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Question: 1. How do computers store information?

Answered by Sarah Sexton, Intel Ireland

In order to process information, computers need first to be able to store it – otherwise information would come and go before anything could be done with it. To store the information, they use two basic kinds of storage. Temporary storage is for information actively being used for processing and Long-term storage is for information computers use again and again, such as the instructions the computer prepares itself with every time you turn it on.

So how do computers do this?

Computers contain billions of tiny electronic switches that can be either on or off, just in the same way a light switch works.

Since a switch can be either on or off, it can be used to represent a 0 or 1. Each of these 1’s or 0’s represents a single ‘Bit’ and in modern computers, switches or Bits are arranged in groups of eight which are known as ‘Bytes’. A group of eight switches has 256 possible combinations. Like this:

00000000

00000001

00000010

00000011

….and so on.

Since these 8-group switches have

dived 256 possible combinations, they can be used to represent numbers from 0-255.

A modern PC can handle billions of bits per second and store up to 120 gigabytes (over 1,000 trillion bits) on its hard disk which is the main, permanent, data storage for computers.





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