= B =
bucky bits /buh'kee bits/ n.
1. obs. The bits produced by
the CONTROL and META shift keys on a SAIL keyboard (octal 200 and
400 respectively), resulting in a 9-bit keyboard character set.
The MIT AI TV (Knight) keyboards extended this with TOP and
separate left and right CONTROL and META keys, resulting in a
12-bit character set; later, LISP Machines added such keys as
SUPER, HYPER, and GREEK (see space-cadet keyboard). 2. By
extension, bits associated with `extra' shift keys on any
keyboard, e.g., the ALT on an IBM PC or command and option keys on
It has long been rumored that `bucky bits' were named for
Buckminster Fuller during a period when he was consulting at
Stanford. Actually, bucky bits were invented by Niklaus Wirth when
he was at Stanford in 1964-65; he first suggested the idea
of an EDIT key to set the 8th bit of an otherwise 7-bit ASCII
character). It seems that, unknown to Wirth, certain Stanford
hackers had privately nicknamed him `Bucky' after a prominent
portion of his dental anatomy, and this nickname transferred to the
bit. Bucky-bit commands were used in a number of editors written
at Stanford, including most notably TV-EDIT and NLS.
The term spread to MIT and CMU early and is now in general use.
Ironically, Wirth himself remained unaware of its derivation for
nearly 30 years, until GLS dug up this history in early 1993! See
double bucky, quadruple bucky.
--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.