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Bits, Bytes, and Megabytes

It's amazing how too many people still have no sense of computer storage space, even when they handle a computer on a daily basis. This lack of perceptiveness is often inconvenient. Fortunately, it's something that can easily be fixed.

This is the kind of thing they're teaching first graders nowadays, and yet it's something that adults often have never been taught. The digital age dawned quite rapidly on us, and many people are still adapting to this transition.

Regardless of the fact, you need to keep in mind that knowing your storage space units is extremely important in this day and age. Moreover, it's extremely simple. Five minutes from now (or as fast as it takes you to read this article) you will have no trouble telling the difference between a byte, KB, MB, GB, TB. You'll finally and decisively grasp your storage space measurement units.

From byte to Terabyte: a reference guide

Even though these measurement units may sound strange, they all revolve around the same semantic root if you watch closely: the term "byte". A byte is the base unit for storage space, and it's just a tidbit of information: a sequence of eight "bits" to be exact, wherein a "bit" is either a 0 or a 1.

But let's not get into excessively technical stuff, for this explanation. Just keep in mind that a byte is the base measurement unit, and the remaining units are byte multiples by the thousand (technically it's x1,024... but let's round down to square thousands to keep it simple).

You can easily tell the storage capacity of a device just by looking at the word attached to the "byte": it's usually "kilo", "mega", "giga", or "tera". Here's a simple reference guide, for your convenience.

1 byte: basic measurement unit
Just a short string of numeric code; not enough to hold much of anything.

1 Kb (Kilobyte) is roughly one thousand bytes
It's enough to hold a low quality picture, or a small text file.

1 MB (Megabyte) is roughly one thousand Kilobytes
Enough to hold five or so high quality pictures, or a large document, maybe a small PowerPoint presentation, or an MP3 with 30 seconds or so.

1 GB (Gigabyte) is roughly one thousand Megabytes
It's the standard unit for measuring the capacity of portable storage devices such as thumb drives and SD cards (range from 2 to 32 GB at the time of writing); also DVDs (4.7GB) and Blu-ray (25GB).
A Gigabyte is plenty capacity to store a medium quality full-length movie, or 5-10 MP3 albums.

1 TB (Terabyte) is roughly one thousand Gigabytes (and 1 Million Kb)
When one speaks about TB, it's usually in the sense of computer hard disks, i.e. massive storage capacity.
At time of writing, the biggest hard drives on the market are about 2 TB.
2 TB = 2,000 GB = 2,000,000 MB = 2,000,000,000 Kb = 2,000,000,000,000 bytes
(remember, these numbers are simplified for your convenience: to be accurate, 2 TB would be 2048^4 = 2,199023255552)

On computer storage space measurement units

Would you feel OK about not being able to tell an ounce from a pound, or a gram from a kilo? What if you had no notion of how an inch compared to a mile? That would most certainly be inconvenient, wouldn't it?

Well, the truth of the matter is that being unable to tell a byte from a Gigabyte is just as strange, for someone who's familiar with these computer storage space units.

Have you ever noticed when people (especially younger folks) tend to shudder and squint when you ask them to e-mail you a big video file? Or when you ask if you can fit a PowerPoint presentation in your 2GB pen drive?

Maybe you don't always get those reactions, but try to imagine how you would feel if they asked if you could fit a twenty foot pole inside a regular wall closet! Well, it's pretty much the same situation: all about having a grasp on storage space units.

Spend 5 minutes re-reading the reference guide in the middle of this article, and understand how the storage space measurement units relate to one another. It will be well worth your time!





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