Basic ComputingQuestion BankTechnology

What is a Bit or Byte?

You use a computer, cell phones, and go online every day. And chances are, you are well acquainted with some commonly used terms in those tasks, such as RAM, download, streaming, and many other similar technical words.

But do you know what they mean?

The same thing happens when we talk about the size of the files.

What are you going to learn here? You will understand perfectly what is a Bit and what is a Byte. But you will also end up learning the importance of that small unit of measurement. 

You can talk about bits, bytes, megabytes, gigabytes, and other measures of data storage, but do you really know what these words mean? Do you really know what you’re talking about?

Quite likely not. If you talk about having “many files” that are very “heavy” on the hard drive of the PC, it shows that you do not have much idea of ​​the data storage measures.

World map in pixels

Before starting to fully introduce you to the meaning and implications of the term bit and bytes, it would not hurt to do a review of the numbering systems. These are the basis to better understand everything that will be discussed in this post.

Numbering systems

Basically, a numbering system is a set of symbols and rules that make it possible to construct all valid numbers in a system. In this sense, all systems consist of the most basic elements that make it up. And also a series of rules with which to establish relationships and operations between them.

So, it is possible to say that a numbering system is a set of elements. Said elements can be symbols or numbers and operations , which by means of a series of rules, allow to establish how these elements will be related to each other.

Although these rules are exclusive to each numbering system , the truth is that there is a common point where they touch.

To construct valid numbers for a given numbering system, only those symbols that are allowed in that system can be used.

Positional and non-positional numbering systems

Numbering systems can be classified into two main groups:

  • Non-positional numbering systems.
  • Positional numbering systems.

The first thing you have to know is that in non-positional numbering systems the value of the symbol used does not depend on its location in the number expression.

The best example of this type of system is Roman numerals. It is easy to see how in the Roman numeral MCM (1900) the symbols M (1000) at the beginning and at the end of the number always equal the same value. This regardless of their position.

On the other hand, in the so  called positional numbering systems, the value of a symbol will depend on both the symbol used and the location it occupies in it.

Positional numbering systems

Here it is necessary to clarify that the amount of symbols that are allowed in a positional numbering system is known as the “base of the numbering system”.

In the case that a positional numbering system has “base x” it basically means that you have x different symbols to write the numbers. Therefore x units make up a higher order unit.

This means that the value of each symbol depends on its place in the expression of the number, for example:

  • The first symbol on the right expresses a basic unit.
  • The following represents first-order units, where each of them is equivalent to x simple.
  • The next, second order units, where each of them is equivalent to simple 2x.

Among the most used positional numbering systems are the decimal system and the binary system. It is also possible to mention the octal system , which is based on 8, and the hexadecimal system, whose base is 16, but they are outside the scope of this article.

Decimal system

Without a doubt, the most popular positional numbering system is the decimal system, which is base 10. It uses the symbols 0; one; two; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8 and 9, which are called digits. This numbering system has been in use since ancient times.

According to some theories, the decimal system comes from the ten fingers that humans have on our hands, which have always been the basis for counting.

The binary system

Another of the most used positional numbering systems is the binary system. Its base is 2, and the symbols used are 1 and 0. These symbols are called bits in computing.

This system is used in modern computing for its ability to represent two states: On and off. This represents the presence or absence of voltage in digital circuits.

If you want to know more about the binary system, do not hesitate to click on this link, where you will find the best information on the subject.

What is a bit?

Bit is the abbreviation of  Binary Digit  (binary digit), which in technical terms is the minimum unit of information of a computer. A bit has only one value (which can be 0 or 1). Several bits combined together give rise to other units, such as “byte”, “mega”, “giga” and “tera”.

All  the information processed by a computer is measured and encoded in bits. File sizes are measured in bits, transfer rates are measured in bits,  all information in the user’s language is converted to bits so that the computer “understands” it.

A bit is, then, the minimum unit of information used in computing, which, as you know, uses binary numbers and logical arithmetic.

The bit concept is that basically each data bit represents a specific value: “1” or “0”. However, various bit sequences can be combined, resulting in many more combinations, such as:

Based on a 2-bit model, we can obtain 4 combinations.

