Know your Bits and Bytes

A while ago a quickly summed up the meaning of bits and bytes and how they are different, but I wasn’t very specific due to lack of time. however this is something that is very important to know, in fact, for everyone! The measurement of data is something crucial in our times. If we do not know how much exactly we have flowing through out USB’s CD-drives or High speed internet. We could be getting less than what we bargained for! So how can you tell you are measring correctly? We shall begin the lesson.

We shall use the Megabyte to define our common point. As in, something that we are all familiar too. A Floppy can hold 1.44 megabytes(MB). Less than 1 1/2 (MB). The short way of writing Megabyte is MB. In capital letters. A Megabyte has 1,048,576 bytes(B) (one byte has 8 bits(b)) Wait a minute. Isn’t a bit the same as a byte? No way! One bit is the smallest measurement of data there is. It stands for a One or a Zero. On or Off. So, if you save one number, like say a 6. it will take up 8 bits to remember that number. Because computers use one’s and zero’s, not one through ten. So 6 would show up as 00110110 That’s 8 bits right there! Count them! let me show you with pictures. And Empty file looks like this. 

No bits of bytes are taking up any space at all. But if i typed in 1234. how many bytes would it take up? If you guessed 4. you’re not that far off. 4 bytes sounds logical, but it must also remember it’s file name and the editing used in the document, so it would be a little higher. Like 5 bytes. 

As you can see. On the left is the file and you can see inside it. And it takes up 5 bytes. How many bits would that be? It is 5 X 8bits = 40! I think. Lemme check. (calculator power!) Yes. that file took up 40 bits of my space.

So let’s recap. 1 Megabyte = 1024 bytes and 1 byte = 8 bits. Let’s make things more confusing. You have high speed internet from AT&T and they tell you, “ohh yeah, you will get up to 5 megabits of internet speed!” Is that the same as Megabyte? NO! In fact. let’s measure a megabit. 1 Megabit(Mb) = 1,000,000 bits (b) Wow so how many megabytes is that? well let’s do some more math. 1,000,000(b) divided by 8 = 125,000 (B) bytes. Let’s turn this number into something common such as kilobytes(KB). So 125,000 Divided by 1024 = 122.07 Kilobytes (KB)

So one Megabit (Mb) is equal to 122.07 Kilobytes (KB)And 5 Megabits of Internet Speed is 610.35 kilobytes (KB) Wow that’s fast. But it is definitely not 5 Megabytes. So don’t get tricked of confused my fancy jargon by the internet salesmen. Now, our school has around 4 Megabits speed.  That would make it like 500 Kilobyte speed. Decent. Get it? Good.

But what about Kilobits(Kb)?Kilobits are 1000 bits. ohh you know what, here’s a cheat sheet.

  • kilo (k)* = 10 ^ 3 = 1,000 thousand bits
  • mega (M) = 10 ^ 6 = 1,000,000 million bits
  • giga (G) = 10 ^ 9 = 1,000,000,000 billion bits
  • tera (T) = 10 ^ 12 = 1,000,000,000,000 trillion bits

Happy now? Good. Now let’s show you the Byte sheet.

  • 1 byte (B) = 8 bits (b)
  • 1 Kilobyte (K / KB) = 2^10 bytes = 1,024 bytes
  • 1 Megabyte (M / MB) = 2^20 bytes = 1,048,576 bytes
  • 1 Gigabyte (G / GB) = 2^30 bytes = 1,073,741,824 bytes
  • 1 Terabyte (T / TB) = 2^40 bytes = 1,099,511,627,776 bytes

So i hope this helped someone not get confused with all the tech jargon rolling around nowadays. So to end this thing. I will give you guys some real life examples.

At What speed am i burning this CD?

Answer 1.7 megabytes, (estimated)

How about this data transfer? 

Answer 60.6 Megabytes not megabits.

MB = Megabyte

Mb = Megabit

KB = Kilobyte

Kb = Kilobit

B = Byte

b = bit

Get the pattern? Good, But sometimes, there are confusing number such as 56K Modem. How fast would this be? Well it would be great if it meant 56 Kilobytes, but unfortunately it means, 56 Kilobits. making it around 7000 Bits a second, which translates to 7 Kilobytes a second. Woah! WOah! They lied to me! Yes they did, they cheated their way into making you believe you would get 56 Kilobytes but you are actually get only 7 Kilobytes. that’s Dead turtle slow. So whenever the b is missing, always assume it means bits, because they took it out for a reason.

So i hope you learned something today, i know it was very hard, with the math and numbers and all, but if this made no sense to you. See this website where i got all my info. And if you found a mistake in my reasoning or just wanna argue about this (techguy90) email me. This type of number scheme is really not that difficult and once you get it, it just seems to all click. So Don’t ignore this post like you have done to all the other ones. Keep working at it so you too can know the real difference in data transfer throughputs.




About Zerin

But can you show me the source code?

Posted on November 16, 2010, in Computers and Internet. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Also i forgot to mention that usually bits is more commonly used for data measurement in transfer speeds. eg, internet speeds. And bytes is more commonly used for measurement of data storage. Eg, hard drives. I know it makes no sense to have two of ’em, but I didn’t make it up.

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