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Subject:ANSI/IEEE defs of k, K, M From:Debbie Campbell <dcamp -at- CS -dot- RICE -dot- EDU> Date:Thu, 8 Dec 1994 09:32:28 -0600
According to ANSI/IEEE Std 260-1978...
Little k ("kilo" or "kay") stands for 10^3, or 1,000. For example, a
circuit might contain a 10 k<Ohm> resistor, or a tech. writer might get 41k
a year. (Note that this is a base 10 number.)
In the computer world, big K ("kay") stands for 2^10, or 1,024, which is so
close to 1,000 that computer people say "kay." Remember that computers
operate on 1's and 0's (i.e., two states), so that's why we have a base 2
When you're speaking of temperature, big K stands for "kelvin(s)" --
please, not "degrees kelvin"; the "degrees" was dropped in 1967, as was the
little degree symbol. According to ANSI/IEEE Std 268-1982, the temperature
in kelvins equals the temperature in degrees Celsius plus 273.15 degrees.
So, 0 K is -273.15 <degrees>C (yikes!).
In general, big M ("mega") stands for 10^6, or 1,000,000. For example, a
circuit might contain a 10 M<Ohm> resistor. In financial writing, I have
seen this written as kk (literally, a thousand times a thousand), when the
writer means a million dollars.
In the computer world, however, big M is used to approximate 2^10, or
1,048,576. For example, if you have a computer with 4 M RAM, it's not
exactly, 4 million; it's 4 meg.
You can get these standards through any (technical) library or order them
from IEEE (1-800-678-4333).
Finally, please forward this to any (electrical) engineers, computer
people, or technical students you know. I'm always embarrassed for them
when they use these terms incorrectly.