How Much Is One GB of Memory?

We hear words like gigabyte (GB) and terabyte thrown around a lot, but what can we actually do with that much memory? At the most basic level of computing, we have bits, which are going to be either a 1 or 0. A byte is 8 bits. We’re going to represent a byte as this dot:

1 byte
1 byte.


4 bytes is the memory it takes to store 1 character, so 1 byte is a pretty good starting point. A single page of text has about 500 characters. We can change 500 characters into 2000 bytes, or about two kilobytes of memory.


If we make a visual representation, that’s 2000 dots.

2k dots
2k bytes.


This is only 2 kilobytes of memory. For only 1 page of text. What happens when we look at a novel? 40000 words is only about 80 pages of text, or 160 kilobytes of memory. Let’s check out what that looks like in dot form.

160k dots
160k bytes.


Whoa! That’s a lot of dots, but in terms of computer memory, this is small game. Let’s go straight to 1 megabyte (MB) of memory. 1 megabyte is about 6 seconds of uncompressed audio, 1 minute of 128 kbit/s MP3 audio, or a 500 page book. A megabyte is 1000 kilobytes (kb). Here’s what it look like in dot form:



That’s 1 million bytes. But this actually isn’t a lot of memory for non-text applications. 1 minutes of audio doesn’t really provide much enjoyment. 4 megabytes is the size of Nintendo 64 cartridge, a CD-ROM is 700 MBs (42 minutes of uncompressed audio). A gigabyte is where we start getting into storage that is more “standard” now.

1 Gigabyte
1 gigabyte.

In a dot diagrams, you can still see the individual dots on the MBs if you zoom. In gigabytes, that’s not really possible. There’s the amount of dots we have has increased by 1000. This is a lot of memory, 1 GB has 1 billion bytes, and each byte has 8 bits, so 1 GB has 8 billion bits of memory (WHOA!). For all that excitement, 1 GB isn’t actually a lot of memory isn’t in modern terms anymore. In an earlier blog post I took a picture of our USB Drives.

A whole lot of memory
A whole lot of memory.

I wanted you to be able to zoom in on each individual dot, but my computer was being majorly slowed down around the 160kb range, so I had to resize everything.


Each one of these is 4 or 8 gigabytes of memory, so if you look at it, they all have the dot diagram of a gigabyte, and at least 4 times that amount.
To put that into perspective, Google has indexed 200 terabytes (1 terabyte is 1000 gigabytes) of the internet. They estimate this is only % 0.004 of the entire internet, so the about 5,000,000 terabytes of memory. Five million terabytes is 5000 petabytes.


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I love Coding!

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