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Bits and Bytes
  • Bit: A bit is a binary digit. It's the most basic unit of information. It has a value of either 0 (zero) or 1 (one).
  • Byte: A group of eight bits. A byte can hold 256 values, from 0 to 255. Generally, a byte holds one character (A through Z, 0 through 9, etc).
  • Kilobyte: You guessed it: A thousand (actually, 1024) bytes.
  • Megabyte: A million bytes
  • Gigabyte: A billion bytes


Here's how the decimal base number 217 is represented in binary form. Note that because it's less than 255, it "fits" within a single byte (which contains only 8 bits). Isn't that neat?


The rightmost bit represents 2 to the zero power, or 1. The bit to its left represents 2 to the first power, or 2. The third bit from the right represents 2 squared (22), or 4. The fourth bit from the right represents 2 cubed (23), etcetera.


Add all eight values together; the sum is the value of the byte.