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Really early computers like the Mark I and ENIAC didn't have enough memory to attempt to handle text; also the use-case was mostly calculations. A number of decimal IBM computers used characters (with 5 or 6 usable bits) as the basic unit, and decimal digits were just a special usage of those characters: The IBM 1401 computer, and its compatible successors ...


5

Storing a one-of-two selection using vacuum tube technology doesn't require one valve (combination of an anode, cathode, and one or more grids); it requires two. Thus, holding four bits would require eight valves. Because a one-of-five selection can be held with five tubes, holding a one-of-five selection plus a bit will require seven tubes. Note that from ...


5

This isn't intended as an answer per se, but I want to provide some support for OmarL's explanation by quoting official documentation for the machine, which speaks of binary values as units of information rather than as digits of a base-2 number. Here is how the IBM 650 Customer Engineering Manual of Instruction describes the machine's representation of ...


1

Singer made a series of retail systems which were taken over by ICL and rebranded. The ICL System 10 used 6-bit bytes for decimal and character data. The ICL System 25 used 8-bit bytes, which were used for full ASCII text, and in arithmetic operations as packed decimal (two 4-bit nibbles holding 0x00 to 0x09). Singer were fairly adventurous. They made sewing ...


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