bit specifications

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bit specifications

Everything in the digital world is measured in bits and bytes. Following are the common components in a computer that are measured in bits. See bit and binary values.

Word Size
The "word" size is the number of bits in the CPU's internal registers. For example, a 64-bit computer uses 64-bit registers and can process 64 bits at one time. Theoretically, if the clock rates were the same (1 GHz, 2.5 GHz, etc.) and the basic architectures were equal, a 32-bit computer would work twice as fast internally as a 16-bit computer.

In practice, 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and 64-bit architectures are rarely identical to each other even from the same manufacturer. Thus, a 64-bit computer may be (internally) less than twice as fast or more than twice as fast as a 32-bit computer. In addition, the CPU cache size and the system's bus and disk speeds are all part of the performance equation.

In order to take advantage of a CPU with a larger word size, operating systems and applications must be recompiled with a compiler that supports the larger word size. See 32-bit computing and 64-bit computing.

System Bus Size
The size of the computer's system bus (frontside bus), which is the pathway over which data are transferred between memory and the CPU and between memory and the peripheral devices. If the bus clock rates are equal, a 32-bit bus transfers data twice as fast as a 16-bit bus.

Address Bus Size
The size of the address bus determines how much memory the CPU can address directly. For example, a 20-bit address bus can access up to one megabyte (1MB); 24 bits reaches 16MB, and 32 bits can handle four gigabytes (GB). See binary values.

Color Depth
The number of colors that can be displayed at one time is called "bit depth," "color depth" and "pixel depth." Unless some of the memory is used for cursor or sprite movement, an 8-bit graphics card (display adapter) generates 256 colors; 16 bits handles 64K colors, and 24 bits supports 16.8 million colors. Display specifications, such as 64-bit and 128-bit, refer to the architecture, which affects speed, not the number of colors. See alpha channel, bit depth, 64-bit graphics accelerator and 128-bit graphics accelerator.

Sound Sample Size
One of the attributes and quality measurements of digital audio is the size of each sample that is taken when analog audio is converted to digital. A 16-bit sample yields a number with 65,536 digital increments compared to 256 increments in an 8-bit sample. See sampling and high-resolution sampling rates.
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