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Bytes, Bits, KiBs, and MiBs

Why we do not use the right words for the right terms?
As everyone of us knows, when we need to say "1,024 bytes" we say "1 kilobyte", when we need to say "1,024 bits" we say "1 kilobit", when we need to say "1,024 kilobytes" we say "1 megabyte", and when we need to say "1,024 kilobits" we say "1 megabit". Because 1,024 is "approximately equal" to 1,000, we use "kilo" for 1,024, "mega" for 1,024*1,024, "giga" for 1,024*1,024*1,024, "tera" for 1,024*1,024*1,024*1,024, "peta" for 1,024*1,024*1,024*1,024*1,024, and so on, being well-aware that in "real life" "kilo" is for 1,000, "mega" for 1,000,000, "giga" for 1,000,000,000, and so on.

Maybe it is not as bad as it seems, but one of the problems that arise with this system is that, for example, hard drive manufacturers advise the capacity of their drives either using "1,024s", or "1,000s", and you cannot know for sure which manufacturer uses which number. The same with telecommunication devices: kilobit is for 1,000 or 1,024 bits?

In 1999 IETC, i.e. International Electrotechnical Commission, decided to solve this problem and proposed names KiB for "kilobyte" (spelled "keebeebyte"), Kib for "kilobit" (with b minuscule, spelled "keebeebit"), MiB for "megabyte" (spelled "meebeebyte"), Mib for "megabit" (again with b minuscule, spelled "meebeebit"), and so on for "gigabytes", "gigabits", "terabytes", "terabits", etc. The proposal wasn't accepted because of some pronunciation difficulties.

After I read about this, I got amuzed. Why did they create such strange names? Wouldn't it be simpler to say letter names instead of "keebee" and "meebee"? Letter K is pronounced "kay", letter M is pronounced "em", letter G is pronounced "gee" (for "giga" prefix), letter T is pronounced "tee" (for "tera" prefix), etc.

Thus, for example:

1024 bytes -- 1 Kbyte ("kay-byte")
1024 bits -- 1 Kbit ("kay-bit")
1024 Kbytes -- 1 Mbyte ("em-byte")
1024 Kbits -- 1 Mbit ("em-bit")
1024 Mbytes -- 1 Gbyte ("gee-byte")
1024 Mbits -- 1 Gbit ("gee-bit")
1024 Gbytes -- 1 Tbyte ("tee-byte")
1024 Gbits -- 1 Tbit ("tee-bit")

As you can see, the names would remain untouched, but the pronunciation would change (and wouldn't contain "kilos" and "megas", that is "thousands" and "millions"). Thus, may I submit my proposal for the consideration of computer and telecom community!

[In Russian it would be "kah-bit", "teh-bit", "kah-byte", "teh-byte", etc.]

By Der Voron, author of the book "Starcraft" (


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