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The bit is a basic unit of information in information theory, computing, including digital communications. The name is a portmanteau of binary digit.
In information theory, one bit is typically defined as the information entropy of a binary random variable that is 0 or 1 with equal probability,or the information that is gained when the value of such a variable becomes known. As a unit of information, the bit is also known as a shannon , named after Claude E. Shannon.
As a binary digit, the bit represents a logical state, having only one of two values. It may be physically implemented with a two-state device. These values are most commonly represented as either 0or1, but other representations such as true/false, yes/no, +/−, or on/off are common. The correspondence between these values and the physical states of the underlying storage or device is a matter of convention, and different assignments may be used even within the same device or program.
The symbol for the binary digit is either bit per recommendation by the IEC 80000-13:2008 standard, or the lowercase character b, as recommended by the IEEE 1541-2002 and IEEE Std 260.1-2004 standards. A group of eight binary digits is commonly called one byte, but historically the size of the byte is not strictly defined.
The encoding of data by discrete bits was used in the punched cards invented by Basile Bouchon and Jean-Baptiste Falcon (1732), developed by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1804), and later adopted by Semyon Korsakov, Charles Babbage, Hermann Hollerith, and early computer manufacturers like IBM. Another variant of that idea was the perforated paper tape. In all those systems, the medium (card or tape) conceptually carried an array of hole positions; each position could be either punched through or not, thus carrying one bit of information. The encoding of text by bits was also used in Morse code (1844) and early digital communications machines such as teletypes and stock ticker machines (1870).
Ralph Hartley suggested the use of a logarithmic measure of information in 1928.Claude E. Shannon first used the word "bit" in his seminal 1948 paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". He attributed its origin to John W. Tukey, who had written a Bell Labs memo on 9 January 1947 in which he contracted "binary information digit" to simply "bit". Vannevar Bush had written in 1936 of "bits of information" that could be stored on the punched cards used in the mechanical computers of that time. The first programmable computer, built by Konrad Zuse, used binary notation for numbers.
A bit can be stored by a digital device or other physical system that exists in either of two possible distinct states. These may be the two stable states of a flip-flop, two positions of an electrical switch, two distinct voltage or current levels allowed by a circuit, two distinct levels of light intensity, two directions of magnetization or polarization, the orientation of reversible double stranded DNA, etc.
Bits can be implemented in several forms. In most modern computing devices, a bit is usually represented by an electrical voltage or current pulse, or by the electrical state of a flip-flop circuit.
For devices using positive logic, a digit value of 1 (or a logical value of true) is represented by a more positive voltage relative to the representation of 0. The specific voltages are different for different logic families and variations are permitted to allow for component aging and noise immunity. For example, in transistor–transistor logic (TTL) and compatible circuits, digit values 0 and 1 at the output of a device are represented by no higher than 0.4 volts and no lower than 2.6 volts, respectively; while TTL inputs are specified to recognize 0.8 volts or below as 0 and 2.2 volts or above as 1.
Bits are transmitted one at a time in serial transmission, and by a multiple number of bits in parallel transmission. A bitwise operation optionally processes bits one at a time. Data transfer rates are usually measured in decimal SI multiples of the unit bit per second (bit/s), such as kbit/s.
In the earliest non-electronic information processing devices, such as Jacquard's loom or Babbage's Analytical Engine, a bit was often stored as the position of a mechanical lever or gear, or the presence or absence of a hole at a specific point of a paper card or tape. The first electrical devices for discrete logic (such as elevator and traffic light control circuits, telephone switches, and Konrad Zuse's computer) represented bits as the states of electrical relays which could be either "open" or "closed". When relays were replaced by vacuum tubes, starting in the 1940s, computer builders experimented with a variety of storage methods, such as pressure pulses traveling down a mercury delay line, charges stored on the inside surface of a cathode-ray tube, or opaque spots printed on glass discs by photolithographic techniques.
In the 1950s and 1960s, these methods were largely supplanted by magnetic storage devices such as magnetic core memory, magnetic tapes, drums, and disks, where a bit was represented by the polarity of magnetization of a certain area of a ferromagnetic film, or by a change in polarity from one direction to the other. The same principle was later used in the magnetic bubble memory developed in the 1980s, and is still found in various magnetic strip items such as metro tickets and some credit cards.
