High Order Blog

Building a company from the bottom up.

What’s a High Order Bit?

with 8 comments

The term “high order bit” should sound familiar to software developers and other technology enthusiasts. For others, it’s probably complete gibberish. Here’s an explanation of what the term means and why we’ve decided to use it for the name of our company.

Literal meaning

In computer science, the term “high order bit” refers to the most significant bit in a binary number; it’s the bit with the greatest value.

For example, consider the decimal number 11, which is represented in binary as 1011. The high order bit is the leftmost bit, which adds 8 to the total value. By comparison, the less significant bits only add a total of 3. Since the value of each bit increases geometrically, higher order bits contribute significantly more to the total value of a number than do lower order ones.

If you’re totally confused and/or want to learn more about binary arithmetic, you can do so on Wikipedia.

Colloquial meaning

You can probably read the literal meaning of the term and guess at how it’s used colloquially. In conversation, programmers and other techies might refer to the most important aspect of something as the “high order bit.”

Search is Google’s high order bit. A sexy UI is Delicious Library’s high order bit. If Google fails at search, they’re probably going to have a hard time with the rest of their products, since so much of what they do is built on top of insanely great search. If Delicious Library can’t build an amazing user experience, it’s going to be a lot harder to convince people to shell out $40 for a personal media database.

Okay, I get it. But why use it to name your company?

We obviously liked the meaning of the term. We liked that it was a little bit geeky, even though that means the name draws a blank stare from non-tech types. Most importantly, we think the name fits with the company we’re trying to build and the products we hope to create. We believe that people are the high order bit of any endeavor, and we hope to provide that differentiator in our software.

Written by John

January 27th, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Company

  • http://occipital.com Jeff

    Good name guys. There’s so much information flying that it’s good to see a company focused on the important bits rather than just profusely copying data — the norm of Web 2.0.

  • http://occipital.com Jeff

    Good name guys. There’s so much information flying that it’s good to see a company focused on the important bits rather than just profusely copying data — the norm of Web 2.0.

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