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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
meta bit
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The top bit of an 8-bit character, which is on in character
values 128--255. Also called high bit, alt bit, or
hobbit. Some terminals and consoles (see space-cadetkeyboard) have a META shift key. Others (including,
*mirabile dictu*, keyboards on IBM PC-class machines) have an
ALT key. See also bucky bits.
Historical note: although in modern usage shaped by a universe
of 8-bit bytes the meta bit is invariably hex 80 (octal
0200), things were different on earlier machines with 36 bit
words and 9-bit bytes. The MIT and Stanford keyboards (see
space-cadet keyboard) generated hex 100 (octal 400) from
their meta keys.