Units of measurement help people understand a phenomenon’s qualities. They have numerous applications in the physical world. However, they are not only valuable for the measurement of physical properties. Units of measurement are also integral to the digital world. They help indicate how much storage space is available in a digital device for long-term and short-term data storage.
The following article provides an in-depth review of the Gigabyte vs. Kilobyte units of measurement.
Gigabyte (GB) vs. Kilobyte (KB): Side-By-Side Comparison
|Size||1,024 bytes||1,073,741,824 bytes|
|File Use||Small text files, emails, programming files||Audio files, high-resolution videos|
|Storage Devices||Floppy disks, magnetic tape, CD-ROM||DVDs, smartphones, PCs, laptops, gaming consoles|
Gigabyte (GB) vs. Kilobyte (KB): What’s The Difference?
Data storage capacity has been a critical factor in computer technology advancement since the first computer’s advent. A computer with a high data storage capacity can store and process considerable information, hence why scientists and technology companies have strived to improve storage capacities for decades.
Some of the most commonly referenced units of data storage are KB and GB. For decades, KBs were the highest units of data storage attainable by man, though the most referenced and used unit is GBs. Below is a detailed review of the Gigabyte vs. Kilobyte units of measurement.
Computers store data using a binary system. The system refers to the binary number system that utilizes 2 as the base, meaning it only requires two digits to represent data, namely 0 and 1. Unlike the decimal number system used by humans, which employs 10 as the base, it uses ten digits to represent data.
The smallest possible unit of data storage measurement is the bit. A bit represents an increment of one binary digit which can be 0 or 1, corresponding to the electrical commands off or on. However, the universally accepted unit of data storage is the byte. One byte is equivalent to 8 bits.
Moreover, one kilobyte is equivalent to 1,024 bytes because computers use the binary number system in which kilo- denotes a factor of 210. That is unlike the decimal number system that utilizes the conventional meaning of the prefix kilo- derived from the Greek language to mean thousand. The next unit of data storage measurement is the megabyte (MB) which is equivalent to 1,024KB.
On the other hand, one gigabyte is a unit of data storage measurement equivalent to 1,024MBs. The prefix giga also has Greek origins meaning giant, which denotes a factor of 230 in the binary system. That means one GB is the same as 1,073,741,824 bytes, equivalent to 1048576 KBs.
As such, one GB of data is significantly larger than one KB of data. Other units of data storage capacity include
- Terabyte: Equivalent to 1024 Gigabytes
- Petabyte: Equivalent to 1024 Terabytes
- Exabyte: Equivalent to 1024 Petabytes
- Zettabyte: Equivalent to 1024 exabytes
- Yottabyte: Equivalent to 1024 zettabytes
Real World Applications
Kilobytes have been the preferred unit of data storage measurement for longer than any other digital measurement unit. That is because, for most of the history of computers, most devices could only handle several KBs at a time, unlike today, where KBs of data are almost meaningless to most people.
For reference, a full page of text written in the Roman alphabet requires about 2 kilobytes of storage space which is almost equivalent to a byte per letter because an entire page holds about 2,000 characters. Moreover, a standard email without attachments uses one or two kilobytes of data.
However, with technological advancements, gigabytes have become the standard unit of data storage capacity when manufacturing digital devices. Most mobile phones, desktop computers, laptops, and gaming consoles come with several GB of random access memory (RAM) and tens or hundreds of GB dedicated to read-only memory (ROM).
Gigabytes allow the storage of more complex digital files. For example, one GB can hold about 250 songs because a standard song utilizes approximately 4MB of data. One GB can also hold about 500 ebooks given a standard ebook needs about 2 MB of data. Alternatively, you can store a 2-hour standard definition movie in one GB of data.
Humanity’s first attempt at developing a data storage device was the punch card in the 18th century. Basile Bouchon developed the punch card in 1725 with simple instructions that helped control pre-industrial revolution equipment like textile looms. Just over a century later, English mathematician and the universally-accepted father of computers, Charles Babbage, theorized a mechanical calculator called the Analytical Engine.