In modern semiconductor memory, such as dynamic random-access memory, the two values of a bit may be represented by two levels of electric charge stored in a capacitor. In certain types of programmable logic arrays and read-only memory, a bit may be represented by the presence or absence of a conducting path at a certain point of a circuit. In optical discs, a bit is encoded as the presence or absence of a microscopic pit on a reflective surface. In one-dimensional bar codes, bits are encoded as the thickness of alternating black and white lines.
The bit is not defined in the International System of Units (SI). However, the International Electrotechnical Commission issued standard IEC 60027, which specifies that the symbol for binary digit should be bit, and this should be used in all multiples, such as kbit, for kilobit.However, the lower-case letter b is widely used as well and was recommended by the IEEE 1541 Standard (2002). In contrast, the upper case letter B is the standard and customary symbol for byte.
Multiples of bits
Multiple bits may be expressed and represented in several ways. For convenience of representing commonly reoccurring groups of bits in information technology, several units of information have traditionally been used. The most common is the unit byte, coined by Werner Buchholz in June 1956, which historically was used to represent the group of bits used to encode a single character of text (until UTF-8 multibyte encoding took over) in a computer bits per byte, as it is widely used today. However, because of the ambiguity of relying on the underlying hardware design, the unit octet was defined to explicitly denote a sequence of eight bits.and for this reason it was used as the basic addressable element in many computer architectures. The trend in hardware design converged on the most common implementation of using eight
Computers usually manipulate bits in groups of a fixed size, conventionally named "words". Like the byte, the number of bits in a word also varies with the hardware design, and is typically between 8 and 80 bits, or even more in some specialized computers. In the 21st century, retail personal or server computers have a word size of 32 or 64 bits.
The International System of Units defines a series of decimal prefixes for multiples of standardized units which are commonly also used with the bit and the byte. The prefixes kilo (103) through yotta (1024) increment by multiples of 1000, and the corresponding units are the kilobit (kbit) through the yottabit (Ybit).
This article needs to be updated. In particular: it cites a fact about global information content in computers from 2007.October 2018)(
When the information capacity of a storage system or a communication channel is presented in bits or bits per second, this often refers to binary digits, which is a computer hardware capacity to store binary data (0 or 1, up or down, current or not, etc.). bit of storage are not equally likely, that bit of storage contains less than one bit of information. Indeed, if the value is completely predictable, then the reading of that value provides no information at all (zero entropic bits, because no resolution of uncertainty occurs and therefore no information is available). If a computer file that uses n bits of storage contains only m < n bits of information, then that information can in principle be encoded in about m bits, at least on the average. This principle is the basis of data compression technology. Using an analogy, the hardware binary digits refer to the amount of storage space available (like the number of buckets available to store things), and the information content the filling, which comes in different levels of granularity (fine or coarse, that is, compressed or uncompressed information). When the granularity is finer—when information is more compressed—the same bucket can hold more.Information capacity of a storage system is only an upper bound to the quantity of information stored therein. If the two possible values of one
For example, it is estimated that the combined technological capacity of the world to store information provides 1,300 exabytes of hardware digits in 2007. However, when this storage space is filled and the corresponding content is optimally compressed, this only represents 295 exabytes of information.When optimally compressed, the resulting carrying capacity approaches Shannon information or information entropy.
Certain bitwise computer processor instructions (such as bit set) operate at the level of manipulating bits rather than manipulating data interpreted as an aggregate of bits.
In the 1980s, when bitmapped computer displays became popular, some computers provided specialized bit block transfer instructions to set or copy the bits that corresponded to a given rectangular area on the screen.
In most computers and programming languages, when a bit within a group of bits, such as a byte or word, is referred to, it is usually specified by a number from 0 upwards corresponding to its position within the byte or word. However, 0 can refer to either the most or least significant bit depending on the context.
Similar to angular momentum and energy in physics; information-theoretic information and data storage size have the same dimensionality of units of measurement, but there is in general no meaning to adding, subtracting or otherwise combining the units mathematically.
Other units of information, sometimes used in information theory, include the natural digit also called a nat or nit and defined as log 2 e (≈ 1.443) bits, where e is the base of the natural logarithms; and the dit , ban , or hartley , defined as log2 10 (≈ 3.322) bits. This value, slightly less than 10/3, may be understood because 103 = 1000 ≈ 1024 = 210: three decimal digits are slightly less information than ten binary digits, so one decimal digit is slightly less than 10/3 binary digits. Conversely, one bit of information corresponds to about ln 2 (≈ 0.693) nats, or log10 2 (≈ 0.301) hartleys. As with the inverse ratio, this value, approximately 3/10, but slightly more, corresponds to the fact that 210 = 1024 ~ 1000 = 103: ten binary digits are slightly more information than three decimal digits, so one binary digit is slightly more than 3/10 decimal digits. Some authors also define a binit as an arbitrary information unit equivalent to some fixed but unspecified number of bits.
