Survey: 27% Think A Gigabyte Is a Type Of South American Insect [Update: Or Not]

from the I-see-dumb-people dept

Update: Or not. It appears that this survey may be bogus. Still, the key point, that we've noted for years, is that the average person has no idea how much a gigabyte really is -- and we'd bet that's still true, even if this "survey" appears to be just a marketing stunt.

A new survey from a UK company unsurprisingly found that more than a few people are slightly clueless when it comes to technology terms. The multiple-choice survey, which polled 2,392 U.S. men and women 18 years of age or older, found that one in ten Americans believe that html is some form of sexually-transmitted disease. While most survey respondents knew the definition of more general terms (like "dialect"), the full survey (pdf) found that even basic tech terms confused many people. 42% thought a motherboard was a deck on a cruise ship, 15% thought that software was comfortable clothing, and 77% of respondents didn't know what SEO meant.

Interestingly, while 67% respondents knew that a gigabyte was a unit of measurement of digital information (though the survey didn't ask them how much information is contained in a gigabyte), 27% believed that a gigabyte was a type of South American insect. That's actually a better statistic than I've seen in the past. A 2008 poll suggested that 87% of those polled had no idea what a gigabyte was or how many they use. The New York Times did an entirely unscientific street poll a few years back and found that few, if any, passers by knew what a megabyte is:
"If a sampling of pedestrians on the streets of Brooklyn is any guide, most people have only a vague idea. One said a megabyte was “the amount of something we have to use the Internet,” adding, “We should have three or four." Miranda Popkey, 24, was closer: “It’s a measure of how much information you store. If there are too many of them, I can’t send my e-mail attachment."
The thing is, most people can get away with not knowing what a motherboard is without losing a limb. Thinking that USB is an acronym for a country in Europe may not make you the smartest person in the room, but it's not going to hurt your wallet. Even the 29% of survey respondents who thought a migraine was a type of rice should probably make it through the day without any major repercussions (assuming they don't choke on their own tongue or something). But with both fixed line and wireless carriers increasingly charging by the megabyte and gigabyte, people might want to brush up on the term before they have to take out a second mortgage to fund their Angry Birds habit.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    zip, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    ... but how many people knew the 'correct' way to pronounce "GIGABYTE"?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the American Education System.

     

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  3.  
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    Thank Goodness..., Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:00pm

    It's good to see TechDirt practising safe cybersex and using Shtml

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:05pm

    I hope they were trolling them. Guess they couldn't exactly include a "Panda-B" question. Named for a school drug survey quality control measure. If they mentioned using Panda-B their survey can be marked down as lying.

     

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  5.  
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    Michael Whitetail, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:09pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Generational gap detected!

    When I went to public high school in 1990, they were just getting a real computer education program setup with the cutting edge 286 pc clones.

    Hell, just the year before in middle school, we eere still on 2e's!

    Some people never had the chance to learn computers in public schools.

    Instead of blaming the schools, I blame those that didn't strive to learn something so important after the fact!

     

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  6.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:41pm

    Re:

    Just as long as it's not pronounced with a soft G we're good.

     

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  7.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    When I went to public high school in 1999, we had computers in the library that were so locked down you couldn't do anything on them. The computer lab was still using Dos.

     

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  8.  
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    dave blevins (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:48pm

    Re:

    Betcha Congress would do worse !!

     

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  9.  
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    Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

    Hoax

    Can you say "hoax"?

    The survey was supposed conducted by or for a company that specializes in viral marketing. Last I checked, they finally released what they claim were the actual questions, but nothing on the methodology.

     

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  10.  
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    Violynne (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 8:32pm

    "But with both fixed line and wireless carriers increasingly charging by the megabyte and gigabyte, people might want to brush up on the term before they have to take out a second mortgage to fund their Angry Birds habit."
    Do me a favor, Karl. Take a quick trip to Netflix and find me information on the amount of data will be used to play the video about to stream.

    Okay, now head to Facebook and see if you can find a quick reference on the data push there. Amazon? Techdirt?

    I've learned long ago people don't care about space and limits. All they care about is accessing content. When customers get bill shocked, they'll simply cut back on frivolous websites like Techdirt and The Wall Street Journal so they can spend more time on Facebook without punishment.

