« Back to Glossary Index

Definition and Characteristics of a Byte
– A byte is a unit of digital information.
– It consists of eight bits.
– It is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures.
– Network protocol documents refer to an 8-bit byte as an octet.
– The size of the byte historically varied, but the de facto standard is eight bits.
– Early encoding systems used six-bit and nine-bit bytes.
– Memory words in early systems corresponded to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10 six-bit bytes.
– The modern standard of eight bits allows values from 0 to 255.
– The 8-bit byte is widely accepted in major commercial computing architectures.
– Modern architectures typically use 32- or 64-bit words.

Etymology and History of the Byte
– The term ‘byte’ was coined in 1956 during the design phase for the IBM Stretch computer.
– Another origin of ‘byte’ is attributed to Louis G. Dooley in the context of an air defense system called SAGE.
– Early computers used four-bit and six-bit codes for representation.
ASCII, a seven-bit coding system, replaced teleprinter codes in the 1960s.
– IBM introduced the eight-bit EBCDIC encoding scheme in the 1960s.

Unit Symbol and Multiple-Byte Units
– The unit symbol for the byte is an uppercase ‘B.’
– The term ‘octet’ is used to unambiguously specify a size of eight bits.
– The lowercase letter ‘o’ is used as the symbol for octet in some languages and combined with metric prefixes.
– The unit symbol ‘B’ conflicts with the symbol for the bel, a unit of logarithmic power ratio.
– The bel is rarely used, while the byte is widely used.
– Multiple-byte units based on the byte include kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, etc.
– Different interpretations of these units create confusion.
– The decimal interpretation is about 2% smaller than the binary interpretation for the kilobyte.
– Ambiguity arises when using the prefixes M or G.
– The use of binary prefixes (Ki, Mi, Gi) or the symbols (K, M, G) can help clarify the interpretation.

Units based on powers of 10 and Units based on powers of 2
– Kilobyte (kB) is defined as 1,000 bytes by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
– The IEC standard defines eight multiples up to 1 yottabyte (YB), equal to 1000 bytes.
– Additional prefixes, ronna- for 1000 and quetta- for 1000, were adopted by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in 2022.
– This definition is commonly used for data-rate units in computer networks, internal bus, hard drive and flash media transfer speeds, and storage media capacities.
– Operating systems like macOS, iOS, Ubuntu, and Debian use this definition.
– Kibibyte (KiB) is defined as 1,024 bytes by the international standard IEC80000-13.
– The IEC standard defines eight multiples up to 1 yobibyte (YiB), equal to 1024 bytes.
– The binary counterparts to ronna- and quetta- were proposed as robi- (Ri, 1024) and quebi- (Qi, 1024) but have not been adopted.
– An alternative system called the customary convention uses KB for 1,024 bytes, MB for 1024 bytes, and GB for 1024 bytes.
– The customary convention is used by Microsoft Windows, telecommunications companies, and memory capacity measurements.

Parochial Units and History of the Conflicting Definitions
– Various computer vendors have coined terms for data of different sizes.
– Examples include double word, half word, long word, quad word, slab, superword, syllable, and informal terms like half byte and nybble.
– Some vendors use terms like octal K for 1000.
– These terms can have different sizes even within a single vendor.
– Parochial units are not standardized and can cause confusion.
– Early personal computing used a binary architecture, making powers of 2 practical for memory units.
– The use of the metric prefix kilo for binary multiples arose as a convenience.
– Different products and disks advertised capacities using either the 1,024-byte convention or the 1,000 convention.
– The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) proposed binary prefixes in 1995.
– In 1998, the IEC adopted the proposed prefixes to unambiguously denote powers of 1024.
– The IEC adopted the IUPAC proposal and published the standard in January 1999.
– The IEC prefixes are part of the International System of Quantities.
– The kilobyte should only be used to refer to 1,000 bytes according to the IEC.
– The adoption of standard definitions aims to resolve ambiguity and confusion.
– The IEC prefixes are widely used in the field of computing and data storage.

Byte (Wikipedia)

The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures. To disambiguate arbitrarily sized bytes from the common 8-bit definition, network protocol documents such as the Internet Protocol (RFC 791) refer to an 8-bit byte as an octet. Those bits in an octet are usually counted with numbering from 0 to 7 or 7 to 0 depending on the bit endianness.

