Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Nikhil. Nikhil Wonders, “How does a binary sequence transalate to a character?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Nikhil!
How often do you use a computer? If you think about all the different gadgets you use every day, you'll probably realize that you use more computers than you think. Beyond the laptop or desktop computers you use at school or home, you might also use calculators, smartphones, tablets, music players, electronic readers, digital video recorders, video games, and all sorts of other devices.
In today's technology-filled world, it's hard to avoid using computers. In fact, we bet many of our Wonder Friends will one day work in jobs that require you to use computers all the time. Some of you may even build computers or write code to create software, video games, and smartphone apps!
When you study basic computer programming, you learn early on that basically everything that goes into (input) or comes out of (output) a computer is comprised of a series of 0s and 1s. That's the essence of digital data, and it's based upon the binary system.
When you learn math at school, you use a base-10 number system. That means your number system consists of 10 digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. When you add one to nine, you move the 1 one spot to the left into the tens place and put a 0 in the ones place: 10.
The binary system, on the other hand, is a base-2 number system. That means it only uses two numbers: 0 and 1. When you add one to one, you move the 1 one spot to the left into the twos place and put a 0 in the ones place: 10. So, in a base-10 system, 10 equals ten. In a base-2 system, 10 equals two.
In the base-10 system you're familiar with, the place values start with ones and move to tens, hundreds, and thousands as you move to the left. That's because the system is based upon powers of 10.
Likewise, in a base-2 system, the place values start with ones and move to twos, fours, and eights as you move to the left. That's because the base-2 system is based upon powers of two. Each binary digit is known as a bit.
Don't worry if the binary system seems confusing right now. It's fairly easy to pick up once you work with it a while. It just seems confusing at first because all numbers are made up of only 0s and 1s. The familiar base-10 system is as easy as 1-2-3, while the base-2 binary system is as easy as 1-10-11.
You may WONDER why computers use the binary system. Computers and other electronic systems work faster and more efficiently using the binary system, because the system's use of only two numbers is easy to duplicate with an on/off system.
Electricity is either on or off, so devices can use an on/off switch within electric circuits to process binary information easily. For example, off can equal 0 and on can equal 1.
Every letter, number, and symbol on a keyboard is represented by an eight-bit binary number. For example, the letter A is actually 01000001 as far as your computer is concerned!
To help you develop a better understanding of the binary system and how it relates to the decimal system you're familiar with, here's how the decimal numbers 1-10 look in binary:
1 = 1
2 = 10
3 = 11
4 = 100
5 = 101
6 = 110
7 = 111
8 = 1000
9 = 1001
10 = 1010