    Because a website doesn't tell people how much data it's pushing, nor does it engage people with caution notices a stream is going to be over 500MB. People don't realize the true impact of many images over the course of time.

    All they want is to access it.

    I understand the point you're trying to make, but I think you're overshadowing the true culprit here: websites don't state how much data they're pushing because to do so may actually get visitors to leave, and not come back.

    Instead of trying to blame consumers, blame the carriers and ISPs who are purposely gouging customers because they're well aware how much data they're using, and precisely where to cap them.

    Educate them to fight this stupidity, not learn what a gigabyte is.

    That's my job, as a web developer, as it's necessary to streamline the content with as little as data as possible since it also costs us to push it.

    :)

     

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  11.  
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    Mason Wheeler, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re:

    ...and then the line will transmit precisely 1.21 jiggabytes of data into the Flux Drive, and you will be sent BACK!

     

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  12.  
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    zip, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    The most 'educational' era computer-wise might have been in the 1970s, when about the only thing anyone could do with a computer was to program it themselves.

     

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  13.  
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    Scote, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 9:09pm

    Except they don't...

    The survey really only shows that people don't know the correct answer and if pushed to guess will guess wrong. How many would have said a Gigabyte is a South American Insect in an open ended question? None, most likely.

     

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  14.  
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    zip, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 9:39pm

    Re:

    Visiting many websites is like opening a mail-bomb. It would be nice if all browsers had the option of user-defined limits on page size, image size, etc. - better than being at the mercy of the coder. Even Google.com has probably 10 or 20 times the amount of code as it did originally, although on the surface it's barely changed. Just like the trend of increasingly-bloated software, there are extremely few websites that are optimized to use as little code as possible and load as fast as possible. If anything, it's the total opposite.

     

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  15.  
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    S.A., Mar 14th, 2014 @ 9:53pm

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Closest we had in public high school was an IBM Selectric.

    Now, how many people are clueless as to what type of
    computer that is?

     

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  16.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 15th, 2014 @ 5:23am

    Re:

    From watching Reboot, duh!

     

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  17.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 6:20am

    But Is That A Gigabyte Or A Gibibyte?

    Lots of people have no idea...

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    In response to fake survey results depicting an uneducated populace, you take a denigrating swipe at the system of education. Typical wingnut response to a fake story.

    Yes, even if the educational system sucks and you are somewhat lacking knowledge, the obvious thing to do is whine and bemoan your situation rather than picking up a book and begin fixing the problem.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 7:24am

    Given an unscientific study, who would have guessed results would be skewed for the LULZ.

     

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  20.  
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    zip, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    As 'Back to the Future' was set in the 1950s, "jiggabyte" would have been the correct pronunciation. However, I suspect that its phonetic closeness to "jiggaboo" may have served to discouraged its use from the 1960s onward.

     

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  21.  
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    zip, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re:

    But 'Reboot' was made in Canada. Don't they (still) speak a slightly different language?

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:44am

    Re: Except they don't...

    "The survey really only shows that people don't know the correct answer"

    How does it "show" this?
    Responders could easily know the correct answer and yet provide an incorrect one because they find it humorous.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 9:21am

    Re: But Is That A Gigabyte Or A Gibibyte?

    Lots of people do know, they just don't give a shit. This term has never been accepted, only some academics try to push it. nobody really uses it. I don't either, and I will not. neither does anybody I know, including the academics.

     

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  24.  
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    weneedhelp - not signed in, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    A special message for you

    010000100110010100100000011100110111010101110010011001
    0100100000011101000110111100100000011001000111 00100110
    100101101110011010110010000001111001011011110111010101
    11001000100000010011110111011001100001 0110110001110100
    01101001011011100110010100101110

     

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  25.  
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    Annonimus, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    Why did you forget to say how much a Gigabyte is?

    1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes. 1 Megabyte is 1024 Kilobytes. 1 Kilobyte is 1024 Bytes. 1 Byte is 8 Bits. A Bit can have a value of 0 or 1. How hard was that to write?

