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How many bits are in a Kbit per second? More than you though, I’m sure…

January 4th, 2007 by André Nogueira

I’ve always been taught that a Bit per second is 1 bit per second (well, duh!), one Kilobit per second is 1000 bits per second, and that 1 Megabit per second is nothing more than 1000 Kilobits per second.

But apparently, I’ve been wrong all my live. Google Calculator disagrees, but who am I to disagree with Google?

Using their handy (but, as I discovered, sometimes wrong calcutor) I wanted to do some calculations for an exercise I was solving. I was studying Computer Networking, so I was bound to use Mbps and MBps units. (For those who are wondering if I just made a typo, I haven’t. Mbps = Megabits per second, and MBps = Megabytes per second. 1 byte = 8 bits).

It was then I noticed something was wrong with Google Calculator. It treats 1Mbps as if it were 1/8 MBps – which I think is wrong.

According to Google:

1 bits per second = 1 bits per second
1 bytes per second = 8bits per second

So far so good.

1 kbps = 1 024 bits per second
1 KBps = 8 192 bits per second

And here is the problem. From the Wikipedia article: “A kilobit per second (kbit/s or kbps) is a unit of data transfer rate equal to 1,000 bits per second. It is sometimes used to mean 1,024 bits per second, using the binary meaning of the kilo- prefix, though this is rare and non-standard.”

Being rare and non-standard, I do believe it should use 1000 bits per second and not 1024. Besides, I did use the “kilo” and not the “kilo-” prefix…

If you try to convert “1 kbit to bits”, you’ll also get 1024. This isn’t exclusive of the ” per second” conversion.I’ve posted a message on Google Groups regarding this. Hopefully, it will be fixed soon.

Google Calculator problem
Wikipedia article on Kbps

Posted in MS News, Rants | 7 Comments »


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2007 at 11:28 am and is filed under MS News, Rants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


7 Responses

  1. Faisal Naveed Says:

    Hmm, at first it appeared to me to be a microsoftie’s prejudice towards a google product but actually there is more than a certain degree of truth to what Andre has written. A more trustworthy proof than wikipedia is at:

    http://compnetworking.about.com/od/basicnetworkingconcepts/g/bldef_kilobit.htm

    Quoted from above link: “Many people less familiar with computer networking believe one kilobit equals 1024 bits. This is generally untrue in networking but may be true in other contexts. Specifications for today’s adapters, routers and other networking equipment always use 1000-bit kilobits as the basis of their quoted data rates.”

  2. Neal Says:

    I was taught that a kilobyte was 1024 bytes… times are a’changin’! They want us all to say kibibyte for 1024 bytes now.
    You may find this useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_prefix

    Hard drives have always stated their capacity by taking kilobyte to mean 1000 bytes, but Windows uses the “classic” 1024 bytes for a kilobyte, which is why Windows reports your hard drive to be smaller than it says on the tin. 🙂

  3. Dez Says:

    Sorry Guys but I like it when 1Kb = 1024bits, you guys can argue all you want but your the reason why my 120GB hard drive is smaller than it should be.

    I support Google on this!

  4. Mike Says:

    1024 will give you greater precision. If you use 1000 the more you compound, the farther off the mark you will get (although you will still be acurate).

  5. Mcfly Says:

    I remember seeing 1024 in Tannenbaum’s computer networking book… this all new 1000 thing came with the marketing push on computer stuff… this way one can write bigger numbers on those shiny boxes:
    using 1000 exchanger 100 000 000 bits are: 100mbps, using 1024 it’s only 95.38… this is especially nasty on harddrives where there’s an additional loss due to the filesystem and in the end you’ll end up with 10% less disk space than advertised

  6. Andre Nogueira Says:

    One Kilobyte is 1024 BYTES, not BITS… I’m talking about a KiloBIT, not a KiloBYTE 🙂

  7. Dez Says:

    Sorry for the misunderstanding, if your talking about the singlular bit not a byte(8bits), then I guess your correct and google is wrong.

    I remember the day when the videogame companies used to advetise the size of their vide game carts in bits not bytes so the size looked impressive.