Bit bucket

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The chip receiver (or "bit bucket") from a UNIVAC key punch

In computing jargon, the bit bucket is where lost computerized data has gone, by any means; any data which does not end up where it is supposed to, being lost in transmission, a computer crash, or the like, is said to have gone to the bit bucket — that mysterious place on a computer where lost data goes, as in:

The errant byte, having failed the parity test, is unceremoniously dumped into the bit bucket, the computer's wastepaper basket.

— Erik Sandberg-Diment, New York Times, July 9, 1985[1]

Millions of dollars in time and research data gone into the bit-bucket?

— W. Paul Blase, The Washington Post, Feb. 17, 1990[2]


Originally, the bit bucket was the container on Teletype machines or IBM key punch machines into which chad from the paper tape punch or card punch was deposited;[3] the formal name is "chad box" or (at IBM) "chip box".

The term was then generalized into any place where useless bits go, a useful computing concept known as the null device. The term bit bucket is also used in discussions of bit shift operations.[4]

The bit bucket is related to the First In Never Out buffer and Write Only Memory, in a joke datasheet issued by Signetics in 1972.[5]

In a 1988 April Fool's article in Compute! magazine, Atari BASIC author Bill Wilkinson presented a POKE that implemented what he called a "WORN" (Write Once, Read Never) device, "a close relative of the WORM".[6]

In programming languages the term is used to denote a bitstream which does not consume any computer resources, such as CPU or memory, by discarding any data "written" to it. In .NET Framework-based languages, it is the System.IO.Stream.Null.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sandberg-Diment, Erik (July 9, 1985). "Parity: An Elegantly Simple Approach to Errors". New York Times. New York, N.Y.: New York Times Company. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  2. ^ Blase, W. Paul (Feb 17, 1990). "No Harmless Hacker He". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  3. ^ Cutler, Donald I. (1964). Introduction to Computer Programming. Prentice-Hall. p. 108. Retrieved 8 November 2013. The lost bits fall into a container called a bit bucket. They are emptied periodically and the collected bits are used for confetti at weddings, parties, and other festive occasions.
  4. ^ O'Brien, Frank (2010). The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation. Springer. p. 45. ISBN 9781441908773. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  5. ^ Curtis, John G "Jack" (1972). "Signetics 25120 Fully Encoded, 9046xN, Random Access Write-Only-Memory" (PDF) (photocopy). Signetics. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-16..
  6. ^ "Atari Insight". Compute!. No. 95. April 1988. p. 56.
  7. ^ "Using null stream as bit bucket" — an article on C# at

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