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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
dread high bit disease
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character A condition endemic to PRIME (also known as
"PR1ME") minicomputers that results in all the characters
having their high bit (0x80, see meta bit) ON rather than
OFF. This complicates transporting files to other systems and
talking to true 8-bit devices. Folklore had it that PRIME
adopted the convention in order to save 25 cents per serialline per machine; PRIME old-timers, on the other hand, claim
they inherited the disease from Honeywell via customer
NASA's compatibility requirements and struggled heroically to
cure it. Whoever was responsible, this probably qualifies as
one of the most cretinous design tradeoffs ever made. A few
other machines have exhibited similar brain damage.