The engine relied on punch cards to relay instructions and generate results. However, Babbage was unable to complete a working Analytical Engine, unlike Herman Hollerith, who developed a tabulating machine that relied on the punch card to store data and instructions. The machine would prove instrumental in conducting censuses in many Western nations in the late 19th century, including the United States, England, Italy, Germany, Norway, and Canada.
The Williams tube was the first significant data storage device used in digital computers. Sir Frederic Williams invented the cathode-ray tube in the 1940s and received a patent for its production in 1946. IBM would later use the Williams tube as the storage device for the IBM 701, the company’s first mass-produced mainframe computer. The tube had a maximum storage capacity of 2560 bits, equivalent to 320 bytes or 0.3125 kilobytes.
The magnetic core memory of the late 1940s and early 1950s quickly replaced the Williams tube. It had a grid of current-conveying wires with magnets at the intersections of the wires. Early versions of the magnetic core memory had a maximum storage capacity of 128 bytes. However, increasing the length and width of the magnetic core also increased its capacity to store data. For example, the IBM 2361 Core Storage Module had a storage capacity of 1 or 2 MBs, depending on the model. As such, magnetic core memory became the primary technology for making computer storage units for most of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.
The late 1960s and early 1970s brought new data storage technologies that would define data storage devices for several decades. For example, IBM invented the diskette or floppy disk due to the ease people could carry it in the late 1960s and made it commercially available in 1971. The earliest version of the floppy disk had an eight-inch diameter.
Manufacturers reduced the diameter to 5.25 inches and later to 3.5 inches in 1981. The first commercially available diskette had a capacity of 79.7KB though it could only store unmodifiable data. With time, IBM developed a read-write floppy disk making the diskette the primary portable data storage device from the 1970s to the late 1990s.
The other revolutionary data storage technology of the late 1960s was semiconductor memory. It consists of a semiconductor memory chip that stores data in memory cells containing small transistors and capacitors. Semiconductors are small and use less electricity, making them ideal for data storage compared to older technologies like the cathode-ray tube. Today, the semiconductor industry is one of the most vital sectors in the manufacture of mobile phones, TVs, and electric vehicles.
Hard Disk Drives
Another data storage technology developed in the 20th century that still plays a significant role in data storage today is the hard disk drive. IBM developed the first hard disk drive in 1956; the IBM RAMAC 305 computer could store 5 million characters of data or just shy of 5MB. IBM was also the first company to make a hard drive that could hold 1GB of data, the IBM 3380, built in 1980, could hold up to 2.5GB of data. However, unlike today’s hard disk drives that can fit in the palms of an adult human, the first 1GB hard disk drive weighed about 250 kg.
Technology has made huge strides since the first punch card was invented in the 18th century. Today you will find flash drives, SD cards, hard drives, and other devices with numerous gigabytes of storage space, unlike older technologies with limited storage space while occupying substantial physical space.
Gigabyte vs. Kilobyte: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Kilobytes were invented in the 1960s whereas gigabyte technology was invented in 1986.
- Most USB drives have gigabyte storage ranging between 8GB and 1TB.
- The Gigabyte remains the most preferred unit of measurement for cloud storage.
- The Kilobyte was the most widely used unit of measurement until the 21st Century.
- The first floppy disks could only store data up to 80KB.
Gigabyte (GB) vs. Kilobyte (KB): Which Should You Use?
Gigabytes are, without question, more practical than kilobytes. That is because they have more applications and simplify technology use. For example, having storage devices with kilobytes of data limits you to storing simple files, primarily documents, preferably ones without media attachments.
However, with a storage device with gigabytes of data, you can store different files in different formats. You can store small documents, medium-sized audio files, and large high-resolution videos. Moreover, a device with kilobytes of RAM stores little real-time data, which can affect the device’s processing ability, thus slowing down its function.
Although kilobytes have played a significant role in the development of complex data storage units, they are mostly obsolete in today’s world, which generates and uses significantly more data. Thus upgrading to gigabytes is the better option.
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