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Sami 06-10-2006 12:44 AM

Megabytes, Megabits and All the Rest
Megabytes, Megabits... What's the difference? Well, a lot, actually. Very often people use the terms bits and bytes interchangeably when they mean very different things. This week, we'll spend a few minutes discussing what all this mega-, kilo-, tera- and bits and bytes stuff actually signifies.

Now, without getting into the boring and somewhat confusing details, let's just say that humans count things in something called the base-10 numbering system. A computer, on the other hand, thinks in terms of a numbering system known as binary. In base-10, all numbers are between 0 and 9, ten digits total. Binary, or base-2, numbering is based on the numbers 0 and 1 there are only two digits in binary. As an example, the number 20 (in base-10) is written as 00010100 in binary. Each of those one's and zero's in the binary number is a bit. Each bit can be either a one or a zero, nothing more. You can think of each bit as a small on and off switch, either it's one or it's zero. If you take eight bits together you get one byte. So, one byte is eight bits. A computer uses one byte to store each letter, so if I write the word 'Mike' and save it to my computer's hard drive it will take up 4 bytes of space to store it since there are four letters in my name.

When we get into numbers that are really large, it's easier to do some conversion on the numbers. For example, one Kilobyte is 1,024 bytes. Saying 10KB (kilobytes) is the same as saying 10,240 bytes and is also the same as saying 81,920 bits. A Megabyte (MB) is simply 1,024 Kilobytes (KB). A Gigabyte (GB) is calculated as 1,024 Megabytes, and a Terabyte (TB) is, you guessed it, 1,024 Gigabytes.

If you start to think about it, these are really large numbers when we start talking in terms of Gigabytes and especially Terabytes. My first computer with a hard drive had only 20 Megabytes of space. The computer I am using to write this article has a 72 Gigabyte hard drive. That's a pretty big difference.

Now, for the Cool Site of the Week... This week's site is has tutorials showing you in detailed steps how to do pretty much anything you want to learn how to do. Everything from growing Amethysts to pet grooming can be found here.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please email me at [email protected].

Mike Bryant has worked as a professional software developer for over ten years. A born entrepreneur, he currently owns Centrant, LLC, a software consulting firm specializing in custom software for small businesses. He currently resides in Jackson, Kentucky with his wife, two kids, and five computers. For more information, please visit

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