In techspeak and jargon, the standard metric prefixes used in the SI
(Système International) conventions for scientific measurement have
dual uses. With units of time or things that come in powers of 10, such as
money, they retain their usual meanings of multiplication by powers of
Here are the SI magnifying prefixes, along with the corresponding binary interpretations in common use: prefix decimal binary kilo 1000^1 1024^1 = 2^10 = 1,024 mega 1000^2 1024^2 = 2^20 = 1,048,576 giga 1000^3 1024^3 = 2^30 = 1,073,741,824 tera 1000^4 1024^4 = 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776 peta 1000^5 1024^5 = 2^50 = 1,125,899,906,842,624 exa 1000^6 1024^6 = 2^60 = 1,152,921,504,606,846,976 zetta 1000^7 1024^7 = 2^70 = 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 yotta 1000^8 1024^8 = 2^80 = 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 Here are the SI fractional prefixes: prefix decimal jargon usage milli 1000^1 (seldom used in jargon) micro 1000^2 small or humanscale (see micro) nano 1000^3 even smaller (see nano) pico 1000^4 even smaller yet (see pico) femto 1000^5 (not used in jargon—yet) atto 1000^6 (not used in jargon—yet) zepto 1000^7 (not used in jargon—yet) yocto 1000^8 (not used in jargon—yet) The prefixes zetta, yotta, zepto, and yocto have been included in
these tables purely for completeness and giggle value; they were adopted in
1990 by the 19th Conference Generale des Poids et
Mesures. The binary peta and exa loadings, though well
established, are not in jargon use either — yet. The prefix milli,
denoting multiplication by There are, of course, some standard unit prefixes for powers of 10. In the following table, the ‘prefix’ column is the international standard prefix for the appropriate power of ten; the ‘binary’ column lists jargon abbreviations and words for the corresponding power of 2. The Bsuffixed forms are commonly used for byte quantities; the words ‘meg’ and ‘gig’ are nouns that may (but do not always) pluralize with ‘s’. prefix decimal binary pronunciation} kilo k K, KB, kay mega M M, MB, meg meg giga G G, GB, gig gig,jig Confusingly, hackers often use K or M as though they were suffix or numeric multipliers rather than a prefix; thus “2K dollars”, “2M of disk space”. This is also true (though less commonly) of G. Note that the formal SI metric prefix for 1000 is ‘k’; some use this strictly, reserving ‘K’ for multiplication by 1024 (KB is thus ‘kilobytes’). K, M, and G used alone refer to quantities of bytes; thus, 64G is 64 gigabytes and ‘a K’ is a kilobyte (compare mainstream use of ‘a G’ as short for ‘a grand’, that is, $1000). Whether one pronounces ‘gig’ with hard or soft ‘g’ depends on what one thinks the proper pronunciation of ‘giga’ is. Confusing 1000 and 1024 (or other powers of 2 and 10 close in magnitude) — for example, describing a memory in units of 500K or 524K instead of 512K — is a sure sign of the marketroid. One example of this: it is common to refer to the capacity of 3.5" floppies as ‘1.44 MB’ In fact, this is a completely bogus number. The correct size is 1440 KB, that is, 1440 * 1024 = 1474560 bytes. So the ‘mega’ in ‘1.44 MB’ is compounded of two ‘kilos’, one of which is 1024 and the other of which is 1000. The correct number of megabytes would of course be 1440 / 1024 = 1.40625. Alas, this fine point is probably lost on the world forever. [1993 update: hacker Morgan Burke has proposed, to general approval on Usenet, the following additional prefixes:
We observe that this would leave the prefixes zeppo, gummo, and chico available for future expansion. Sadly, there is little immediate prospect that Mr. Burke's eminently sensible proposal will be ratified.] 