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.
In computing and electronic systems, binary-coded decimal (BCD) is a class of binary encodings of decimal numbers where each decimal digit is represented by a fixed number of bits, usually four or eight. Special bit patterns are sometimes used for a sign or for other indications.
In mathematics and computing, hexadecimal is a positional system that represents numbers using a base of 16. Unlike the common way of representing numbers with ten symbols, it uses sixteen distinct symbols, most often the symbols "0"–"9" to represent values zero to nine, and "A"–"F" to represent values ten to fifteen.
In computer science, an integer is a datum of integral data type, a data type that represents some range of mathematical integers. Integral data types may be of different sizes and may or may not be allowed to contain negative values. Integers are commonly represented in a computer as a group of binary digits (bits). The size of the grouping varies so the set of integer sizes available varies between different types of computers. Computer hardware, including virtual machines, nearly always provide a way to represent a processor register or memory address as an integer.
In computing, a nibble (occasionally nybble or nyble to match the spelling of byte) is a four-bit aggregation, or half an octet. It is also known as half-byte or tetrade. In a networking or telecommunication context, the nibble is often called a semi-octet, quadbit, or quartet. A nibble has sixteen (24) possible values. A nibble can be represented by a single hexadecimal digit and called a hex digit.
The octal numeral system, or oct for short, is the base-8 number system, and uses the digits 0 to 7. Octal numerals can be made from binary numerals by grouping consecutive binary digits into groups of three. For example, the binary representation for decimal 74 is 1001010. Two zeroes can be added at the left: (00)1 001 010, corresponding the octal digits 1 1 2, yielding the octal representation 112.
A computer number format is the internal representation of numeric values in digital computer and calculator hardware and software. Normally, numeric values are stored as groupings of bits, named for the number of bits that compose them. The encoding between numerical values and bit patterns is chosen for convenience of the operation of the computer; the bit format used by the computer's instruction set generally requires conversion for external use such as printing and display. Different types of processors may have different internal representations of numerical values. Different conventions are used for integer and real numbers. Most calculations are carried out with number formats that fit into a processor register, but some software systems allow representation of arbitrarily large numbers using multiple words of memory.
MIX is a hypothetical computer used in Donald Knuth's monograph, The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP). MIX's model number is 1009, which was derived by combining the model numbers and names of several contemporaneous, commercial machines deemed significant by the author. Also, "MIX" read as a Roman numeral is 1009.
The IBM 700/7000 series is a series of large-scale (mainframe) computer systems that were made by IBM through the 1950s and early 1960s. The series includes several different, incompatible processor architectures. The 700s use vacuum-tube logic and were made obsolete by the introduction of the transistorized 7000s. The 7000s, in turn, were eventually replaced with System/360, which was announced in 1964. However the 360/65, the first 360 powerful enough to replace 7000s, did not become available until November 1965. Early problems with OS/360 and the high cost of converting software kept many 7000s in service for years afterward.
A binary code represents text, computer processor instructions, or any other data using a two-symbol system. The two-symbol system used is often "0" and "1" from the binary number system. The binary code assigns a pattern of binary digits, also known as bits, to each character, instruction, etc. For example, a binary string of eight bits can represent any of 256 possible values and can, therefore, represent a wide variety of different items.
In computing, a memory address is a reference to a specific memory location used at various levels by software and hardware. Memory addresses are fixed-length sequences of digits conventionally displayed and manipulated as unsigned integers. Such numerical semantic bases itself upon features of CPU, as well upon use of the memory like an array endorsed by various programming languages.
Binary data is data whose unit can take on only two possible states, traditionally labeled as 0 and 1 in accordance with the binary numeral system and Boolean algebra.
In computing, a word is the natural unit of data used by a particular processor design. A word is a fixed-sized piece of data handled as a unit by the instruction set or the hardware of the processor. The number of bits in a word is an important characteristic of any specific processor design or computer architecture.
