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The term endian has multiple meanings. This page is about the concept of numeric storage. For the firewall, see Endian (firewall).

The terms little-endian and big-endian describe the two most-frequently encountered schemes for storing multi-byte binary information in a byte-addressable store. This characteristic is referred to as the machine's endianness.

  • Little-endian storage puts the lowest-order byte in the lowest address. (Examples, i386 and related architectures)
  • Big-endian storage puts the highest-order byte in the lowest address. (Examples, sparc, motorola 6800 family, Intel i960, etc)

Neither users nor programmers need be concerned with this so long as only one machine, or machines all of the same endianness are concerned. It becomes an issue when exchanging binary information between or among machines of opposite endianness, as happens all the time on the internet. For this reason, there is a well-defined network byte order used by essentially all modern network protocols, and library functions to convert between network order and the local endianness.

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