Binary Number System: What Is It and Why Do Computers Use It?

The binary number system is a multifaceted system that has a wide range of uses in the technological world. It has played a significant role in computing language since the very beginning or build of the first computers. This is because over the years, binary has proved to be the most useful method of data counting, computing, and storage for the amount of information that needs to be handled by such computers. In order to understand why computers use the system, you must first understand what it is.

The Basics And Building Blocks

Binary is nothing more than a system of counting. Binary has existed long before computers have. To understand how binary works, two previous methods of counting have to be understood and those are the system of tally marks and base-10 positional system. Tally marks system is the more simplistic of methods, basically creating a mark for each item that needs to be counted. 

Although simple, this becomes more tedious and less efficient as the numbers increase. This translates to not being as efficient as the base-10 system, but significantly more efficient than the tally marker system. The base-10 system utilizes the numbers that are the most common today from 0 to 9 and places them in a decimal position for numbers that supersede into columns in the tens, hundreds, thousands, and so forth.

What Is Binary

Binary builds upon the effectiveness of the base-10 system but instead of using digits 0-9, uses 0s and 1s. This appears complicated at first, but is easy to understand once you are able to grasp the concept. 0s and 1s are used to count the increasing values of the power of 2, which will be summed in lines depending on the size of the number count.

Spelling Words

Now that you have been educated on the binary system and its basics, you might have heard people using binary to spell things. This is pretty straight forward to explain. Binary utilizes 8 digits in order to represent 255 numbers as previously mentioned. Those 255 numbers, when it comes to spelling, are utilized in ASCII, the American Standard code for information interchange. This is a way to convert a computer’s data, which is restricted in representing numbers and transform it into letters for humans to understand and work with. This is done by simply assigning characters to each value represented by a bite of binary. 

Remember, the bite is the eight digits of binary that can represent up to 255 values. This provides more than enough options to associate the full range of letters in the alphabet, in both upper and lower case, but also punctuation marks and symbols. This creates a perfect system to turn binary to text. This has then allowed humans to utilize computers for efficient and fast computing and processing needs. Additionally, it is also possible to translate numbers into code through a similar system where numbers are represented by a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. This comes data and information is such a wide range, such as website pages for example.

Application With Computers

With the basic understanding of these different counting systems, you can begin to understand why computers used binary. As mentioned the 9 digit system, although more accurate and efficient, was too complicated to be implemented with the first iterations of computers. These systems were initially built to count, but lacked the capabilities to use the based-10 system. Everything in a computer comes down to what is known as micro transistors. 

Micro transistors are these tiny little switches that can either be turned on or off with a very weak electrical charge. With the initial purpose of computer systems to be able to count utilizing these switches, using the tally system proved inefficient and incapable. The tally system would require the number of on switches to equals the number of things that you had to account for and with wanting to be able to compute large sums of numbers, there would need to be another way to do this. With the binary system, you could utilize a lower amount of switches turned on or off to signify the 1s and 0s to count exponentially more numbers than the tally system. 8 switches for example could represent a number or count up to 255. 

The same 8 switches using a tally system would only be able to represent up to 8. A single transistor is what’s known as a BIT which stands for binary digit. A BYTE is 8 of these bits in a row which means any number between 0 and 255. Essentially, the binary system had come into use in computers mainly due to the physical limitations these systems had. 

Benefits Of Binary Today

There is a reason why binary is still used today, over other potential methods of computing. Not only is it easy to process and store different data and information, but it is also reliable in terms of how it works. This is mainly due in large part to its functioning in simplicity. Being a system that is represented by 0 or 1, means that in any circuitry, in order to represent the value needed, your power only needs to either be turned on or off. 

This is so important because voltages have tendencies to drift, and utilizing a system that requires more than 2 options, means that you need to ensure a more precise indicator. With the potential for voltages to drift, this can cause incorrect information and data input. Binary counteracts this by ensuring that your data drift will remain in a safe and reliable range to still represent your intended values. The biggest benefit to still utilizing binary today is the fact that the components and systems in place are maximized in their efficiency and consistency by still using such a system.

Binary is both complicated and simple. It is complicated to those that have been raised to learn the base-10 system, but once you understand binary, you’ll find it easier to implement and work with. Binary will continue to be a staple in technology for its efficiency, accuracy and wide range of uses. 

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