high nibble" are used to denote the nibbles containing, respectively, the less significant bits and the more significant bits within a byte. In graphical representations of bits within a byte, the leftmost bit could represent the most significant bit MSB , corresponding to ordinary decimal notation in which the digit at the left of a number is the most significant.
In such illustrations the four bits on the left end of the byte form the high nibble, and the remaining four bits form the low nibble. In the C programming language:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the information storage unit.
For other uses, see Nibble disambiguation. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. Microprocessors and Digital Systems. Hacker's Delight 2 ed. Addison Wesley - Pearson Education, Inc.
The New Hacker's Dictionary. Introduction to the use of digital computers: Frontier Research on Digital Computers. Each of these letters corresponds to one of the integers from zero to fifteen, therefore requiring 4 bits one "tetrade" in binary representation. Webster's New World Telecom Dictionary. Data Communications and Networks, Vol. Institution of Electrical Engineers. A data symbol represents one quartet 4 bits of binary data.
Archived from the original on Each hex digit 0—f represents exactly 4 bits. Beneath Apple DOS 4th printing ed. Archived PDF from the original on Central Point Software, Inc. An Internet Encyclopedia 3rd ed. Retrieved from " https: Computing terminology Data unit Units of information. CS1 German-language sources de CS1 French-language sources fr Articles needing additional references from April All articles needing additional references.