Using standardized SI prefixes

Christof Krüger ubuntu at
Tue Jun 12 11:01:48 UTC 2007

On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 09:24 +0100, Scott James Remnant wrote:
> On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 09:37 +0200, Christof Krüger wrote:
> > Another "historic" example is a floppy-MB:
> > A 1.44MB floppy disc can store 1,474,560 Bytes, that is 1440 KiB and
> > 1.40625 MiB or approximately 1475KB or 1.48MB with kilo=10^3 and
> > mega=10^6.
> > However, these floppies were known as "1.44MB"-floppies. (MB meaning
> > 1000 times 1024 bytes). Very consistent!
> > 
> The difference is a sufficiently small percentage, that most users will
> not care.  In fact, the only people who ever seem to care enough to know
> that a 1.44MB floppy disk is actually 1.48 Million Bytes are geeks.

If one wants to introduce new -- well defined -- prefixes, one first has
to realize that there is a need for this step. There is a need if the
existing prefixes had not been used consistently in the past.
However, Mark stated that Kilobyte always had meant 2^10 bytes. My point
is that this is just not true and I presented examples for it.

The most important thing to notice is that we do not need unified
prefixes in isolated worlds or communities like computer nerds,
communication engineers etc., but in the intersections where these
people cooperate and need to communicate unambiguously.

> Changing the unit prefixes is just a geek "precision" gratification that
> will confuse everybody who is used to talking about "kilobytes", "and
> gigabytes"...
> 	"My computer has two gigabytes of RAM!"
> 	"Aha!  No it doesn't!"
> 	"It says two gigabytes."
> 	"No, you mean two gibibytes!  A gigabyte is ten-to-the-nice
> 	 bytes, whereas a gibibyte is two-to-the-thirty bytes!"
> 	*punch*
> 	"Ow!  You broke my nose!"
Well, there are situation where it simply doesn't matter and if someone
is pedantic about the use of GB or GiB in these cases... I could care
less. You won't ever find 2GB memory bars right next to a 2GiB version.

However, there will be situation where it matters.

Let me give you an example from the real world:
There was a bridge to build over the river Rhine connecting Switzerland
and Germany. You have to know that sea levels are defined differently in
both countries so if you plan to build a bridge you have to take it into
account. Well, the engineers tried to, but they've substracted instead
of adding (or vice versa) and so they had to lower the road 54cm on the
other side to match the bridge. Read here:
This would not have happened if they had the same reference point for
the sea level. I'm convinced that in the fast-paced computer world such
a unification should be possible.

Christof Krüger

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