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meta bit

The top bit of an 8-bit character, which is on in character values 128--255. Also called high bit, alt bit, or hobbit. Some terminals and consoles (see space-cadet keyboard) have a META shift key. Others (including, *mirabile dictu*, keyboards on IBM PC-class machines) have an ALT key. See also bucky bits.

Historical note: although in modern usage shaped by a universe of 8-bit bytes the meta bit is invariably hex 80 (octal 0200), things were different on earlier machines with 36 bit words and 9-bit bytes. The MIT and Stanford keyboards (see space-cadet keyboard) generated hex 100 (octal 400) from their meta keys.

[Jargon File]


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