An explanation of Bits(b), Bytes(B), and Baud

Bits and bytes are a measurement of electronic information. A byte is always 8 bits. Communications speeds are usually measured in bits per second while many computer operations are measured in bytes per second. A "56k" modem is 56 kilobits and a "2m" DSL connection is 2 megabits per second. "128MB" of RAM is 128 megabytes. Ideally when abbreviations are used, b means bits and B means bytes. Baud rate is another measure of transmission speed and is the number of actual signals sent per second. At one time it was equal to the bits per second, but modern technology allows us to send more than one bit per electric signal.

Mega and kilo

Communications device specifications are usually given in Kilo, meaning 1,000, and mega, meaning 1,000,000. Examples include modems and Ethernet.

Computer storage, such as hard drives, memory and file size, are ususally measured in Kilo, meaning 1,024, and mega, meaning 1,048,576.

Traditionally kilo means one thousand exactly. In the communications world engineers call a thousand bits transmitted in a second 1 kilobit per second. While 1000 is a nice round number for humans to work with, it isn't for computers. Mathematically speaking, humans use decimal or base 10 numbers and computers use binary or base 2 numbers. 1024 is 2 to the power of 10 which is a significant binary value and so is represented by kilo in the computer world. Mega is similar except it means 1,000,000 when describing a communications device and means 1,048,576 (i.e., 1024 kilo) when describing computer devices. Ideally when abbreviations are used, k means 1000 and K means 1024, but this notation convention is not always observed.

Based on information provided by various sources including Bandwidth Place (

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