If you are new to computers (or even unfamiliar), names applied to different amounts of memory may seem strange.
Whether you are talking about an 8MB memory card, a 500GB hard drive, or a 1TB SSD, the terms always seem abstract and random.
How to determine exactly how much space a gigabyte, terabyte, or even petabyte describes?
What is a byte?
To understand how large blocks of memory work, it is important to learn to appreciate the smaller blocks of space that make up larger blocks.
In simple terms, one byte is usually eight binary digits. A binary digit is a 1 or 0, which on very old computers literally represented an on or off switch.
Some computer systems have different byte lengths, but most modern computers today are based on the eight-bit binary byte system.
These eight bits (bytes) usually represent a character, such as a letter or number. Bytes can also represent characters that represent one part of a larger object, such as an image.
Since byte is the smallest unit of data, larger units of data with even more bits require different names. It is important to remember that all large blocks are made up of a fixed number of bytes, and each byte usually contains eight bits.
As you start accumulating more bytes, you can determine the module name based on the number of bytes.
A kilobyte is 1,024 bytes
You might think that since the prefix “kilogram” usually means 1000, this kilobyte would be 1000 bytes.
The reality is that since computers store data in binary, and binary is based on a power of two, the actual number of bytes is 1024.
You can see this by looking at how the force of two works.
- 2 ^ 0 = 1
- 2 ^ 1 = 2
- 2 ^ 2 = 4
- 2 ^ 3 = 8
- 2 ^ 4 = 16
- 2 ^ 5 = 32
- 2 ^ 6 = 64
- 2 ^ 7 = 128
- 2 ^ 8 = 256
- 2 ^ 9 = 512
- 2 ^ 10 = 1024
The first binary value representing 1000 bytes is 1024. Therefore, a kilobyte contains 1024 bytes.
You can estimate the size this information will need based on the number of characters in this data. Take, for example, a 200-page book. Typically, each page in a book contains about 300 words per page. This means that the entire book is about 60,000 words.
The middle word is about 6 characters long. This means that a 60,000 word book contains about 360,000 characters.
Electronic storage of this book will require 360,000 bytes.
You can think of this in kilobytes (KB), dividing 360,000 bytes by 1024. This means that a 60,000 word book would require about 351.56 kilobytes of digital storage.
What is a gigabyte?
In the metric system, the prefix “Giga” means a unit of measure equal to 10 to the power of 9, or 1,000,000,000. But remember that to represent this in computer binary, you must take into account the binary factor 2.
So when we increase the number of gigabytes to the power of two, we would have to go all the way to 2 ^ 30 to get the first number over 1 billion, which is 1,073,741,824 bytes.
As long as you know that a kilobyte is 1024 bytes. What about just 1,024 to 1,073,741,824?
- Kilobyte (KB): A thousand bytes, or kilobytes, is 1,024 bytes.
- Megabyte (MB): A million bytes, or megabytes, is represented as 1024 kilobytes.
- Gigabyte (GB): Billion bytes, or gigabytes, is represented as 1024 megabytes.
To put the size of a gigabyte in perspective, imagine that one gigabyte can store about 230 music tracks, or nearly 600 five-megapixel photos. You can even store a standard 1.5 hour movie at 1 gigabyte.
What is terabyte?
What is the next power of a decimal number greater than a billion? It will be a trillion.
The prefix for trillion is tera. A terabyte is equal to 10 to the power of 12 bytes, represented in binary.
This means that 1 terabyte (TB) is equal to 1,024 gigabytes. Most modern hard drives store half that amount of data. A terabyte, a trillion bytes, is a lot of information.
In recent years, manufacturers have begun rolling out new computers with one or two terabyte drives. It will be very difficult for any user to fill up such a hard drive unless they produce hours of high definition video every day.
Note that a standard floppy drive in the 1990s could only hold thousands of bytes. A CD-ROM could store 700 megabytes, while a DVD-ROM could store 4.7 GB. But modern hard drives can store trillions of bytes. The 1 terabyte drive can store 217 DVD-ROM data. We’ve come a long way.
What is a petabyte?
The next storage unit to consider is petabyte.
The prefix “peta” is a unit of one quadrillion, or 10 to the 15th power.
Since this is 1000 units of one trillion (tera), one petabyte is equivalent to 1024 terabytes. This is one quadrillion bytes.
You might think that such a volume of information should never be used. However, today petabytes of information pass through computer systems and networks, although this is difficult to believe.
But consider the following modern petabyte-sized applications of technology:
- Google processes over 24 petabytes of information every day.
- Mobile phone networks transmit over 20 petabytes of information to users each time. day.
- The Blue Waters supercomputer has over 500 petabytes of tape.
- The Library of Congress contains over 7 petabytes of digital data in its archives.
- World of Warcraft servers require over 1.5 petabytes of disk space to run online play.
The scale of a petabyte is hard to imagine, but if you look at the scenarios above, it becomes quite clear how much data is involved.
One petabyte can store over 10,000 hours of television programs. If you filled an entire four-drawer filing cabinet with documents filled with text, you could fit 20 million of those filing cabinets into one petabyte.
In fact, you can store every manuscript created by humanity since the beginning of history at 50 petabytes.
That’s a lot of data.
Understand memory terminology
It is important to understand memory units because these days they are used wherever technology is. Every time you buy a computer, mobile phone or tablet, the specification states the amount of memory and the amount of data that the technology can transfer.
If you understand all these terms, you will understand how much better one computer is than another. You will appreciate how the 4G mobile network is better than the 3G network. You will appreciate how much more you can save on a 1 terabyte memory card rather than a 500 megabyte memory card.
As technology continues to advance, there may be new units of memory that are worth learning about. But for now, that’s all you need to know.
And if you’ve come this far, then you should skip to the article we wrote about understanding network data transfer rates, which is made up of megabits per second, gigabits per second, etc. This will help you understand when your ISP is reporting you that your download speed is 15 Mbps. Enjoy!