Computer Memory, a mechanism that stores data for use by a computer. In a computer all data consist of numbers. A computer stores a number into a specific location in memory and later fetches the value. Most memories represent data with the binary number system. In the binary number system, numbers are represented by sequences of the two binary digits 0 and 1, which are called bits (see Number Systems). In a computer, the two possible values of a bit correspond to the on and off states of the computer's electronic circuitry.
In memory, bits are grouped together so they can represent larger values. A group of eight bits is called a byte and can represent decimal numbers ranging from 0 to 255. The particular sequence of bits in the byte encodes a unit of information, such as a keyboard character. One byte typically represents a single character such as a number, letter, or symbol. Most computers operate by manipulating groups of 2, 4, or 8 bytes called words.
Memory capacity is usually quantified in terms of kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes. Although the prefixes kilo-, mega-, and giga-, are taken from the metric system, they have a slightly different meaning when applied to computer memories. In the metric system, kilo- means 1 thousand; mega-, 1 million; and giga-, 1 billion. When applied to computer memory, however, the prefixes are measured as powers of two, with kilo- meaning 2 raised to the 10th power, or 1,024; mega- meaning 2 raised to the 20th power, or 1,048,576; and giga- meaning 2 raised to the 30th power, or 1,073,741,824. Thus, a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes and a megabyte is 1,048,576 bytes. It is easier to remember that a kilobyte is approximately 1,000 bytes, a megabyte is approximately 1 million bytes, and a gigabyte is approximately 1 billion bytes.