machine word[mə′shēn ‚wərd]
in a digital computer, an ordered set of symbols (digits, letters, etc.) stored in an internal memory and retrievable during processing as a unified coded block (word).
The machine word is the unit of information in a computer. A machine word may be an instruction or number; it may be alphabetic or alphanumeric data. A machine word consists of digits (symbol positions) that are often interrelated and numbered for clarity. The number of digits determines the length of the machine word, which may be fixed (as in the M-220, BESM-4, and Minsk-22 computers) or variable (as in the Ural-14, BESM-6, and IBM 360). The machine’s memory is more fully utilized with variable-length machine words. A single memory cell may accommodate several machine words, one whole machine word, or part of a machine word. One accordingly addresses either the entire machine word, or its beginning and end, or only its beginning, but in the last case the entire length of the word must be indicated. Instructions and numbers often have equal lengths (for example, 45 digits in the BESM-4 and 37 digits in the Minsk-22) and occupy one memory cell.
A. V. GUSEV