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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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…