Watch what you ingest

A bit of a Byte?

This was going to be my first post. However, Blogger's date format had to be addressed while it came up and could not be resisted.

Here's a little test.

Do you know the difference between the usage of these measurements?
  1. kB
  2. Kb
  3. kb
  4. KB
It is a bit (pun intended) of a trick question.

There are sloppy use of these measurements all over the Internet, printed publications, etc. and not just by those who should be "in the know". Many of those people being in the Information Technology (IT) industry.

If we as a species are to become living in a digitally exposed environment, we all need to know some basics of digital measurement.

Getting back to the trick question. They are just letters, right? True. However, when used in the context of measurement, they take on a whole new meaning. The "k" or "K" prefix, refers to, as many already know, for "kilo" or one thousand (1 000). For more detail see binary prefix.

Accordingly, there is no difference between the upper case "K" and the lower case "k". My argument starts with that there is. The correct nomenclature of the standard is somewhat inconsistent. If you take a few moments, there is a pattern that emerges, although inconsistently. All of the fractions are lower case. Most of the whole numbers are upper case. This is the start of my proposal to only use upper case for the whole numbers, also since technically you can not have any thing smaller than zero for computing measurement. There's just nothing smaller than zero on a computer. For example, you cannot have a "mb" (milli-bit), but you can have a "Mb" (Mega-bit). Again, "PB" (Peta-Byte) exist, and "pB" (pico-Byte) do not. Look out for zepto/Zetta and yocto/Yotta, too. When the need arises to go beyond 10 to the 24th power (10^24), more lower case/Upper Case combinations will likely emerge.

Is there a difference between "k" and "K"? No. But there should be. And with that at hand, I propose only to use "K". From hereon, that's what I will do.

Now we move onto "b" and "B". Here there is a big span. Bits are either on or off, 1 (one) or 0 (zero) to a computer. Bytes are 8 (eight) bits. And to differentiate, a bit is always a lower case "b" and a byte is always upper case "B" when represented in a single letter.

bit = used for the measurement of data communication / transmission
byte = used for the measurement of data storage

Hard drives, floppy disks (for those that remember them), USB drives, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, even MP3 players are all storage mediums are represented in Bytes: 500MB hard drive, 1.44MB disk drive, 1GB USB drive, 640MB CD-ROM, 4.7GB DVD-ROM, and so on.

Networks are represented with bits. Your DSL, cable modem connection, office network, modem (remember those long-past days of waiting), cell phone networks, etc. are all shown in bits per second (or bps or b/s): as in 56Kbs, 1.5Mb/s, 100Mbs, etal.

What did you guess in the quiz? Did the "k" or "K" matter? Was the "b" it a bit or a byte?

The answers are:
  1. kB = should be avoided
  2. Kb = Kilo-bit
  3. kb = also should be avoided
  4. KB = Kilo-Byte
Curious how one element can make something big into something small.

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