  • 00 – Both off
  • 01 – First off, second on
  • 10 – First on, second off
  • 11 – Both on

Bit combinations for off and on

Other uses of the word “Bit”

Bits are also  used to classify the colors of an image.  For example: a monochrome image has 1 bit at each point (black or white), while an 8-bit image supports up to 256 colors.

32-bit or 64-bit systems

This number indicates  the ability of the computer to process the indicated number of bits at one time . It can also mean the number of bits used to represent an address in memory.

Where does the word Bit come from?

The word bit was first used in the 1930s, surprisingly, to designate bits of information. Simplifying, a bit is exactly that:  a combination of two digits that is put together with other digits of the same type to generate the complete information.

Hard drive inside

However, the definition of bit was used in 1948  by engineer Claude Shannon. That year, Shannon wrote the article  “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”  and used the word to designate the binary digit.

But to understand clearly, you have to go a little further back in time. The binary system was invented by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz at the end of the 17th century. He wanted to convert certain linguistic concepts to logic, that is, to interpret them as “true” or “false”.

But who would finish laying the foundations of modern computing would be George Boole, who after more than a century would create Boolean algebra, a method on which all modern technology is based.

Bit : It is the smallest unit of information in the computer, being able to assume one of the two values ​​0 or 1. Here if the energy level is low it is 0 and if the energy level is high the value is 1. If desired represent larger numbers, bits must be combined.

Computer information unit bit

What is a Byte

A Byte is a group of eight bits, formed according to a sequence that represents a character A one-to-one correspondence can be made between each decimal number (0 to 9), uppercase and lowercase letters (A to Z), mathematical symbols, punctuation, and other symbols, with a respective byte.

It is essential for anyone with computer training to  be very clear about the difference between what is a BIT (a 0 or a 1) and what is a Byte (a sequence of 8 continuous bits)

Kilobytes, Megabytes, and Gigabytes

Kilobyte or Kbyte or Kb:  One Kbyte corresponds to 1024 bytes. Eg: an old PC-XT type microcomputer had 640 Kbytes of memory, that is, 655,360 bytes of memory, because: 640 Kb x 1024 bytes = 655,360 bytes. This means that he could have up to 655,360 characters in his memory.

  • Megabyte or Mbyte or Mb:  One Mbyte corresponds to 1024 Kbytes, 1,048,576 bytes.
  • Gigabyte or Gbyte or Gb:  One Gbyte corresponds to 1024 Mbytes.
  • Terabyte or Tbyte or Tb:  One Tbyte corresponds to 1024 Gbytes.

Information storage in Kilobytes, Megabytes and Gigabytes

What is a Terabyte?

In the growing search for information, the storage units  were increasing until reaching an exponential scale.

Initially, floppy disks with their incredible 1.44 megabytes were available, which are practically useless and cannot be used in new computers. About 5 years ago, a 10Gb hard drive was more than enough. Today a pendrive surely has more space available.

Storage unit in terabyte

In  this growing consumption of information, the question is the space necessary to store all that information that you access daily (videos, photos, games and other files). Currently that is not a concern thanks to the existence of hard drives of 1 Terabyte or more.

One Terabyte equals 1,024 Gigabytes

In businesses, offices and at home,  1TB hard drives are very useful for daily backup  for networks thanks to the ease of installation and configuration. In order to have a notion of the  storage capacity of a 1 TB disk,  here are some examples.

With  1TB it  is possible to store:

  • More than  200 thousand songs
  • Approximately  730  1h30m movies in DVD quality
  • More than  1 million photos with 2048 x 1536 px  (1.20Mb per photo) resolution

1 TB external hard drive

A 1 TB disk is the best option when you need  more space to continue storing music, photos, videos, downloads and other files. In this sense, it will certainly be a long time before it is necessary to increase the capacity again.

What is a Petabyte?

A petabyte is a unit of information storage whose symbol is  PB , and it is equivalent to  1024 Terabytes = 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes . A  Terabyte , of course, is 1024 Gigabytes. 1 Gigabyte = 1024 Megabytes.

