# Bits

Since a bit is actually nothing more than the electricity being on or off, we can use a bit to represent other things.

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Since a bit is actually nothing more than the electricity being on or off, we can use a bit to represent other things.

Last updated

What are bits?

A bit, my dear friend, is a curious creature that exists in the world of computers. It is a unit of information that is represented by either a one or a zero, much like the binary system that underlies all computer technology.

But a bit is more than just a number, you see.

It is the building block of all computer data, from the emails we send to the videos we stream. It is the smallest unit of information that a computer can understand, and it is the foundation upon which all of our digital lives are built.

Bits are like the atoms of the computer world, combining together to form more complex structures like bytes, kilobytes, and gigabytes. And just like atoms, bits have a remarkable ability to create something out of nothing, to turn raw data into art, music, and words.

So the next time you hit send on an email or watch a cat video on YouTube, remember that it's all thanks to the humble bit, the tiny but mighty creature that makes our digital world go round.

How do we use bits?

A bit can be in one of **two possible states**, zeroes and ones, and may be made to change back and forth between those two states.

In a computer, bits resemble the **most like a light**. That is, the bits in a computer are places that either **have electricity or they do not**. If there is no electricity in that place, then the **light is off ("0")**. When electricity is present, then the **light is on ("1")**.

A single 0 or 1 is known as a **bit**, which is an abbreviation for **binary digit.**

The bits can be flipped using the flow of electrons which in turn will affect the transistors. Logic gates are made up of transistors.

As itโs difficult to get any meaning from single ones and zeroes, computers typically read bits in blocks of 8 bits which are called **bytes**.

Just to briefly test this concept, how many bytes are in the binary below?

111000100110100101101110011000010111001001111001

What can you do with bits?

A "**bit**" is atomic: the **smallest unit of storage**. Where **8 bits** are grouped together to make **1 byte**. One byte can hold a number between 0 and 255 which makes it perfect for use as a **unit of information storage**.

We can take a bit and say that **when this bit is on**, it means go shoot proton lasers and; and **when this bit is off**, you may jump to light speed.

**Bits can stack up** to become even the sentient machine overlords of the galaxy which spread terror and pain on every planet they hunt humans.

What are bytes?

Since a bit is actually nothing more than the electricity **being on or off**, we can use a bit to **represent other things**.

One byte can store **one character** that you **press on your keyboard** such as e.g. 'M' or 'b' or 'โฌ'. They can **stack up to store documents, images, and even movies**.

All storage is measured in bytes, despite being very different hardware.

What is binary?

At a fundamental level, digital computers store information and perform operations by using a series of zeroes and ones: **binary**.

Well, itโs a system of counting that is different from our normal way of counting. We typically count upwards using 10 digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Because there are 10 digits in our system of counting, we call it **base 10**, or **decimal**. By contrast, binary only uses 2 digits: 0 and 1. For this reason, binary can also go by the name **base 2**.

Now, because we are in base **2**, the place value for each digit (moving from the right to the left) is only **2** times the value of the previous digit.

So, the 109 in base 10 is equal to **01101101** in base 2.

Hereโs an example of what binary looks like:

01010000 01110010 01101001 01110110 01100001 01100011 01111001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01100100 01100101 01100001 01100100

If you are a computer the zeroes and ones above will be read as:

**Privacy is not dead.**

But how did we get from a byte of binary code to a letter? The answer is **ASCII**, which is a standardized way of transforming numbers into letters. Letโs take a closer look at the top row of the table above.

What is ASCII?

ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

Computers can only understand numbers, so an ASCII code is the numerical representation of a character such as 'a' or '@' or an action of some sort. ASCII was developed a long time ago and now the non-printing characters are rarely used for their original purpose.

Converting the base 10 numbers into plaintext by checking them against an ASCII table works as follows:

67 114 101 097 116 105 118 101 032 080 114 105 118 097 099 121

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