What is information? Information processing in computers

This post is lesson 5 of 42 in the subject Computer Hardware

In computing, the unit of information is the bit. But what exactly is information and why do we represent it as bits? This article will answer the above question.

1. What is information?

The term “information” refers to anything that provides people with understanding or awareness. For example a letter, a number, a person’s name and age, a mathematical theorem, and so on.

What is information?

Information can be transmitted through different physical environments, including light, sound waves, and electromagnetic waves. The physical representation of information is referred to as a “signal“.

2. Fundamental form of information

There are two fundamental forms of information:

Numeric: integer, real number, etc.


  • Text: information from books, newspapers, etc.
  • Image: pictures, photos or videos, etc.
  • Sound: piano sound, school drums, etc.

3. What is data?

Data is a means of representing information for storage and processing. Information is converted to data by encoding it. People generally use symbols such as digits and letters to encode information.

Information about the number of people infected with Covid in the USA is represented by the data on the chart

4. Information processing in computers

Data is stored in computers by transforming information with the use of input devices. The processed data is then transformed back into information for humans to output. This loop repeats continuously.

Information processing in computers
Information processing in computers

5. How to store information on the computer?

To computer process information, the information needs to be encoded into a sequence of bits. The bit is represented by 2 numbers: 0 and 1. A bit is a unit of information measurement in computers. Example: 01100001 (represents ‘A’ in ASCII code).

Processing information in computer

6. Why is information in computers represented as bits?

Because the structure of the computer uses electronic circuits that “only” have 2 states: on (bit 1 – turn on) and off (bit 0 – turn off). With this structure, the computer can only comprehend these two states. Computers cannot comprehend letters such as “a, b, c, etc.” or numbers such as “1, 2, 3, etc.” like humans.

Therefore, in a computer, all data – whether it’s numbers, text, images, sounds, or anything else – must be represented using only the numbers 0 and 1.

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