Unit systemunit derived from bit
Unit ofdigital information, data size
SymbolB, o (when 8 bits)

The size of the byte has historically been hardware-dependent and no definitive standards existed that mandated the size. Sizes from 1 to 48 bits have been used. The six-bit character code was an often-used implementation in early encoding systems, and computers using six-bit and nine-bit bytes were common in the 1960s. These systems often had memory words of 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 48, or 60 bits, corresponding to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10 six-bit bytes. In this era, bit groupings in the instruction stream were often referred to as syllables or slab, before the term byte became common.

The modern de facto standard of eight bits, as documented in ISO/IEC 2382-1:1993, is a convenient power of two permitting the binary-encoded values 0 through 255 for one byte, as 2 to the power of 8 is 256. The international standard IEC 80000-13 codified this common meaning. Many types of applications use information representable in eight or fewer bits and processor designers commonly optimize for this usage. The popularity of major commercial computing architectures has aided in the ubiquitous acceptance of the 8-bit byte. Modern architectures typically use 32- or 64-bit words, built of four or eight bytes, respectively.

The unit symbol for the byte was designated as the upper-case letter B by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Internationally, the unit octet, symbol o, explicitly defines a sequence of eight bits, eliminating the potential ambiguity of the term "byte".

« Back to Glossary Index

Submit your RFP

We can't wait to read about your project. Use the form below to submit your RFP!

Gabrielle Buff
Gabrielle Buff

Just left us a 5 star review

Great customer service and was able to walk us through the various options available to us in a way that made sense. Would definitely recommend!

Stoute Web Solutions has been a valuable resource for our business. Their attention to detail, expertise, and willingness to help at a moment's notice make them an essential support system for us.

Paul and the team are very professional, courteous, and efficient. They always respond immediately even to my minute concerns. Also, their SEO consultation is superb. These are good people!

Paul Stoute & his team are top notch! You will not find a more honest, hard working group whose focus is the success of your business. If you’re ready to work with the best to create the best for your business, go Stoute Web Solutions; you’ll definitely be glad you did!

Wonderful people that understand our needs and make it happen!

Paul is the absolute best! Always there with solutions in high pressure situations. A steady hand; always there when needed; I would recommend Paul to anyone!

Vince Fogliani

The team over at Stoute web solutions set my business up with a fantastic new website, could not be happier

Steve Sacre

If You are looking for Website design & creativity look no further. Paul & his team are the epitome of excellence.Don't take my word just refer to my website ""that Stoute Web Solutions created.This should convince anyone that You have finally found Your perfect fit

Jamie Hill

Paul and the team at Stoute Web are amazing. They are super fast to answer questions. Super easy to work with, and knows their stuff. 10,000 stars.

Paul and the team from Stoute Web solutions are awesome to work with. They're super intuitive on what best suits your needs and the end product is even better. We will be using them exclusively for our web design and hosting.

Dean Eardley

Beautifully functional websites from professional, knowledgeable team.

Along with hosting most of my url's Paul's business has helped me with website development, graphic design and even a really cool back end database app! I highly recommend him as your 360 solution to making your business more visible in today's social media driven marketplace.

I hate dealing with domain/site hosts. After terrible service for over a decade from Dreamhost, I was desperate to find a new one. I was lucky enough to win...

Paul Stoute has been extremely helpful in helping me choose the best package to suite my needs. Any time I had a technical issue he was there to help me through it. Superb customer service at a great value. I would recommend his services to anyone that wants a hassle free and quality experience for their website needs.

Paul is the BEST! I am a current customer and happy to say he has never let me down. Always responds quickly and if he cant fix the issue right away, if available, he provides you a temporary work around while researching the correct fix! Thanks for being an honest and great company!!

Paul Stoute is absolutely wonderful. Paul always responds to my calls and emails right away. He is truly the backbone of my business. From my fantastic website to popping right up on Google when people search for me and designing my business cards, Paul has been there every step of the way. I would recommend this company to anyone.

I can't say enough great things about Green Tie Hosting. Paul was wonderful in helping me get my website up and running quickly. I have stayed with Green...