The octet is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that consists of eight bits. The term is often used when the term byte might be ambiguous, as the byte has historically been used for storage units of a variety of sizes.
A six-bit character code is a character encoding designed for use on computers with word lengths a multiple of 6. Six bits can only encode 64 distinct characters, so these codes generally include only the upper-case letters, the numerals, some punctuation characters, and sometimes control characters. Such codes with additional parity bit were a natural way of storing data on 7-track magnetic tape.
Decimal computers are computers which can represent numbers and addresses in decimal as well as providing instructions to operate on those numbers and addresses directly in decimal, without conversion to a pure binary representation. Some also had a variable wordlength, which enabled operations on numbers with a large number of digits.
This article presents a timeline of binary prefixes used to name memory units, in comparison of decimal and binary prefixes for measurement of information and computer storage.
In computing and telecommunications, a unit of information is the capacity of some standard data storage system or communication channel, used to measure the capacities of other systems and channels. In information theory, units of information are also used to measure the entropy of random variables and information contained in messages.
Werner Buchholz was a German-American computer scientist. After growing up in Europe, Buchholz moved to Canada and then to America. He worked for International Business Machines (IBM) in New York. In June 1956, he coined the term "byte" for a unit of digital information. In 1990, he was recognized as a computer pioneer by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
BCD, also called alphanumeric BCD, alphameric BCD, BCD Interchange Code, or BCDIC, is a family of representations of numerals, uppercase Latin letters, and some special and control characters as six-bit character codes.
The choice of a logarithmic base corresponds to the choice of a unit for measuring information. If the base 2 is used the resulting units may be called binary digits, or more briefly bits, a word suggested by J. W. Tukey.
[…] With IBM's STRETCH computer as background, handling 64-character words divisible into groups of 8 (I designed the character set for it, under the guidance of Dr. Werner Buchholz, the man who DID coin the term "byte" for an 8-bit grouping). […] The IBM 360 used 8-bit characters, although not ASCII directly. Thus Buchholz's "byte" caught on everywhere. I myself did not like the name for many reasons. […]
[…] Most important, from the point of view of editing, will be the ability to handle any characters or digits, from 1 to 6 bits long […] the Shift Matrix to be used to convert a 60-bit word, coming from Memory in parallel, into characters, or "bytes" as we have called them, to be sent to the Adder serially. The 60 bits are dumped into magnetic cores on six different levels. Thus, if a 1 comes out of position 9, it appears in all six cores underneath. […] The Adder may accept all or only some of the bits. […] Assume that it is desired to operate on 4 bit decimal digits, starting at the right. The 0-diagonal is pulsed first, sending out the six bits 0 to 5, of which the Adder accepts only the first four (0-3). Bits 4 and 5 are ignored. Next, the 4 diagonal is pulsed. This sends out bits 4 to 9, of which the last two are again ignored, and so on. […] It is just as easy to use all six bits in alphanumeric work, or to handle bytes of only one bit for logical analysis, or to offset the bytes by any number of bits. […]
[…] The first reference found in the files was contained in an internal memo written in June 1956 during the early days of developing Stretch. A byte was described as consisting of any number of parallel bits from one to six. Thus a byte was assumed to have a length appropriate for the occasion. Its first use was in the context of the input-output equipment of the 1950s, which handled six bits at a time. The possibility of going to 8 bit bytes was considered in August 1956 and incorporated in the design of Stretch shortly thereafter. The first published reference to the term occurred in 1959 in a paper "Processing Data in Bits and Pieces" by G A Blaauw, F P Brooks Jr and W Buchholz in the IRE Transactions on Electronic Computers , June 1959, page 121. The notions of that paper were elaborated in Chapter 4 of Planning a Computer System (Project Stretch) , edited by W Buchholz, McGraw-Hill Book Company (1962). The rationale for coining the term was explained there on page 40 as follows:
Byte denotes a group of bits used to encode a character, or the number of bits transmitted in parallel to and from input-output units. A term other than character is used here because a given character may be represented in different applications by more than one code, and different codes may use different numbers of bits (ie, different byte sizes). In input-output transmission the grouping of bits may be completely arbitrary and have no relation to actual characters. (The term is coined from bite , but respelled to avoid accidental mutation to bit.)
System/360 took over many of the Stretch concepts, including the basic byte and word sizes, which are powers of 2. For economy, however, the byte size was fixed at the 8 bit maximum, and addressing at the bit level was replaced by byte addressing. […]
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