What is a bit and how many bits are in a byte?

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A bit is typically the smallest unit of memory in an electronic device. As it is based on a binary system, it can contain only one of two possible values: 1 or 0, which generally relate to that electronic memory element being set On or Off, respectively.

A byte consists of 8 bits and is typically used to represent a single logical character. As each of the 8 bits can contain either of two binary values (1 or 0) the total number of combinations in any byte is therefore 2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2 = 2**8 = 256.

The literal character for any particular byte value can vary depending on the Code being used by the computer. For example, a byte with a current value of 90 is generally "Z" in ASCII but is "!" in EBCDIC. But even within the general structure of ASCII there can be special character sets employed wherein some or all of the values are agreed to represent other characters used in foreign languages or in special applications.

  • 1 bit (b) = 1 binary value (0 or 1)
  • 1 byte (B) = 8 bits = one logical character
  • 1 kilobyte (KB) = 1024B
  • 1 megabyte (MB) = 1024KB
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1024MB
  • 1 terabyte (TB) = 1024GB
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