Endianness - History

History

The problem of dealing with data in different representations is sometimes termed the NUXI problem. This terminology alludes to the issue that a value represented by the byte-string "UNIX" on a big-endian system may be stored as "NUXI" on a PDP-11 middle-endian system; UNIX was one of the first systems to allow the same code to run on, and transfer data between, platforms with different internal representations.

An often-cited argument in favor of big-endian is that it is consistent with the ordering commonly used in natural languages. Spoken languages have a wide variety of organizations of numbers: the decimal number 92 is spoken in English as ninety-two, in German and Dutch as two and ninety and in French as eighty-twelve (or, to be precise, as four-twenties twelve) with a similar system in Danish (two-and-half-five-times-twenty). However, numbers are written almost universally in the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, in which the most significant digits are written first in languages written left-to-right, and last in languages written right-to-left.

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