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Reading binary code

30 September 2012 5 comments
Binary

Binary (Photo credit: noegranado)

Wait! Before you turn away thinking “uh, binary? No thanks this is NOT for me”, give me five minutes to explain just how easy it is to read.

After all, you never know, you may one day meet the man/woman of your dreams (albeit a very geeky one) at a party and want to impress him/her with your knowledge and intelligence…(admittedly very far fetched but just humour me here).

So here goes..let’s start.

The binary system is the number system recognised by computers. A computer understands only two values, 1 and 0 (they’re not particularly intelligent).

If computers could talk and you asked it ‘what are you thinking?’, it would probably say ‘Oh, nothing’ (because it deals with so many zeros..geddit?).

Computers read binary code to define system elements such as memory locations, monitor colours etc. Everything and anything.

  • The first thing to realise is that binary is solely made up of just ones and zeros.
  • The second is that you always read binary from right to left – not the standard left to right (much like Arabic..feeling cultured already eh?).

Calculate binary by using the below scale. For simplification, this table only has the first 8 numbers. You’ll notice that each value or position is double the preceding value (i.e. the value to the right).

Table of first 8 binary values

To formulate a decimal number you just add together all positions marked with a “1” and ignore the positions marked with a “0”.

For example, if you wanted to represent the decimal number 2 in binary, you would write the following:

10.

In this example, the “0” in the first binary position tells you to skip the first value (which represents the decimal number 1). You then move to the second value which represents the decimal number 2. The “1” says to count that number. Remember we’ve read the 10 from right to left.

“There are only 10 people in the world; those that understand binary and those that don’t”

So following the above, to represent the number 5 in binary, you would enter the following:

101.

In this example you count the 1st binary position (..decimal value 1), skip the 2nd (..2) and count the 3rd (..4). So 1 + 4 = 5. Easy right!?

The number 43 is represented by 101011. i.e. 1+2+8+32 = 43.

The decimal value 43 in binary

Taking a much bigger number – the binary representation of the decimal number 100,000 would be:

The decimal value 100,000 in binary

This takes a whopping 17 binary values to add together. 11000011010100000.

Check it yourself – add all the values represented by a 1, and you get 100,000.

And it really is that easy. All you need is the scale and a bit of time to plot out each ‘one’ and then add all the values together. In this way computers can deal with very big numbers easily and quickly (rather than having to count out 100,000 x 1’s for the value 100,000 for instance).

Next up is Hexadecimal code (which I’m just in the process of writing a post on), and how to convert between binary, hexadecimal and decimal systems (‘ooh, can’t wait’ I hear you say).

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