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Gettin' jiggy with it!

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:07am

    Re: Why did you forget to say how much a Gigabyte is?

    Ever wonder where they come up with these weird numbers? Why not an even 1000? Why is a ton 2000 pounds instead of simply 1000? A mile is 5280 feet. Where did they come up with that?! Mysteries of life...

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    And then they pull all this other crap out of thin air, terabytes, googolbytes, etc.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Why did you forget to say how much a Gigabyte is?

    Itt's because much of the math in computing is based on octets.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:25am

    Re: Why did you forget to say how much a Gigabyte is?

    Unless of course you are a hard drive manufacturer and you want to exaggerate the capacity of your products.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Why did you forget to say how much a Gigabyte is?

    It's not a mystery, you just need to research the topic. You might even find it interesting.

     

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  32.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), Mar 15th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    That's nothing. More than 60% of people think that "an Apple" is something you eat.

    Oh wait...

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    maybe its time to stop reporting on surveys so quickly, it makes you guys look foolish.

     

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  34.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 3:35pm

    Re: they just don't give a shit.

    Except that “shit” is a difference of over 7% for a gibibyte versus a gigabyte, rising to 10% for a tebibyte versus a terabyte.

    It may not have mattered much when we could fudge the meaning of a “K” to 2-3%, but it’s getting harder to ignore now.

     

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  35.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    Re: 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes

    How many hertz is 1 gigahertz?

    If an async comms channel can transmit 1 bit per second with a 1Hz clock, how fast can it transmit with a 1GHz clock?

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 5:17pm

    Re:

    You guys?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Al's House of Crypto, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 6:20pm

    Re: A special message for you

    Do people often suspect you of of being EBCDIC without the extended binary coding part? Or are you 7 bitting us?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:07pm

    Re: Re:

    It doesn't take a fake survey to depict an uneducated populace. You can see it yourself by looking just about anywhere.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:15pm

    Re: Re: 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes

    Hertz isn't based on octets though like computers are.

     

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  40.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 9:42pm

    Re: 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes

    So what’s the answer to the question I posed?

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 6:29am

    Re: Re: 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes

    The answer is 42. What was the question?

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re: 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes

    Just under 120MB/s

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It doesn't take a fake survey to depict an uneducated populace. You can see it yourself by looking just about anywhere."


    Indeed. I would estimate the percentage of people needed further education at 100%. Anyone who claims they know it all are clearly incorrect. But that is not the point.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 7:47am

    Re: But Is That A Gigabyte Or A Gibibyte?

    Wow I didn't know they had created new prefixes.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: But Is That A Gigabyte Or A Gibibyte?

    Furthermore, no one I know in the tech community uses those terms either. The ISO may have accepted them but frankly they took way too long to address the problem to gain any widespread acceptance.

     

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  46.  
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    anon, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 11:53am

    Many things

    I would not be surprised if most people did not know relatively common terms, damn there are people that think England speaks a different language not english.

     

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  47.  
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    Griff (profile), Mar 16th, 2014 @ 12:14pm

    Re: A special message for you

    That was a hoot! Especially the 01101 part, that was clever.

     

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  48.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 4:41pm

    Re: Just under 120MB/s

    Is the difference enough to sue over?

    If a product was advertised to you as doing 125MiB/s, and it turned out it only did 125MB/s (or worse still, “just under 120MB/s” as you claimed), would you feel ripped off?

     

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  49.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 4:43pm

    Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    So how does your “tech community” calculate how many hertz there are in a gigahertz?

    If your “tech community” were to design a comms channel that can transmit 1 bit per second with a 1Hz clock, how fast could it transmit with a 1GHz clock?

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 5:14pm

    Re: A special message for you

    No ty, Ovaltine is gross

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2014 @ 6:16pm

    This poll was actually done in a retirement home for people 90 and up , but it's not biased.

     

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  52.  
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    btrussell (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, we speak maplese.

     

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  53.  
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    btrussell (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 3:53am

    Do you know how electrical companies charge?

    How much is a watt? What?

    How many feet in a mile?

    Were these questions asked as well?

