Computer Storage and Arithmetic

  • James E. Gentle
Part of the Statistics and Computing book series (SCO)


Data represent information at various levels. The form of data, whether numbers, characters, or picture elements, provide different perspectives. Data of whatever form are represented by groups of 0s and 1s, called bits from the words “binary” and “digits”. (The word was coined by John Tukey.) For representing simple text (that is, strings of characters with no special representation), the bits are usually taken in groups of eight, called bytes, or in groups of sixteen, and associated with a specific character according to a fixed coding rule. Because of the common association of a byte with a character, those two words are often used synonymously. For representing characters in bytes, “ASCII” (pronounced “askey”, from American Standard Code for Information Interchange), was the first standard code widely used. At first only English letters, Arabic numerals, and a few marks of punctuation had codes. Gradually over time more and more symbols were given codified representations. Also, because the common character sets differ from one language to another (both natural languages and computer languages), there are several modifications of the basic ASCII code set. When there is a need for more different characters than can be represented in a byte (28), codes to associate characters with larger groups of bits are necessary. For compatibility with the commonly used ASCII codes using groups of 8 bits, these codes usually are for groups of 16 bits. These codes for “16-bit characters” are useful for representing characters in some Oriental languages, for example. The Unicode Consortium has developed a 16-bit standard, called Unicode, that is widely used for representing characters from a variety of languages. For any ASCII character, the Unicode representation uses eight leading 0s and then the same eight bits as the ASCII representation. An important consideration in the choice of a method to represent data is the way data are communicated within a computer and between the computer and peripheral components such as data storage units. Data are usually treated as a fixed-length sequence of bits. The basic grouping of bits in a computer is sometimes called a “word” or a “storage unit”. The lengths of words or storage units commonly used in computers are 32 or 64 bits.


Interval Arithmetic Storage Unit Computer Number International Electrotechnical Commission Computer Storage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computational & Data SciencesGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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