Bits and bytes

Computers do all calculations using a code made of just two numbers – 0 and 1. This system is called binary code. The electronic circuits in a digit computer detect the difference between two states: ON (the current passes through) or OFF (the current doesn’t pass through) and represent these states as 1 or 0. Each 1 or 0 is called a binary digit, or bit.

Bits are grouped into eight-digit codes that typically represent characters (letters, numbers and symbols). Eight bits together are called a byte. Thus, each character on a keyboard has its own arrangement of eight bits. For example, 01000001 for the letter A, 01000010 for B, and 01000011 for C.

Computers use a standard code for the binary representation of characters. This is the American Standard Code for information Interchange, or ASCII – pronounced [‘æski]. In order to avoid complex calculations of bytes, we use bigger units such as kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes.

We use these units to describe the RAM memory, the storage capacity of disks and the size of a program or document.

Note: bit is pronounced [bit]; byte is pronounced [bait]


Unit of memory Abbreviation Value (Decimal) Value (Binary) Exact memory amount  
Binary digit Bit, b 1 or 0   1 or 0
Byte B     8 bits
Kilobyte KB or K 1,024 bytes (210)
Megabyte MB 10002 10242 1,024 kilobytes (220)
Gigabyte GB 10003 10243 1,024 megabytes (230)
Terabyte TB 10004 10244 1,024 gigabytes (240)
Petabyte PB 10005 10245 1,024 Terabytes (250)
Exabyte EB 10006 10246 1,024 Petabytes (260)
Zettabyte ZB 10007 10247 1,024 Exabytes (270)
Yottabyte YB 10008 10248 1,024 Zettabytes (280)


A bit is the smallest unit in a computer’s memory.

A binary code represents text or computer processor instructions using the binary number system's two binary digits, 0 and 1. A binary code assigns a bit string to each symbol or instruction.


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