ARCHIVE / What is the difference between a bit and a byte?

A bit is the minimum possible amount of information a computer can manipulate. Bits can thus have only two states, either on (1) or off (0). The two options are the minimum because if bits had only one state there would be no way to manipulate that state. Two bits combined thus have 4 possible states but three bits combined have 8 possible states. This sequence is the same as a power sequence for the number 2. In other words, 21 = 2, 22 = 4, 23 = 8, 24 = 16 and so on. A byte is a collection of 8 bits, otherwise referred to as an octet, meaning that a byte can have 256 possible states. The different possibile states of a byte can be considered the equivalent of an integer whose value can range from 0, when all the bits in the byte are set to "off", to 255 when all of the bits are set to "on".

last updated 2007.10.30

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