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In computing and telecommunications, a unit of information is the capacity of some standard data storage system used to measure the capacities of other systems and channels. In information theory, units of information are also used to measure the entropy of random variables and information contained in messages.
The most commonly used units of data storage capacity are the bit, the capacity of a system that has only two states, and the byte (or octet), which is equivalent to eight bits. Multiples of these units can be formed from these with the SI prefixes (power-of-ten prefixes) or the newer IEC binary prefixes (power-of-two prefixes). Information capacity is considered to be a dimensionless quantity.
Historically, a byte was the number of bits used to encode a character of text in the computer, which depended on computer hardware architecture; but today it almost always means eight bits – that is, an octet. A byte can represent 256 (28) distinct values, such as the integers 0 to 255, or −128 to 127. The IEEE 1541-2002 standard specifies "B" (upper case) as the symbol for byte. Bytes almost always used to specify the sizes of computer files and the capacity of storage units. Most modern computers and peripheral devices are designed to manipulate data in whole bytes or groups of bytes, rather than individual bits.