ANSI/IEEE defs of k, K, M

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

Hi Y'all,

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.

Hope it helps,

Debbie Campbell (dcamp -at- cs -dot- rice -dot- edu)

Rice University, Center for Research on Parallel Computation, 6100 South
Main Street, Houston, Texas, 77005-1892, (713) 527-8750<tone>2744

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