Tukey’s bits

Reading a paper published in 1948, I came across the following:

“.. if the base 2 is used the resulting units may be called binary digits, or more briefly bits, a word suggested by J.W. Tukey.”

Sure enough, the contraction of ‘binary digit’ was coined by an American statistician named John Wilder Tukey and was published for the first time in the very paper I was reading, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” by C.E. Shannon. That paper is now considered one of the most important papers in the field of Information Theory.

Having read this paper and having spotted this first-ever is, to me, a bit like discovering a celebrity in my high school yearbook. As if I can, in a way, claim a familiarity with the word that others cannot.

August 9, 2009. Tags: , , . Digression.

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