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BINARY NUMBERS - How do they work?

In my previous article on binary numbers I stated that binary numbers are used in computers.

In this article I’m explaining, a bit further, how computers use binary numbers.

We have learnt that the computer programming system cannot easily read base 10 numbers and that the computer can only read and use the two digits; 0 and 1.

Even though computers were limited as far as the system of counting was concerned, there was still the need for them to count by using the on and off switches.

Computers could use the tally system ( / / / / = 4) ; in which the number of on switches equals the number of an item.

However, a much more efficient system was the Binary (where each switch represents a digit of binary).

The video below shows how to represent the first ten numbers in the binary system. You can pause the video and try to work through them.

With the binary system, we can represent a number as high as 255 and 256 different values (as it includes 0).

A single binary digit is called a ‘bit’ which is derived from the two words ‘binary digit’. This is also called a single transistor in the computer system. Eight of these bits in a row represents a byte of information.

Computers have been using binary system even in representing letters of the alphabets. They assign a character to each value represented by a byte of binary (being 8 bits).

Modern day computers are now using 16 bits instead of 8 bits. So numbers up to 65,535 can be represented by computers. This is enough to represent all the characters we see on our keyboards with just the two digits 0 and 1.

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