    A lot of people eat food, ask them where it comes from.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 4:47am

    Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    I agree it's a mess that should have been cleaned up a long time ago (or never have been started by adopting prefixes based on an approximation) but it's going to take a much bigger effort than what has been made to get the public to adopt it.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 4:52am

    Re: Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    " based on an approximation"

    What is this approximation you speak of?
    There are differences in methodology, but each method is concise. I do not see any approximation.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 4:56am

    Re:

    Electric companies rip off their customers by selling them the same electrons over and over.

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    james howard, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 5:36am

    creative designe

    That's interesting to know about the behaviour of the people about the different topics.We comes to interesting answers and knowledge and bloggers and experts get feedback to further guide the people.
    creative printing

     

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  58.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    I'd never head of "gibi-" either. Nor have my coworker, and we work on large units of bits all the time.

    "So how does your “tech community” calculate how many hertz there are in a gigahertz?"

    As the AC said, this prefix business is a mess. However, the rule I was taught was that you determine exactly what these prefixes mean (the same problem exists with kilo-, mega-, tera-, etc) from context: if you're talking about units of memory, it's the power of 1024 prefix. Anytime else, you're talking about the power of 10 prefix. So gigahertz is 10^9 hertz, but a gigabyte is 2^30 bytes.

     

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  59.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 8:16am

    Re: Many things

    It's us here in the US that speaks a different language that we mistakenly call "English". It's really "American".

     

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  60.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    It's worse than that!

    Technically, the electrons being "conducted" through a wire are the ones that were in the wire to begin with. The power comes from making them move. So power companies are selling our own electrons back to us!

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    Actually, you probably have and just never noticed.
    Most commonly it's from formatting hard drives, such that a
    500 GB drive shows up as ~= 465.66 GiB available.

    GB is ISO/IEC's notation for base 10, and GiB is the notation for base 2. So according to ISO/IEC, 2^30 bytes is technically a Gibibyte and that is shown as available space on most *nix and Windows computers. Apple decided to go with base 10 notation at Snow Leopard, so you show about the same as the box.

    More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_prefix

    Honestly, I think of it as an advertizing scam on customers for the most part and feel we should just stick with binary on computers.

     

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  62.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    "Actually, you probably have and just never noticed"

    Which is the same thing as "I've never heard of it." :)

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    oxguy3, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 7:58pm

    Highly questionable

    Would love to see some description of the methodology. Based solely on the answers they offered, I'm not convinced this isn't garbage. Supplying people with answers gives soooo much bias -- people might remember the answer solely because it was provided to them, they might choose one of the wrong answers because it's so wrong it's funny, etc. This should have really been run as a "define this term" sort of deal (and it would probably have to have been administered orally so that the surveyors could question ambiguous answers).

     

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  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Mar 18th, 2014 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, if nobody knows it all, and everybody needs further education, who's going to educate them?

     

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  65.  
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    The Wanderer (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: o one I know in the tech community uses those terms either

    you determine exactly what these prefixes mean (the same problem exists with kilo-, mega-, tera-, etc) from context: if you're talking about units of memory, it's the power of 1024 prefix. Anytime else, you're talking about the power of 10 prefix.
    Exactly this. I've been arguing this every time I get too aggravated with the "gibi-" crowd to avoid getting sucked into a discussion about the subject for quite some time; it's good to see someone else advocating the same guideline.

     

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  66.  
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    The Wanderer (profile), Mar 19th, 2014 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Re: Just under 120MB/s

    If I did the measurements enough to notice, then yes, I would.

    I base that on the fact that I've felt ripped off after buying a hard drive with an advertised capacity of 1GB and discovering that it had an actual capacity of only about 950MB.

    (The original numbers were smaller; I think I first noticed this back around the time when 60GB was a midsize-to-large hard drive. Didn't make it any less noticeable to me, though.)


    That said: yes, using different values for the multiplier prefixes for the different contexts (count of data size vs. count of anything else) does make the math harder, and the potential for confusion greater, when converting between them. However, the "powers of two" meaning of the prefixes in a data context were far too long-established before anyone tried to come up with replacement terminology. They left it too late; there's no going back and changing it now, and trying to do so is high-handed and offensive.the established one

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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