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dread high bit disease

dread high bit disease in Technology

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 serial line 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.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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