In a big-endian system, the most significant value in the sequence is stored at the lowest storage address (i.e., first). In a little-endian system, the least significant value in the sequence is stored first. For example, consider the number 1025 (2 to the tenth power plus one) stored in a 4-byte integer:
00000000 00000000 00000100 00000001
|Address||Big-Endian representation of 1025||Little-Endian representation of 1025|
Many mainframe computers, particularly IBM mainframes, use a big-endian architecture. Most modern computers, including PCs, use the little-endian system. The PowerPC system is bi-endianbecause it can understand both systems.
Converting data between the two systems is sometimes referred to as the NUXI problem. Imagine the word UNIX stored in two 2-byte words. In a Big-Endian systems, it would be stored as UNIX. In a little-endian system, it would be stored as NUXI.
Note that the example above shows only big- and little-endian byte orders. The bit ordering within each byte can also be big- or little-endian, and some architectures actually use big-endian ordering for bits and little-endian ordering for bytes, or vice versa.
The terms big-endian and little-endian are derived from the Lilliputians of Gulliver's Travels, whose major political issue was whether soft-boiled eggs should be opened on the big side or the little side. Likewise, the big-/little-endian computer debate has much more to do with political issues than technological merits.
- Watch Datamation's editor James Maguire moderate roundtable discussions with tech experts from companies such as Accenture, Dell, Blue Jeans Network, Microsoft and more »
It's hard to imagine our lives without smartphones. But people who suffer separation anxiety when they don't have their phones nearby may be in... Read More »13 Best Free Android Apps
From secure messaging to document editing, our top free must-have apps have been rated, reviewed and named the best free Android apps of 2015. Read More »The Five Generations of Computers
Learn about each of the five generations of computers and major technology developments that have led to the current devices that we use today. Read More »
From wacky alarm clocks to lecture hall tools and after class entertainment, these Android apps are a good fit for a student's life and budget. Read More »Network Fundamentals Study Guide
A network is a group of two or more computer systems or devices, linked together to share resources, exchange files and electronic communications.... Read More »Computer Architecture Study Guide
This Webopedia study guide describes the different parts of a computer system and their relations. Read More »