- A bit is the smallest piece of digital computer information. A single bit represents either zero, or one by using one of two electrical states inside the computer chips that store and process the bits, or magnetic states in the case of disk drives.
- A byte is eight bits which together can be used to represent the decimal values zero through 255 by assuming that each column of bits is twice the value of the previous column. Sometimes referred to as an 'octet'.
- This is a system-dependent quantity of bits which is equal to the size of the largest instruction symbol
The smallest piece of computer information is called a BIT.
Think of a BIT as a single light switch that can be set to either ON (1) or OFF (0). One BIT equals one binary digit.
Here's what an byte actually 'represents' in a computer.
|Decimal (Powers of 2)||27||26||25||24||23||22||21||20||RESULT|
|Decimal Values||128||64||32||16||8||4||2||1||255 Decimal|
|BINARY OCTET||0||1||0||0||1||0||1||0||74 Decimal|
In the table above, think of the 1's in the BINARY OCTET row as if they were individual light switches on a wall and up is "on" and down is "off". Each light switch is labled with a number. When you add up the numbers on the lables of the lightswitches that are turned on, you get a total. In this case, the light switches labled 64, 8 and 2 are all turned on. Doing the addition (64 + 8 + 2 ) you get the total value of all the lightswitches turned on (set to 1), which is 74. Within a computer, a transistor stores the "on" and "off" state--no actual switches are used, but the transistors do use electricity.
String eight BITs together and you get a "binary octet", otherwise known as a BYTE. A BYTE is roughly equivalent to one letter or character. The computer thinks in this binary system, and uses it for numbers, letters and other values. Humans think in a numbering system called decimal.
To a human, one BYTE can store any decimal value from 0-255.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT QUESTION:
If one binary digit is a BIT, and eight BITS is a BYTE, what is half a BYTE?
A 'NYBBLE' !
..and I still call 'two bits' a quarter! --InetDaemon