meta bit /n./ 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.
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