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16-bit refers to sixteen binary (0 or 1) units of integer data. This allows for up to 65,536 combinations of values.

  • 16-bit color can allow for up to 65,536 grays. However, the assignment of colors can differ: 32,768 colors (32 levels per 5-bit RGB channel) and 1 transparency value in classic Macs, or 4,096 colors (16 levels per 4-bit RGB channel) and 16 transparency levels in NeXT computers. This is also known as "high color" on PCs and "thousands" of colors on classic Mac OS.
  • 16-bit sound allows for a range of up to 65,536 values (−32,768 to +32,767) per sample (Hertz).
  • 16-bit addressing allows for access to up to 65,536 bytes, or 64 kilobytes of data.
  • 16 bits of data make 2 bytes, referred to by programmers as a word.

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