My Explanation of Binary

Posted 9 months ago

Self PortraitCody Helscel
Blog writer & Web developer

For starters, in our numeric system, we have a base-10 system, meaning we can only use 10 digits to indicate a value (numbers 0-9). Any number represented after 9 uses a combination of 0-9.

In binary, it's known as base-2. Only a 0 and a 1 can represent a value. We use binary in computer science because a 0 represents the state of electricity being off and a 1 to represent a state of electricty being on.

So far binary doesn't tell us anything. But when we start putting 0s and 1s in sequence, we can perform calculations and do more useful things.

Additionally, a single 0 or 1 is known as a bit. Computers have internal clocks that tick billions of times per second (3.2GHZ, for example). For simplicity, let's say the internal clock ticks once every second. Each time the clock ticks, a new bit is read (a 0 or 1). After 8 bits, it's known as a byte (Ex. 01101101). In decimal, that binary number equals 109. As a letter, that same binary number represents the lowercase 'm'. String enough bytes together, and you can make a sentence.

Very old computers could only interpret 1 byte at a time. They were 8-bit computers, then we had 16-bit computers, then 32 and now 64, meaning our computers can calculate huge numbers accurately.

Going back to reversing a value, we can turn something on that is off and something off that is on simply by saying 1-x (where x is the state of electricity). This is the essence of the digital world, whereas the analogue world can be in a state between off an on, such as 0.75 or 0.2.

Any questions?

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