Geeks in Phoenix

Geek Blog


What is a Bit? What is a Byte?

You hear these all the time when you talk about computers: Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte, 32-bit, 64-bit. For a novice computer user, these can be quite confusing. So, here's an explanation of a Bit and a Byte.

What is a Bit? What is a Byte?

The terminology is familiar to almost everyone, but do you really know what they are? To understand it, we have to go break it down to the basic 0's and 1's.

What is a Bit?

A Bit is the basic unit in computer information and has only two different values, normally defined as a 0 or 1. These values can be interpreted as on or off, yes or no, true or false, etc. It just depends on the binary code.

What is a Byte?

A Byte is just 8 Bits and is the smallest unit of memory that can be addressed in many computer systems. The following list shows the relationship between all of the different units of data.

0 (Off) or 1 (On) = 1 Bit
8 Bits = 1 Byte
1,024 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte
1,024 Kilobytes = 1 Megabyte
1,024 Megabytes = 1 Gigabyte
1,024 Gigabytes = 1 Terabyte
1,024 Terabytes = 1 Petabyte
1,024 Petabytes = 1 Exabyte
1,024 Exabytes = 1 Zettabyte

Let's take a look at a simple text file I created called sample.txt. It contains only eight (8) characters, four (4) upper case and four (4) lower case letters. I created my text file using Notepad, so it is encoded using the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard binary code.

A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a text editor
A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a text editor

Now the closest we can get to viewing raw binary code is to open my sample text file in a hexadecimal file editor. Hexadecimal digits allow for more human friendly representation of binary code.

A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor
A sample text file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor

Since the ANSI code standard is actually a revision of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) code, we'll need to use that standard for references to binary information. Using the table of ASCII printable characters on Wikipedia we can find the binary code equivalent.

Character Hexadecimal Binary
A 41 01000001
a 61 01100001
B 42 01000010
b 62 01100010
C 43 01000011
c 63 01100011
D 44 01000100
d 64 01100100

So, as you can see, each character contains 8 bits or 1 byte and the whole sample.txt file is 8 bytes in size. Now to put this in perspective, I created a Microsoft Word document (sample.docx) with the same characters as the sample text file.

A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in Microsoft Word
A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in Microsoft Word

A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor
A sample Microsoft Word file with only eight characters opened in a hexadecimal editor

Here you can see all of the underlying formatting and the size has increased significantly. The sample.docx file is almost 12 kilobytes (11,513 bytes) in size, but contains only eight (8) characters.

What is 32-bit / 64-bit?

The terms 32-bit and 64-bit define the fixed-size piece of data a processor can transfer to and from memory. So, in theory, 64-bit computers can handle data twice as fast 32-bit systems.

The 32-bit computer architecture is most commonly known as x86 and was based on the Intel 8086 / 8088 processor. The Intel 8086 / 8088 processor was found in the original stand-alone Pac-Man video arcade console. The term for 64-bit computer architecture is x64, a little more straight forward.

The following Wikipedia articles were used for reference:

Bit - Wikipedia
Byte - Wikipedia
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - Wikipedia
American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) - Wikipedia
Binary code - Wikipedia
Hexadecimal - Wikipedia

Add comment

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

Contact us

Geeks in Phoenix
4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

Like Geeks in Phoenix on Facebook

Follow Geeks in Phoenix on Twitter

Watch Geeks in Phoenix on YouTube

Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

Geeks in Phoenix have the best computer repair technicians providing computer repair and service in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe Arizona. We offer In-Shop, On-Site and Remote (with stable Internet connection) computer repair service.

Copyright © 2016 Geeks in Phoenix LLC