As strange as it may seem, there actually is precedence for 8-bit bytes… in Currency of all places.
The Spanish Milled Dollar was often split into eight pieces to make change. Hence the term “Pieces of Eight.”
However, for whatever reason, those were often termed bits in the US. So, there were 8 bits to the Spanish Milled Dollar.
And two bits made up a quarter-dollar, hence the “Shave and a hair cut… two bits!” routine.