Glossary - 8-Bit

8-bit is the term used to describe integers, data units, or integers in computer architecture that ae 8 bits wide. It also describes ALU and CPU architectures such as data buses, registers, or address buses that of the same size. The intel 8080 microprocessor was the first 8-bit microchip introduced by Intel in the late 1970s.

In gaming, the 8-bit era is what gamers called the times of the third generation of video games when Sega SG-1000 and Famicom were introduced by Japanese video game companies. This era began in the 1980s. The 8-bit era marked the gradual change from video game manufacturing in the U.S. to Japan. Major Japanese companies like Nintendo and Sega led the way. 


Though many different video game consoles joined the market in this generation, the NES/Famicom by Nintendo had the largest market share. The Sega Master System followed, and Atari 7800 was next. Together, these game consoles all feature 8-bit processors. 

It is important to note that the previous generation of video games also had 8-bit processors. However, it was in the third generation that the “bits” became the term used to label home consoles. Next, 16-bits consoles such as Sega’s Genesis become known as the fourth generation consoles. Hence, the bits become a significant differentiating feature of the various gaming consoles. 

Significance of 8-bit graphics

The 8-bits generation gave birth to new and improved capabilities such that consoles were able to display better sound and graphical outputs. Subsequently, the palette size and onscreen colors increased considerably. This meant more vivid and clear pictures rendered on video game screens for better gaming experiences. 

In addition, developers used the opportunity to add more details to their game programs, such that even the audio received a huge boost in output quality. In that, the gamer began enjoying five-channel audio. This allowed a wider range of sounds and better variation in sound frequency.