Learning to Count in Binary

Learning to Count in Binary

We've all seen the stereotypical movie computer person. They watch a screen of binary scroll by, apparently interpeting it and making so much sense of it they only have to glance up every few seconds to figure out whats going on. Not gonna happen.

Binary is a number system, just like Base 10, the number system you or I count in. The difference is just the placement of the numbers. Not to mention, that while our number system has 10 digits (0-9) the base 2 number system only has two digits. These are one and zero.

We've also heard people say "Machine Language" in referance to binary. And its true. Computers talk in numbers, and since a digital computer only interpets two numbers, base two would seem to be the good choice.

In binary, we count right to left as we add up a number to become our number in base 10. Each number, from right to left is worth twice as much as the last one was.

For example, 1 = 1, 10 = 2, 100 = 4, etc. And when the number doesn't go evenly into it, we use two or more ones. Most computers use 8 bit, or number codes for commands.

To illustrate this, we'll be doing a few numbers, just as examples:

5 = 00000101

8 = 00001000

7 = 00000111


Please note, if you have a number larger than you can do in 8 numbers, you can expand it farther.

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There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary and those who don't.

G4from128k's picture

Counting in binary on your fingers

With a little dexterity, its possible to count to 1023 in binary using your 10 fingers. The system I use uses the right index finger as the 1s place, right middle finger as the 2s place, right ring finger as the 4s place, right pinkie as the 8s place, and the right thumb as the 16s place (the fingers on the left hand handle the 32s, 64s, 128s, 256s, and 512s place). Or you can use a similar technique to implement two independent 0-31 counters (one on each hand). With a little practice, incrementing to the next number is automatic.

It works well, just dont show anyone the number 2, 64, or 66. Wink