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In communication and information theory, a unit of information equivalent to the result of a choice between only two possible alternatives, such as 1 and 0 in the binary code generally used in digital computers. It is also applied to a unit of memory corresponding to the ability to store the result of a choice between two alternatives. A byte consists of a string of eight consecutive bits and makes up the basic information processing unit of a computer. Because a byte includes only an amount of information equivalent to one letter or one symbol (e.g., a comma), the processing and storage capacities of computer hardware are usually given in kilobytes (1,024 bytes), megabytes (1,048,576 bytes), and even gigabytes (about 1 billion bytes) and terabytes (1 trillion bytes).
Variants of BIT
bit in full binary digit
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on bit, visit Britannica.com.