The Terabyte: A computer unit of measurement

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In 1955, IBM unveiled the world’s first computer to use permanently stored data. Its storage capacity, at the time, was 4 megabytes (MB). Nowadays, such storage capacity would not even be enough for a smartphone. Apps, documents, images, and other data require significantly more storage capacity.

As technology advances, computer units of measurement have evolved to reflect larger amounts of data in readable numbers. Nowadays, the average person regularly encounters gigabytes and terabytes. This article will teach you more about these information units and how they are converted.

What is a terabyte?

Whether you choose to use a smartphone, a laptop PC, or a USB key, you have a wide choice of devices to store your data. The digitization of content has increased the demand for ever more impressive storage capacity. The amount of data a drive can store is indicated by Bytes. This is the smallest possible amount of data. To avoid numbers so long that they would be incomprehensible, large numbers of data are designated by decimal prefixes.

Therefore, one terabyte corresponds to 10,000,000,000,000 Bytes. However, since computer work works using a binary system based on base 2 (2 x ) instead of 10 (10 x ), the conversion factor between units is not 1000 but 1024 (2 10 ). One terabyte therefore corresponds to 1,099,511,627,776 Bytes.

When purchasing storage devices, users are often unsure of how much storage space they need. This is in part due to the cryptic naming of computer measurement units. What can be stored with a terabyte? The following comparison may help you to understand: one terabyte corresponds to a capacity of more than 200,000 songs of average quality in MP3 format.

Terabyte and terabit: what’s the difference?

There is a real difference between terabits and terabits, although their names are similar. To differentiate the two, it may help to learn what defines bits and bytes. A bit corresponds to the smallest storage unit, it can take the values ​​of 1 and 0. On the other hand, a byte (byte) corresponds to 8 bits and can take 256 different states. This number of bits allows the representation of a binary state as a human-readable character.

As opposed to storage capacity, the data transfer speed will typically be expressed in bits. The most common unit for this is megabits per second (Mb / s). But technologies continue to evolve. In experiments, researchers managed to achieve a transfer of 44.2 Tb / s. This is equivalent to downloading 1000 movies in HD quality in just a few seconds.

What multiples of a terabyte exist?

A terabyte is usually the largest unit of measurement used in everyday use. Mainframes and data centers, on the other hand, require certain storage units that are well above the terabyte scale. The factor 1024 is decisive for converting a unit. The table below presents an overview of the information units and their relation to the terabyte.

Amount of dataIn terabyteA Byte
1 Bit1/8 796 093 022 2081/8
1 Nibble1/2 199 023 255 5521/2
Byte (B) or octet (o)1/1 099 511 627 7761
Kilobytes (KB) or kilobytes (KB)1/1 073 741 8241 024
Megabyte (MB) or megabyte (MB)1/1 048 5761 024 2
Gigabyte (GB) or gigabyte (Go)1/1 0241 024 3
Térabyte (TB) ou téraoctet (To)11 024 4
Petabyte (PB) or petabyte (Po)1 0241 024 5
Exabyte (GB) or exaoctet (Eo)1 048 5761 024 6
Zettabyte (ZB) or zettaoctet (Zo)1 073 741 8241 024 7
Yottabyte (YB) ou yottaoctet (Yo)1 099 511 627 7761 024 8
Brontobyte (BB) or brontooctet (Bo)1 125 899 906 842 6241 024 9

Where and how is terabyte used?

Technologies continue to evolve, as do their storage capacities. But despite constantly increasing capacities, the media size is shrinking. Today, 1 to 2 terabyte hard drives are both compact and affordable. SD cards and USB sticks already offer up to 1 TB of disk space. However, in many cases, the gigabyte specification is still customary for these storage media. It may only be a matter of time before terabyte storage media become ubiquitous.