To try to understand what a Petabyte is:

  • One Petabyte is enough to store 13.3 years of HD video
  • 1.5 Petabytes are needed to store 10 Billion Facebook photos
  • Google processes around 24 Petabytes of information per day.
  • James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar used 1 Petabyte of data to make the special effects.
  • AT&T, the carrier of the iPhone in the United States, transmits 19 Petabytes of different data types per month.

What’s beyond the Petabyte

As you know, every day more and more information is produced and stored, and it is increasingly difficult to save, due to the space it occupies.

And you also know that not only text or images are stored. These days you  surely store impressive amounts of video and audio from a wide variety of sources on your hard drives and storage units.

This includes all the work and what you download from social networks. All of this over time can easily become a mountain of information that is very difficult to keep in storage.

In the same way that a few years ago a computer with 4 Mb of RAM and a disk capacity of 120 Gb, was considered a powerful machine, and  today a PC must have at least 4 Gb. Of RAM and 1 TB of storage space .

If you do not meet these minimum requirements, you will not be able to carry out daily tasks with ease, the same thing happens with the storage capacity.

Many years have passed since we were limited by the  ridiculous capacity of floppy disks. The capacity of these storage media, the one of the most used, was only 1.44 Mb.

Now you can count on hundreds of gigabytes in a size as small as a fingernail!

But the truth is that no matter how much available storage space you have, you will always manage to fill it completely!

Petabyte information storage

Technology innovates and always improves itself. For this reason, CDs with their 700 Mb, DVDs with their 4.7 Gb, or Blu-Rays with their almost 50 Gb as storage media have been left behind.

These were also replaced by more flexible and comfortable storage systems such as  memory cards, pen drives or external storage disks. Or even the cloud.

However, the user’s need for more and more storage space is the root cause for these media to have disappeared.

If you take this progression, it  is possible that a terabyte, or even a petabyte before long, seems like a small thing. As mentioned in this same post, the image definition that a video can achieve today is really impressive, but the disadvantage is that it is an incredibly large file.

It should be noted at this point that  a film or video in 8K resolution, that is, 7680 x 4320 pixels, can easily reach 300 Gb in size. When this image resolution is the standard, or is extended to home use, there will be no way to store them easily.

It is for this reason that you basically have to start to know the  names and capabilities of the units of measure. These will be part of your technological life in the not too distant future, and you must know them if you want to be a professional or buy a product successfully.

  • 1024 Exabytes equal 1 Zettabyte
  • 1024 Zettabytes equal 1 YottaByte
  • 1024 YottaBytes equal 1 Brontobyte
  • 1024 Brontobytes equal 1 GeopByte
  • 1024 GeopBytes equal 1 Saganbyte
  • 1024 Saganbytes equal 1Jotabyte

The qubit

Known by its name qubit that  comes from the English quantum bit, translated into Spanish it would mean quantum bit . As its name indicates, it is basically a quantum system that has two eigen states and which can be arbitrarily manipulated.

That is why a qubit is ultimately  an example of a quantum bit .

If you go into quantum computing, which is where the concept of qubit is found, it can be noted that this is used as a counterpart to the binary digit, which you surely know under the name of bit.

Differences between bit, pbit and qubit

As mentioned above, a bit consists of the smallest and most basic unit of information within a traditional computer. Therefore, it can be inferred that the qubit is basically the most basic unit of information that a quantum computer has .

The operation of  qubit is based on quantum theory . Therefore, the main function of qubits is based on the two basic principles related to quantum physics, the so-called superposition and entanglement .

In the case of superposition, this aspect is related to the  behavior of the qubit within a given magnetic field . On the other hand, entanglement refers to the way in which  individual qubits manage to interact with each other , that is, the connection that exists between the qubits of the same system.

Qubit system graph

Both aspects make it possible  to carry out complex calculations with great power through qubit . Therein lies precisely the fact that makes quantum computers the ones used in scenarios and situations in which a superior processing capacity is needed. In other words, it is suitable for the manipulation of large sequences of bits in a short time.

For all that has been mentioned so far, it can be said that a  qubit is ultimately the bit of quantum computing , and that like the bit, the qubit  represents two base states , 0 and 1.

However, there is one more difference: a qubit  is also capable of handling all possible combinations between its ground states  of 0 and 1.

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