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What Does Middle-Endian Mean?

The term “middle-endian” in IT describes a rather uncommon setup in computing hardware, where some minicomputers or other devices might store bytes of information in a less organized and consistent way than what is considered the industry standard. By contrast, in little-endian design, the computing architecture stores the most significant bytes at lower addresses. In a big-endian approach, the architecture stores the most significant bytes at higher addresses. A middle-endian approach happens when manufacturers use “perverse byte orders” (in the words of writers at the Jargon File) to encode the most significant bytes in the middle.


Techopedia Explains Middle-Endian

Middle-endian design is rather unusual. One reason is that the use of middle-endian design is likely to create something called a NUXI problem, where data transfer efforts between different machines with different byte orders could end up in failure. IT pros might talk about hardware as either big-endian, little-endian or “bytesexual” – a “bytesexual” machine can pass data in either format. However, middle-endian approaches are highly likely to cause these kinds of problems.

An example of middle-endian storage in plain English is related to the use of month, day and year fields when representing dates. Where the European system uses a little-endian approach (dd/mm/yy) and the Japanese use a big-endian system (yy/mm/dd), the American system actually puts the day in between the months of the year (mm/dd/yy) for a middle-endian approach. However, the analogy of date representation breaks down, because while it might be confusing to readers who are used to a particular system, there is no literal data transfer failure, as there can be in byte order issues.


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