What is Digital Data?

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a real estate investor, MBA, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

These days, digital data is everywhere. In this lesson, we will define exactly what digital data is and explore how information is stored digitally in a computer.

Digital Data

Whenever you send an email, read a social media post, or take pictures with your digital camera, you are working with digital data. We all probably hear this term on a daily basis, but have you ever wondered what digital means? If you think it means any electronic information on a computer, you are on the right track, but there is a bit more to it. Let's define digital data and take a look at how it is used in our daily lives.

Binary Language

Digital data is a binary language. When you press a key on the keyboard, an electrical circuit is closed. The circuit acts like a switch and has only two possible options: open or closed. If you know Morse code, the idea is the same. A string of dashes and dots represents one letter or number. This is binary. There is no halfway or in-between. The status of the switch as open or closed is interpreted by the computer as a 0 or 1. Each digit is known as a bit.

Computer disks and drives hold many switches to store this information as lines of 0's and 1's. A byte is composed of eight bits, and a kilobyte is 1,000 bytes; 1,000 kilobytes equals one megabyte. When information is put into a digital form, it is converted into sequences of 0's and 1's that can be interpreted by other computer systems. Digitizing information is the process of converting information into digital form and is necessary for a computer to be able to process and store information.

Data Examples

Digital data can appear in multiple ways on a computer system. Remember our keyboard example? When you press a key, the computer recognizes that input and generates the appropriate binary code for that key. The lesson you are reading now is a collection of thousands of such codes. But what about something even more complex?

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