Max Learning's Digital Dozen

Welcome! * Who's Who? * Why Theory? * Pronunciation * BrainAids * Theme * Categories * Wall Chart * AcroMaps
1. bit   2. Byte   3. Code   4. Data   5. Program   6. Chip   7. CPU   8. RAM   9. ROM   10. Computer   11. Peripheral   12. System

Character made from a group of bits.
Acronym: By = Ch-mf-a-gob (pronounced Chuh-muf-uh-gawb).

  • The term byte (biit) is derived from binary bite or binary term (your choice).
  • A byte is composed of a group of off /on conditions represented by bits.
  • Each byte is equivalent to one character. A character can be a letter, number, or symbol.
Imagine owning a Computerese-to-English dictionary with one column containing Computerese and the other English. If you look up the Computerese term byte, you'll find the English equivalent, namely, character. From now on, whenever you see or hear the term byte, mentally translate it into the English word character.
TRAP! Although a bit is a 0 or 1, and 0 and 1 are characters in a literal sense (namely, the numerals zero and one), don't confuse a bit with a character. In Computerese, a character is made from a GROUP of bits.

Imagine a group of bits forming a character. I took the actual bits that represent the letter "A" (you'll see how I knew this later) and rearranged them into a physical character.

Note: Remember, BrainAids like this one are make-believe. Computer characters aren't really formed this way.

Machine vs. Human Language

Since a computer is a machine, we say it communicates in machine language, that is, in 0s and 1s, the only things it understands. Imagine trying to decipher a page containing nothing but 0s and 1s. A single digit reversed or out of place corrupted the entire page. What a nightmare!

If the early computers were to become more usable, scientists somehow had to convert machine language, with its stark 0s and 1s, into human language, with its rich assortment of letters, numbers, and symbols.

The Standard: 8 bits = 1 Byte
Although some computer systems formed bytes from groups of 7 bits or 9 bits, nearly all modern computers have standardized on 8-bit bytes. Eight bits can be combined into 256 unique off/on patterns which can in turn represent 256 unique characters.
Displaying Characters
The earliest computers did not display bytes as characters, but as rows of Off/On lights.

You had to look in a book or on a chart to decipher which character was represented by each pattern of lights--a tedious process.

Eventually computers were built to decipher the Off/On patterns of combined switches and to project characters directly onto a screen.

A group of switches can display one character at a time at a particular screen location. Each time its switches are reset, the same group can display a different character at that same screen location.

To display multiple characters (that is, words and sentences) on a screen requires a separate group of switches for each screen location.

As a Unit of Measure
We use bytes, like bits, to measure capacities and speeds. To distinguish bytes from bits (lowercase "b"), we use an uppercase "B." For large numbers of bytes we add prefixes such as K, M, G, T.

  • KB = Kilobyte (KIL-oh-biit) = Thousand bytes (actually 1,024).
  • MB = Megabyte (MAAG-uh-biit) = Million bytes (technically 1,024 x 1,024 = 1,048,576).
  • GB = Gigabyte (GIG-uh-biit) = Billion bytes. BrainAid: Giga rhymes with bigga. Think bigga = billion.
  • TB = Terabyte (TAIR-uh-biit) = Trillion bytes.


So what good are bytes to me?
Bytes link you, a human, to the computer, a machine. Without bytes, you'd have to work with 0s and 1s to communicate with the computer, a slow, tedious, and error-prone process. So even if this discussion of switches, combinations, and characters confused you, B.P., be thankful for bytes!
Also, when it's time to buy or upgrade a computer system, your knowledge of bytes will help you decide whether to get 16 or 32 MB of RAM, a 2 or 4 GB hard drive, or a CD-ROM that transfers data at 2.4 or 3.6 MB/sec. When you purchase new software that requires a minimum of 8 MB of RAM and 20 MB of free disk space you'll know if your computer can handle it. When you need to copy a 1 MB file, you'll know if your target floppy disk has enough capacity.
Finally, even more than bits, you couldn't really talk about your computer's capabilities without the term byte. When people brag about their computers, you'll often hear them use byte as in: "I've got 128 megabytes of RAM and an 80 gigabyte hard drive with a 10 megabyte per second transfer rate!"
Software AcroMap--First 2 of 5 Terms

An AcroMapTM is a word I made up to describe a collection of related acronyms. AcroMaps work for most people because the human brain can memorize a group of related items more easily than a series of single items. However, if your brain is not "wired" for AcroMaps, feel free to ignore them and memorize the terms and definitions directly.

  • An AcroMap's spine contains acronyms for the main terms.
  • From the main terms, ribs branch out to acronyms for definitions and/or subterms.

The Software AcroMap covers Digital Dozen terms 1 - 5. The partial map below displays the first 2 of 5 software terms.

  • Why do you think the "b" in bt is written in lowercase compared to the uppercase By?
  • Can you verbally recite what each acronym stands for?


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