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TL;DR: I'm looking for opinions on why this question should be open or closed.

Answer: I now understand why it has been closed: It is not a real problem because it has no practical use.


https://superuser.com/questions/287663/why-are-there-8-bits-per-byte

Why did such a valid and interesting question got closed?

  1. The user is a computer enthusiast.

  2. It's about computer hardware, how it works.

  3. It's not about

    1. videogames or consoles

    2. websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress

    3. electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface

    4. a shopping or buying recommendation

  4. It's a practical, answerable question based on an actual problem he faces:
    He doesn't understand why it stopped at 8.

  5. Every answer is equally valid.

  6. The answer is not provided in the question.

  7. There is an actual problem to be solved: He doesn't understand why it stopped at 8.

  8. It is not open-ended or hypothetical, there is a definitive answer that you don't have to guess about.

  9. It is not disguised rant, he is clearly asking for something.

  10. It is not a discussion, there is a definitive answer.

  11. It is not for any other Stack Exchange site, it fits perfectly on Super User.

  12. It's nice, honest; the user did nothing wrong.

  13. It's not an exact duplicate, it hasn't been covered earlier on Super User

  14. It's not off-topic, it fits perfectly on Super User.

  15. It's not subjective or argumentative, there are no opinions or have experiences about it, no discussion.

  16. It is a real question, it has an single valid answer.

  17. It's not too localized, it would benefit others in the future.

Or in other words, I don't see how it differs from a question like the following which is still open:

What is the difference between a kibibyte, a kilobit, and a kilobyte?

Or perhaps:

What are the Windows A: and B: drives used for?

  • 9
    Personally, I voted to close because it is something that could be easily answered by Wikipedia. – Wuffers May 23 '11 at 23:16
  • Because half of a byte is a nibble. – YetAnotherRandomUser Nov 29 '18 at 21:55
9

That question was closed by the community by various users. No moderator involvement has been performed on it yet.

As it stands right now, I see 3 people have already voted to re-open that question, so you are not alone in your evaluation of that question.

I would be on the side of the fence where the people want to see this question re-opened. I think people might be taking the computer hardware/software restriction maybe a little too literal? I would like to hear what some of the others have to say. One of the major reasons I see questions like this closed is because of the answer being readily available on other websites (Wikipedia, company website/forums, etc.).

However, since it already has 3 re-open votes, I would like to see the natural site process of the community re-opening the question. I would also like to hear others opinions on why this question should remain closed.

UPDATE: Digging through some of the linked sites, I saw one good quote about the answer to this question. "Why are there 8 bits in a byte? A similar question is, "Why are there 12 eggs in a dozen?" The 8-bit byte is something that people settled on through trial and error over the past 50 years. " (Source)

  • 2
    The "trial and error" answer isn't good enough. One could ask, "Why not 10?" as everyone except programmers (and sometimes mathematicians) go by base-10. (@Programmers Read: "base ten". :) ) – Mateen Ulhaq May 25 '11 at 1:47
  • @muntoo I agree trial and error isn't good enough..and i'd like it reopened. but i'll point out, 10 bits in a byte would also be base2. 'cos you're talking bits. – barlop Jun 24 '11 at 18:20
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I think the issue hinges on the FAQ and also Tom's statement that

It's a practical, answerable question based on actual problems he faces: He doesn't understand why it stopped at 8.

Where the FAQ states:

What kind of questions should I not ask here?

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

If you believe that the 'problem' the original poster faced was a 'lack of understanding' then this means that any question asking for a viewpoint on something someone does not understand would be a valid question.

In my opinion, the FAQ implies that questions should be about a hardware or software issue or fault that is preventing something from working properly and the question poster needs help and advice resolving the matter.

On this basis, just asking why there are 8 bits in a byte is not within the scope of the current FAQ and so the question should be closed.

With regards to the other two questions mentioned ("What is the difference between a kibibyte, a kilobit, and a kilobyte?" and "What are the Windows A: and B: drives used for?"), these too, in my opinion, fall outside the definition of a valid question and the fact that they have not been closed does not change this.

On a wider view, these types of questions are clearly interesting and contributors seem happy to tackle them so perhaps either the FAQ needs revising to clarify what is and isn't valid OR such questions need to move to a 'technology 101' place elsewhere.

