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Why is everything multiples of 8?

post #1 of 27
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Hi guys, was wondering if anyone knew a little about computer history/mechanics. It's always bugged me that computers always seem to do things in multiples of 2s. I did a bit of googling and found that it relates to memory addresses and bits vs bytes, now I have a rough grasp of that (sorta), but what I seemed to find was that a lot of the explanations seemed to equate to "It uses multiples of 8 because computers think in 8s" >.>

What I'm looking for is WHY computers use multiples of 2/4/8s whichever it is.

Is it just a tradition thing of "computers use 8 because that's how it started, and it's too hard to change" (kinda like how all cars use fossil fuels) or is there an actual, valid reason behind it?

thanks.
post #2 of 27
because computers talk in binary and that is base 2, so 2 4 8 16 32 64 etc, i can give a better detailed explanation but im super tired.
    
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post #3 of 27
I feel that this article explains it pretty well:
http://computer.howstuffworks.com/bytes1.htm

Not being snarky or anything. It's understandable to not know, or think of bases when asking this question.
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post #4 of 27
Computers use powers of two because they use binary math. 0 and 1 are the only thing a bit can be plus there is 8 bits to a byte.
Edited by Aesir - 2/5/13 at 8:10pm
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post #5 of 27
8 bits = 1 byte, a bit is either a 1 or 0
the number system is actually base 2 or binary.

eg a 8 bit (1 byte) number has a range 0 - 255 (decimal, base 10) or 0 to (2^8) - 1

more info
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_number
http://www.mathsisfun.com/binary-number-system.html
http://l3d.cs.colorado.edu/courses/CSCI1200-96/binary.html
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post #6 of 27
At the basic level you will see most computer operations in the 2^n because at its basic form computing is just boolean operations (true or false ie: 1 or 0) however if you take a look at machine level instructions you will see some 4,6, or 8 bit instructions because different operands and address references in a certain instruction set take up different amounts of bits in memory.

If you look up the IBM green card for the z390 you will see what I am talking about (should be in machine formats section).
Edited by Bobicon - 2/5/13 at 8:20pm
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post #7 of 27
...and why might you ask binary?

Because it's the most simple possible numbering system and utilizes absolutes.

Is or is not. Once you have more values, it physically becomes harder distinguished values.
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post #8 of 27
Binary is only temporary. With quantum computers, they will be able to use multiples of five or more even.
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post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by losttsol View Post

Binary is only temporary. With quantum computers, they will be able to use multiples of five or more even.

What good would 5^n or greater do in computing?
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post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobicon View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by losttsol View Post

Binary is only temporary. With quantum computers, they will be able to use multiples of five or more even.

What good would 5^n or < do in computing?

Sorry, I don't mean multiples of five. I mean 5 different states. Not just on or off, but 5 separate states for a switch to be in.
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