Petition to establish “hella-” as SI prefix for octillion

Computers & Mobile Science
Petition to establish “hella-” as SI prefix for octillion

Thanks to the prodigious growth of computer storage media over the past couple of decades, most people have a pretty good command of the metric (SI) prefixes for big numbers: a kilobyte is a thousand bytes, a megabyte is a million, a gigabyte is a billion, and a terabyte is a trillion. Some folks are already making noises about “petabyte”–or one quadrillion byte–storage media. After that comes “exabyte,” which, of course, would be a quintillion bytes. And beyond that you get into “Marx brothers” country. More than one wag has suggested that the as-yet-unnamed metric prefix to denote one octillion somethings-or-other should be “groucho” or “harpo.”

But I like this proposal that’s been floating around Facebook even better: Use “hella” to denote 1027, as in “a one hellabyte RAID array” or “the sun weighs 2.2 hellatons and gives 0.3 hellawatts of power.” [via Boing Boing]

22 thoughts on “Petition to establish “hella-” as SI prefix for octillion

  1. Nate says:

    I do so hope no one in any legitimate decision-makers don’t buy into this.

    I also hope that this is a joke…but seeing it as a facebook proposal, I fear that silly people everywhere will “just start using it”.

    le sigh.

  2. BillC says:

    Only to be renamed as “hecka” by NorCal youth.

  3. graphmastur says:

    I’m sorry, but I think too many references to star wars would be made with a yottabyte.

  4. says:

    By the same reasoning as was used to justify “hetta” as the next SI unit extension, “sucka” is arguably more correct.

  5. says:

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned this yet.
    Historically (and still in common use today on basically every computer in existence), data storage uses binary, not decimal prefixes.

    In other words, it’s not 10^(3n), but rather 2^(10n), so kilobyte is 2^10 (1024) bytes, megabyte is 2^20 (1,048576) bytes, and so on. In which case, a hellabyte would not be 10^27 bytes, but 2^90 bytes.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      …according to the Wikipedia page on “Terabyte:”

      A terabyte is a SI-multiple (see prefix tera) of the unit byte for digital information storage and is equal to 10^12 (1 trillion short scale) bytes or 1000 gigabytes. The unit symbol for the terabyte is TB.

      The designation terabyte is rarely used to refer to the tebibyte, its binary prefix analogue, because only recent (since 2007) disk drives have this capacity. Disk drive sizes are always designated in SI units by manufacturers. However, a possible confusion arises from this definition with the long-standing tradition in some fields of information technology and the computer industry of using binary prefix interpretations for memory sizes. Standards organizations such as International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recommend to use the alternative term tebibyte to signify the traditional measure of 10244 bytes, or 1024 gibibytes, leading to the following definitions:

      * In standard SI usage, 1 terabyte (TB) equals 1000000000000bytes = 10004 or 1012 bytes.
      * Using the traditional binary interpretation, a terabyte would be 1099511627776bytes = 10244 = 240 bytes = 1 tebibyte (TiB).

      So there are, apparently, special prefixes for the traditional binary units of data storage.

  6. Nicole Parker says:

    Oh yeah, and if you use hella-, be sure to include limbo- and heaveni-.

  7. Nicole Parker says:

    I think sub- and hyper- should be the new prefixes. I will not include a chart, because my last comment had a chart and it is suspiciously missing. kilo= 1000, hyperkilo= 1000000, mega = one billion, and hypermega= one trillion. milli= 1000th, submilli= 1000000th, micro= one billionth, and submicro= one trillionth. As for my last comment, it was, as I prophesied, a “gigantic waste of time.”

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      Hi Nicole: If you made your comment before our transition to Word Press back in February, it’s missing, and much to our chagrin, along with almost all the other comments on the blog made before the transition. We still have them, and we WILL get them back on the site ASAP. Bear with us!

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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