Byte

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1. A group of binary digits or bits that operate as a unit.

Bytes can be anywhere from six to nine bits “wide”. Six and seven bit bytes were used way back when to save bandwith when telnetting into computers (and provide 64 and 128 different characters, respectively).

Eight and nine bit bytes are used all over the place now. An eight bit byte is the standard byte, and a nine bit byte uses the extra bit for data security, called a parity bit. Both are used all over the place in a modern computer.


A standard word is 32 or 36 bits wide (4 bytes), and a double word (or dword) is 64 or 72 bits wide (8 bytes) (the variations are parity versus non-parity). While bytes used to be enough to be a small chunk of data, the complexity of modern computing requires more possibilities, and so the word is now the standard used. There is also a long double word (or long dword) that is 80 or 90 bits wide, and is used for high precision scientific computing.

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