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2004-12-14 fm:
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The basic unit used in computer data storage is called a bit (binary digit). Computers use these little bits, which are composed of ones and zeros, to do things and talk to other computers. All your files, for instance, are kept in the computer as binary files and translated into words and pictures by the software (which is also ones and zeros). This two number system, is called a "binary number system" since it has only two numbers in it. The decimal number system in contrast has ten unique digits, zero through nine.
But although computer data and file size is normally measured in binary code using the binary number system (counted by factors of two 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc), the prefixes for the multiples are based on the metric system! The nearest binary number to 1,000 is 2^10 or 1,024; thus 1,024 bytes was named a Kilobyte. So, although a metric "kilo" equals 1,000 (e.g. one kilogram = 1,000 grams), a binary "Kilo" equals 1,024 (e.g. one Kilobyte = 1,024 bytes). Not surprisingly, this has led to a great deal of confusion.
In December 1998, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approved a new IEC International Standard. Instead of using the metric prefixes for multiples in binary code, the new IEC standard invented specific prefixes for binary multiples made up of only the first two letters of the metric prefixes and adding the first two letters of the word "binary". Thus, for instance, instead of Kilobyte (KB) or Gigabyte (GB), the new terms would be kibibyte (KiB) or gibibyte (GiB). The new IEC International Standards, which are not commonly used yet, are included below.
Here's a few more details to consider:
File Storage Capacity by Bits and Bytes | |||||
bit | byte | Kilobyte | Megabyte | Gigabyte | |
bit | 1 | 8 | 8,192 | 8,388,608 | 8,589,934,592 |
byte | 8 | 1 | 1,024 | 1,048,576 | 1,073,741,824 |
Kilobyte | 8,192 | 1,024 | 1 | 1,024 | 1,048,576 |
Megabyte | 8,388,608 | 1,048,576 | 1,024 | 1 | 1,024 |
Gigabyte | 8,589,934,592 | 1,073,741,824 | 1,048,576 | 1,024 | 1 |
Terabyte | 8,796,093,022,208 | 1,099,511,627,776 | 1,073,741,824 | 1,048,576 | 1,024 |
Petabyte | 9,007,199,254,740,990 | 1,125,899,906,842,620 | 1,099,511,627,776 | 1,073,741,824 | 1,048,576 |
Exabyte | 9,223,372,036,854,780,000 | 1,152,921,504,606,850,000 | 1,125,899,906,842,620 | 1,099,511,627,776 | 1,073,741,824 |
Zettabyte | 9,444,732,965,739,290,000,000 | 1,180,591,620,717,410,000,000 | 1,152,921,504,606,850,000 | 1,125,899,906,842,620 | 1,099,511,627,776 |
New IEC Standard | ||
bit | bit | 0 or 1 |
byte | B | 8 bits |
kibibit | Kibit | 1024 bits |
kilobit | kbit | 1000 bits |
kibibyte (binary) | KiB | 1024 bytes |
kilobyte (decimal) | kB | 1000 bytes |
megabit | Mbit | 1000 kilobits |
mebibyte (binary) | MiB | 1024 kibibytes |
megabyte (decimal) | MB | 1000 kilobytes |
gigabit | Gbit | 1000 megabits |
gibibyte (binary) | GiB | 1024 mebibytes |
gigabyte (decimal) | GB | 1000 megabytes |
terabit | Tbit | 1000 gigabits |
tebibyte (binary) | TiB | 1024 gibibytes |
terabyte (decimal) | TB | 1000 gigabytes |
petabit | Pbit | 1000 terabits |
pebibyte (binary) | PiB | 1024 tebibytes |
petabyte (decimal) | PB | 1000 terabytes |
exabit | Ebit | 1000 petabits |
exbibyte (binary) | EiB | 1024 pebibytes |
exabyte (decimal) | EB | 1000 petabytes |
File Storage Capacity by Powers of Two (Base 2) | ||||||||||
bit | byte | Kilobyte | Megabyte | Gigabyte | Terabyte | Petabyte | Exabyte | Zettabyte | Yottabyte | |
bit | 2^0 | 2^3 | 2^13 | 2^23 | 2^33 | 2^43 | 2^53 | 2^63 | 2^73 | 2^83 |
byte | 2^3 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 | 2^40 | 2^50 | 2^60 | 2^70 | 2^80 |
Kilobyte | 2^13 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 | 2^40 | 2^50 | 2^60 | 2^70 |
Megabyte | 2^23 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 | 2^40 | 2^50 | 2^60 |
Gigabyte | 2^33 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 | 2^40 | 2^50 |
Terabyte | 2^43 | 2^40 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 | 2^40 |
Petabyte | 2^53 | 2^50 | 2^40 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 | 2^30 |
Exabyte | 2^63 | 2^60 | 2^50 | 2^40 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 | 2^20 |
Zettabyte | 2^73 | 2^70 | 2^60 | 2^50 | 2^40 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 | 2^10 |
Yottabyte | 2^83 | 2^80 | 2^70 | 2^60 | 2^50 | 2^40 | 2^30 | 2^20 | 2^10 | 2^0 |
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