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A Guide to Bits and Bytes.

METICADPA'S GUIDE TO BITS AND BYTES

I see a lot of people mixing things like this up consistently (and indeed it's causing a lot of confusion in OT just now) and I feel that OCN could use something to help them along.

Note: Any pedants talking about mebibytes, etc. rest assured that I do know the difference, it's just not relevant to what I'm trying to do here...

First off, what is a bit? A bit is the amount of storage space required to store 1 character of binary; a 1 or a 0. I'm sure we've all heard the term "bit" in colour-depth of images or any number of other things, but that's not for this thread. A bit is the smallest unit of storage. It has the unit "b". Lower case b. The case is important.

I'm sure everyone has similarly heard of the byte. What is a byte? Simply put, a byte is 8 bits. It has the unit "B". Upper case B.

To convert between bits and bytes, it really is as easy as multiplication or division by 8. To convert from bits to bytes, we divide by 8; to convert from bytes to bits, we multiply by 8.

Example: Represent 64b (bits) in bytes. We have 64 bits here, and as we now know, a byte is just 8 bits. 64b/8 = 8 bytes.

Example 2: Represent 128B (bytes) in bits. As we know, a byte is made up of 8 bits. 128 bytes * 8 = 1024bits or 1kilobit (kb), which brings me nicely on to the next part of this.

Kilobits and Kilobytes

What is a kilobit or a kilobyte?

Well, what do we know about the prefix "kilo" already? It means 1,000, generally, but not in this case; it means 1,024 here, or 2^10.

So what is a kilobit? A kilobit is simply 1,024 bits together. 2^10 bits. It has the unit "kb" (lower case k and b).

What is a kilobyte? A kilobyte is simply 1,024 bytes together. 2^10 bytes. It has the unit "KB" (upper case K and B).

How do we convert between the two? It's just as simple as converting between bits and bytes: the only difference is that the numbers are larger.

Example: Represent 128kb (kilobits) in KB (kilobytes). As we already know, a byte is just 8 bits, and a kilobyte is no different: it's just 8 kilobits. So to convert, we simply divide the number of kilobits we have by 8. 128Kb/8 = 16 kilobytes.

Example 2: Represent 128KB (kilobytes) in kb (kilobits). By now, you should either not be reading this, or understanding that a byte is made up of 8 bits. To convert between these, we simply multiply by 8. 128KB*8 = 1024kb or 1Mb.

Megabits and Megabytes

What is a megabit or a megabyte?

Think about what we know of the prefix "mega" already. It usually means "million", but in this case, it means 1,048,576, or 2^20.

So what is a megabit? I'm sure you're understanding this by now, but a megabit is just 1,048,576 bits. 2^20 bits. It has the unit "Mb" (upper case m lower case b).

What is a megabyte? A megabyte is simply 8 megabits together. 2^20 bytes. Its unit is "MB" (upper case M and B).

How do we convert between the two? Again, the process is identical to the other two steps, but I'll put down a couple of examples as a reference anyway.

Example: Represent 128Mb (megabits) in MB (megabytes). Since a megabyte is - like the others - just made up of 8 bits, it's as simple as division by 8. 128Mb/8 = 16MB.

Example 2: Represent 128MB (megabytes) in Mb (megabits). Since we know that a byte is made up of 8 bits, a megabyte is exactly the same. To convert, we simply multiply by 8. 128MB * 8 = 1024Mb.

Now, if you're paying attention, you'll notice that the first letter for "kilobits" is lower case, but the first letter for "megabits" is upper case. Why is this? Truthfully, I have no idea. However, the "b" always stays lower case when representing bits.

Real-World Scenarios

This is where most people get confused and I blame the ISPs entirely for this. You'll often see things advertised as "upto 8 megabits!", which in reality does not mean 8 megabytes, as we know by now. I'm sure this is just something that they invented to confuse people.

To combat this, just check it out in writing. If it's telling you that you're going to get the speeds in megabits, simply divide by 8 to get your theoretical maximum download speed. Of course, this is very rarely achieved.

...that's about all the examples I've got.

So that's me done. I hope this helps explain things to some people. If there are any typos or anything in the thread, be sure to either post in the thread and PM me so I can fix them. If there's any explanation that's unclear, do the same thing, and I'll try and rectify it.
Edited by meticadpa - 2/27/11 at 4:23pm
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tl;dr
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STOOOOYYAAAAAA <3

And yes, I agree entirely.
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Yes, can we sticky this? I'm tired of hearing kids saying: "My 100Mbps connection is only getting 12Mbps!!!!!!!!!!! ZOMG!!!!!!!"

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Do you realise a bit is a Binary Digit? and yeah... kibibytes/mebibytes/gibibytes for things like RAM.
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A bit is only a binary digit if you're counting in binary.
That's like saying "your fingers are only binary digits".
While it could be true in some scenarios, it's not a blanket statement.
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Quote:
 Originally Posted by beers A bit is only a binary digit if you're counting in binary. That's like saying "your fingers are only binary digits". While it could be true in some scenarios, it's not a blanket statement.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bit

pretty sure a "Bit" is a contraction of "Binary digIT"
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CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
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TL;DR: 8 b/Kb/Mb = 1 B/KB/MB

And to figure out ISP's "real speed" from their advertised speed, take it and divide by 8.
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