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Introduction to Bits, Bytes and Binary


Scroll down for some pirate lore and to learn about yottabytes - but first, some basics:

Kilobytes, Megabytes and Gigabytes

A "byte" is nothing more than a character (a letter, number or symbol), hence:
 



Bits, Bytes and Binary Code

A byte is a character (a single letter, number or symbol).

Computers store all information as 0's or 1's, called "binary code".

A bit is the name for a single 0 or 1.  Eight bits together in a standard combination make up one character, or byte.


A "bit" of pirate lore

Where did the term "bit" come from?

 
In the early Americas, small coins were in short supply.  It was a common practice to take a silver coin and cut it into 8 pieces (hence the "pieces of eight" of pirate fame).  

Each piece was called a "bit", and two pieces (or a quarter of the original) were called "2 bits" - still a slang description for our modern quarter.

Hopefully this will help you remember that a bit is an 8th of a byte.


Beyond megabytes

If you really want to impress your friends:

byte 1 character**
kilobyte 1,000 characters
megabyte 1,000,000 characters
gigabyte 1,000,000,000 characters
terabyte 1,000,000,000,000 characters
petabyte 1,000,000,000,000,000 characters
exabyte 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 characters
zettabyte 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 characters
yottabyte 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 characters

**A "character" is a letter, number, or symbol

 


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