One byte is equal to eight bits. Alliteration aside, let’s work backwards and explore what a bit is. A bit is the smallest unit used to measure computer data. I think that many people know that computers use 1s and 0s to notate things. To take this information one step further, these 1s and 0s are called bits. Computers use the binary number system, which uses two digits—1s and 0s.
Each digit represents an electrical current that is either present or absent. The digit “1” means that an electrical current is present (or “on”), and 0 means that it is absent (or “off”). Binary code is used to notate this information, using 1s and 0s to represent letters, number, and characters. For example, the binary number 01010010 represents the uppercase letter “R.” This binary number (01010010) is composed of eight bits, or one byte, depending on how you see it.
Let’s again take the byte one step further, well, one-half step further and define the term nibble, which is half of a byte or four bits.
Anyway, this is the basic explanation. Computers are interesting because they use the binary system, which uses a base of 2, as opposed to the metric system, which uses a base of 10.
I used this source mainly for this explanation, also found at the end of this post.
If my calculations are correct, there is a confusion with the use of the prefixes kilo-, mega-, and giga- to describe units of measurements for computers. Why is this? Kilo-, mega-, giga-, etc. are prefixes associated with the metric system, which, as noted, uses a base of 10. Yet they’re used to describe a system which uses a base of 2.
It’s no wonder that I was confused when I saw kilo-, and some websites said that it was equal to 1,024. “But I thought that it meant 1,000?” I’m thinking to myself. Well, it does mean 1,000, or 10 to the 3rd power, but according to this website, digital industries still use this terminology, although technically speaking, it isn’t quite right.
Regardless, I’m going to have these tables with both the “incorrect” industry-wide prefixes and the correct prefixes as established in 1999 by the International Electrotechnical Commission--kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, tebi-, pebi-, exbi-, et al. Kibi- is 2 to the 10th power, while kilo-, as noted, is 10 to the 3rd power. It is the difference between 1,024 and 1,000, which is pretty significant, especially as the amount of storage gets higher. But that discussion is for another day. A basic understanding is all I’m looking for right now.
Now, the table:
I didn’t realize that this would be a whistleblower type of blog post. That wasn’t my intention, obviously, but whatever. Speaking broadly, I now know that when I look at how much data a recording on my phone takes up, the MB is the popularized use of a metric prefix set to a binary system. The 5.25 MB, or megabytes, if it used the correct, *unpopular* binary prefix, should be referred to in mibibytes (MiB).
However, it’s still a sizeable amount of space, in fact, worth 57-minutes for a recording.
That’s it. Just a brief exploration.
Here are the other sources that I used. Otherwise, why would you believe me? ;)