  • Well said. I made a mental note as I was reading your answer to ask if you felt any other questions like this on Super User fell under your definition. You answered that with next paragraph. The part I am not 100% with you on is the term "lack of understanding" and that dis-qualifying a question for Super User. – Troggy May 23 '11 at 23:32
  • @Tom: That is my interpretation of "based on actual problems that you face" - and why I said "In my opinion" and "...perhaps..the FAQ needs revising..." – Linker3000 May 23 '11 at 23:33
  • Thanks for explaining your view and how you came to your decision to close the question. Interesting that interpreting the FAQ can be subjective, I'm awaiting more responses as well as reopen votes to see what further action we should take... – Tom Wijsman May 23 '11 at 23:34
  • This is basically what I was going to say. In my interpretation of "actual problems that you face", this isn't an actual problem. I also agree that, personally, I feel a question like this should be welcomed and that perhaps we should look at how we'd phrase that for the FAQ. – Shinrai May 24 '11 at 18:26
  • like a computing theory stack exchange site. it's not really a technology question, technology questions could be specific to various models and could be very open ended. – barlop Jun 24 '11 at 18:22
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Well, I voted to reopen.

As far as I am concerned, it should be closed under the FAQ, but I believe that the FAQ should be changed to allow for interesting questions like this.

I know binary and can do basic binary maths/operations fast - but this is one question that I have never thought of but really interests me and it is a fundamental of computing - so many things are 8-bit based (or derivative, such as IPv4 addresses).

I wonder how many more there are that I may have missed or never thought of looking for!

This is the sort of very interesting question that I would like to see in our technical, power user community!

See my similar question on Meta Stack Overflow in response to the closing.

  • 2
    I agree with you, Wil, and I also voted to re-open this question. By the way, another place 8-bit shows up is with Extended ASCII as used on the PC by the majority of DOS applications back in the 1980s. – Randolf Richardson May 24 '11 at 1:19
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Robert Harvey has taken me to a train of thoughts which simply says:

  • A: and B: are useful, because you can use those stations to access diskettes and floppies.

  • The difference between a kibibyte, a kilobit, and a kilobyte is useful for interpreting sizes.

  • The bit count of a byte is not useful because it doesn't have practical use for Super Users.

Thanks to others like Linker3000 and Wil for pointing me that way, I learned to interpret that rule better...


So, this is where the following rule kicks in to close the question:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

And the practical word is key here, as the actual word need you to interpret whether it's practical.

And if it were practical, it would still be closed for being too simple as the top 3 Google results answer it...

  • 1
    I edited my MSO question (added a few paragraphs), I guess I do agree and I suppose that is a valid answer for this question about why was it closed, but hopefully you can like the "spirit" of my MSO question about changing it to allow situations and questions such as this. – William Hilsum May 24 '11 at 0:41
  • @Wil: Perhaps, but like someone said on your question: We are Q&A, not an encyclopedia. – Tom Wijsman May 24 '11 at 0:50
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Could this question have been moved to a more appropriate section instead of being closed? I thought carefully before asking because I know that I have a horrible tendency to take rejection personally, and so I wanted to avoid feeling like I stepped on people's toes.

The reason I asked the question here in particular was due to the "hot topic" What is the origin of k-1024, which at the time I felt asked a similar question?

What is practical for one, may not be practical for another, but alas that is not an argument in and of itself. But asking for the origins of 1024 isn't as practical as knowing that HDD manufacturers sometimes use one standard over the other. So I'm at a lost, but its the way it goes.

I don't want to step on peoples toes, so I will take my answer "off the air".

("off the air" = I will not reply back)

  • 2
    KB versus kB is something what annoys people when interpreting file sizes, an understanding of that is required to be able to see how much fits on a specific device. That's the reason why that becomes practical. While I see it that way (as general reference closing has not implemented yet), I think the majority voted because you cane easily Google it. We have to do this to keep the quality reasonable. I hope you have found your answer... :) – Tom Wijsman May 24 '11 at 11:47
  • @Tom Wijsman : "KB versus kB ... an understanding of that" I must've missed it. What's the difference? I've heard of KB and Kb and Ki as oppose to K. But what's the difference between KB and kB? – barlop Jun 25 '11 at 15:03
  • @barlop: Woops! It's indeed meant te other way around. :( – Tom Wijsman Jun 25 '11 at 15:26

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