## What are bits and bytes?

Let’s start with a bit.

It is the smallest amount of information that can be stored with numbers.

It’s like a switch that can only be off (0) or on (1).

Why is it important? Because that’s how transistors, and therefore computers, work.

Each transistor is a switch that is either off or on, representing the digits 0 or 1

Now, if you string three of these together, the one on the left tells you whether it represents 4 or not, the one in the middle whether it represents 2 or not and the one on the right whether it represents 1 or not.

Here’s an example

1 0 1

4 2 1

So, 101 means one 4, no 2 and one 1, which is the decimal number 5

Let’s level up a bit (no pun intended) –

0 1 1 1 0

16 8 4 2 1

So, 01110 means no 16, one 8, one 4, one 2 and no 1, which is the decimal number 8+4+2=14

The binary number 01110 consists of 5 bits (of information)

A byte is a binary number consisting of 8 bits. Here’s an example

1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1

128 64 32 16 8 4 2 1

= 128 + 32 + 16 + 8 + 1 = 185

Now, if you had 100 billion transistors (and that’s how many a microprocessing chip has and yes, 100 billion = 100 000 000 000), each of them representing 1 bit of information, you’ve got a lot of processing power!

You can also, for instance, designate a particular binary number to a particular letter of the alphabet.

“r” for example is 01110001

“a” is 01100001

“w” is 01110111

Now, 01110001 01100001 01110111 may seem a heck of a longwinded way of spelling “raw”, but when you’ve got 100 billion 0’s and 1’s to play with it’s not a big deal.

Colours can also be represented in binary code –

Red is 11111111 00000000 00000000

Green is 00000000 11111111 00000000

Blue is 00000000 00000000 11111111

So this colour

which in RGB is Red 61, Green 108, Blue 147 becomes in binary

00111101 01101100 10010011 We can check this because now we know that the binary numbers represent 0+0+32+16+8+4+0+1 = 61 0+64+32+0+8+4+0+0 = 108 128+0+0+16+0+0+2+1 = 147

In fact, because we’ve got 100 billion bits or 12 billion bytes to play with, we can represent just about anything in binary form, which is why your computer is so darned powerful.

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