Sunday, 15 January 2017

Developer : How Big Is Your Floppy?

What are they teaching kids today?  I've just had the pleasure of talking to a gentleman whom has received a degree in computing from Stanford in the United States, I'm sure he paid a fortune for this education... He didn't know how many bytes were in 1.44 megabytes.

He literally said "about 1.44 million".  This was related to an old format of file being taken and converted for transmission over Wifi, the size of the data was relatively immaterial, but the source; historically speaking; was a 1.44 megabyte HD floppy disk, and though the floppy was long gone, the format of the file with it's limitation was not.

It got me thinking though, he was sat there, I'm sure earning more than myself, and he only had a jogging mental map of memory sizes, so I took a look at the Standard website, particularly the CS101 course... sure enough:
  • "Byte" - unit of information storage
  • A document, an image, a movie .. how many bytes?
  • 1 byte is enough to hold 1 typed letter, e.g. 'b' or 'X'
  • Later we'll look at storage in: RAM, hard drives, flash drives
  • All measured in bytes, despite being very different hardware
  • Kilobyte, KB, about 1 thousand bytes
  • Megabyte, MB, about 1 million bytes
  • Gigabyte, GB, about 1 billion bytes
  • Terabyte, TB, about 1 trillion bytes (rare)

Yeah, a terabyte is rare?... NOPE!... A kilobyte is not "about" anything it is exactly 1024 bytes, and a megabyte is not about 1 million bytes, it's exactly 1024 kilobytes, therefore exactly 1048576.  By using this "about" prefix they had made a megabyte sound 4.8576% smaller than it actually is, that's not insignificant!

And so forth.

This looks very much like an out of date page, but it is the first search result from google too!

Even wikipedia gets the right values before this page did!

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