What are bits and bytes?

by Miriam Tocino

Here in The Binary World, we live surrounded by millions of other bits and bytes. 

what are bits and bytes

We could have called each other "people", like you humans do. But that wouldn't be totally right! So, why do we talk about bits and bytes instead?

In this blog post you'll learn:

Now, let's begin with some computer basics for kids!

What are Bits and Bytes?

Computers are great at storing information. They can save your documents, your drawings, and even your music!

Your computer stores this information as bits and bytes. These allow it to easily measure the amount of data collected from all your documents, drawings, and music.

It's like when you go to the market and you buy oranges and apples. The groceries man weights them and you take home 2 kilos of oranges and 3 kilos of apples. Kilos allow you to know exactly the amount of fruit you bought.

what are bits and bytes

With computers, it's kind of the same. A two-pages long document could be as big as 200 bytes. Pictures are normally bigger and they can be as big as multiple megabytes. One megabyte is 1,000,000 bytes.

And those, my human, are a lot of bits!

A bit is actually too small to be much of use. And so, computers need at least 8 bits to be able to do something useful and store any of your data.

A collection of 8 bits is called one byte. And, a collection of 4 bits is called a nibble, although that's not much of use either!

How to Write the Alphabet Using Bits and Bytes?

Let's take a look now at a specific example of using bits and bytes. The alphabet.

A bit can only have two different values, and those are a 0 or 1. When they're placed in a sequence or a string, they create what we call binary code.

See below the binary code for the first 4 letters in the alphabet. As you can see, each character contains 8 bits or, like you just learned, 1 byte! 

zerus and ona computer basics for kids

A Brief History

It's said that it was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a mathematician of the 17th century, who invented the binary numeral system.

According to Guardian writer David Walter, he received his inspiration from the I-Ching, a 5,000-year-old Chinese text.

what are bits and bytes

I-Ching Disk. Photo credit: ft2010 / Adobe

Leibniz's insight from the I-Ching was that even the most complex aspect of reality could potentially be represented in the binary form as 1s and 0s.

Hooray-bits! You just learned what bits and bytes are, how to write the alphabet using bits and bytes, and a brief history about them.

Now, it's exploration time!

We never talked about this, but... there's an easter egg hidden in Zerus gets a Virus!

zerus and ona computer basics for kids

Is that binary code in the screens above? 01001011, 01000101, and 01001001? What does it say? Use this translator from binary to text to find out

A couple of hints. Each of the screens represents one letter in the alphabet and it's the name of Miriam's son.

Now, use this converter to translate any text into binary code.

  • How do you write your name in binary?
  • Write it now in uppercase. Is the binary code different?
  • And what if you write it in lowercase?

Play around with it, come back and leave us a comment. We'd love to hear from you!

zerus and ona computer basics for kids

Remember that understanding computers is a superpower, and your ideas might help enormously to other humans around!

Lots of Megas from The Binary World,

Zerus & Ona

Complement your reading with what is a microchip and how to count in binary.


Want to learn more about computers?

Have a look at the Zerus & Ona collection. Our books teach computer basics for kids age 3+ with adorable characters, fun adventures, and a hands-on approach for parents and educators. Visit the shop!