'Fisodd' Because "F Is Odd"

Perhaps pronounced something like "fizz-sod", the name comes from the observation that 'F' is an odd number.

[*]Specifically, '0xF' equals fifteen in Hexadecimal, a counting system that has 16 rather than usual 10 digits.

For many the idea that 'F' is a number just seems odd (as in strange), but for those who spend too much time working with the lower level interfaces in computing, 'F' is a perfectly valid number representing the value 15[*], which is odd (as in not even)

This author started using the phrase "F is odd" back when he was a dual-major in college, trying to explain to incredulous fellow students and faculty in the English department why it was not a completely crazy idea to spend so much time earning a second degree in Computer Science.

[†]Ray Montgomery believed that the non-linear storytelling of his choose-your-own-adventure stories would translate well to the new medium of home computers. The problem was squeezing an entire book's worth of text plus some fun game play to fit within the tight constraints of an early Atari console. Not easy, but great people with a good challenge made for a wonderful first job.

During this time, for my first "tech" job I had lucked into a part-time position with a local writer and publisher, Ray Montgomery[†], who was transforming a series of children's adventure stories into interactive computer games.

Like most every first job, I was assigned the grunt work. The main task was to review and verify all of the game's text – in its final compressed and encoded form. I would spend several hours at a time proof reading line after line of hexadecimal digits, endless sequences that looked like 6C6F 6F6B 7320 6D6F 7374 6C79 206C 696B 6520 6A75 6E6B (except owing to the peculiarities of the environment, the encoding scheme used was even less directly translatable).


Example of hexdump display

Needless to say, spending too much time looking at nothing but hexadecimal dumps of data does affect the mind. After days of checking hex codes and thinking in hexadecimal math, life back in the real world occasionally would be awkward. It is bad enough when roommates laugh over breakfast when you talk as if there are 'C' eggs in a dozen. But things can get a bit tricky at the local market when you act as if a dime is worth 16 cents. Explaining how to go between the two counting systems quickly became a necessary skill.

Decades later, hexdumps are becoming as rare as my pocket calculator, and yet still I commute between the precise bit-denominated realms of processing and the more rough-hewn daily realities. And it is still my good fortune to be helping people find digital solutions to their real world problems.

Hence, here I am, continuing to explain how and why F is odd.