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meet the byte

You might have heard that a computer’s memory is a series of bits (Os and 1s)…


but you only access them in groups of 8 bits - a byte!

01010011 1010101 10110111

2 ways to think about a byte

  1. 8 bits

  2. an integer from 0 to 255

00000000 = 0

00000001 (8 bits!) = 1 (integer!)

00000010 = 2

01011001 = 89

you can’t just access 1 bit

Every byte in your computer’s memory has an address.

If you want to fetch 1 bit, you need to fetch the whole byte at that address and then extract the bit.

some things that are 1 byte

  • the boolean true (in C) 00000001
  • the ASCII character F 01000110
  • the red part of the colour #FF00FF 11111111

most things are more than one byte

  • integers and floats are Usually 4 bytes or 8 bytes
  • strings are LOTS of bytes (for example, in UTF-8 a heart emoji is 3 bytes)

bytes weren’t always 8 bits

In the past, people experimented with lots of different byte sizes (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 bits!)

But now we’ve standardized on 8 bits pretty much everywhere.

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