A New Meme Takes Images and Pixelates Them, and It's Rapidly Going Viral

The 64 bits, 32 bits, 16 bits meme is achieving viral popularity, but how do you explain where it came from and what it actually means?


Jan. 18 2021, Updated 12:12 p.m. ET

Thanks to the networked nature of the internet, it can be difficult to know exactly where new memes start. Most of the time, a meme just shows up in one of your feeds, and then you see it over and over again until it's difficult to determine where it actually began. The 64 bits, 32 bits, 16 bits meme is one of the newer, and nerdier, memes to go viral in recent memory, but where did it come from?

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The 64 bits, 32 bits, 16 bits meme, explained.

The origins of the meme are actually fairly old, at least in internet terms. It originates with a 2013 video from the YouTube channel Angry Video Game Nerd, who was reviewing a number of Tiger Electronics video games in the episode. 

In the wake of that video's release, the audio clip that provides the backing to the meme became increasingly popular in its own right. 

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Now that the video is almost a decade old, the audio from it is becoming central to a new meme that creates increasingly pixelated versions of a wide variety of images. Although the meme has been largely separated from its original context, it's still used frequently with reference to video games. 

What does the 64 bits, 32 bits, 16 bits meme mean?

For those who are less versed in computer terminology, a bit is a technical term that refers to the capacity of a computer to perform computations on numbers of varying sizes. To simplify it, a higher number of bits usually means a more powerful computer, and in the world of video games, it has tended to be associated with better, more realistic and detailed graphics. 

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The meme takes advantage of this and shows what images look like as they are broken down into smaller and smaller bits. A 64-bit image starts out looking pretty lifelike, but as you progress down to 1 bit, the image gets more and more pixelated, and it eventually becomes totally abstract. As the image pixelates, the audio becomes more and more frantic. 

Source: YouTube
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Although it can mean a wide variety of things, the meme is typically used to make fun of things that were more disappointing than expected. One popular iteration, for example, takes the vivid logo of the new video game Cyberpunk 2077 and creates more and more pixelated versions of it, mirroring the disappointment fans had for the game after its release was buggy on older consoles. 

As memes get cycled in and out of popular discourse with increasing frequency, it's impossible to say how long this meme, in particular, will be around. It emerged quite quickly, and it may disappear just as fast. As it begins to pop up on more and more feeds, though, it will be yet another example of the influence of geek culture on the mainstream discourse. 

Video games were once considered a largely fringe activity. Now, thanks to decades of influence, the games, and the culture they bring with them, have become more and more mainstream. 

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