A computer that does not have a fixed word length but operates on data of different word lengths; this may also apply to instruction sizes. The lengths of data words that can be handled are usually in units of characters or bytes, so that the computer handles strings of characters or bytes. It is then known as a character machine or byte machine respectively. A variable word length computer is particularly important where data is itself of varying lengths (e.g. strings of characters) as well as cases where natural data lengths do not fit word (hardware-restricted) boundaries.