What is binary and why do computers use it?

In digital information, binary (or base-2) is the numerical system used to represent information. Each digit is often denoted as a "1" or "0". Such a system can be directly incorporated in digital circuits that employs Boolean (true-false algebraic) logic. Aside from counting (and other mathematics) and representing information like characters in text or colour for pixels in images, binary is also used for control or directing information and invoking functions.

Such circuits may rely on analogue physics but overall predictable behaviour or output still can be deduced to discrete (separate, finite) states - or digital. The main reason for building such digital computers is because of their relative simplicity - largely the fact the circuits scale to more complex circuits in a relatively straightforward manner. This has helped to allow computers to become far more capable over the years, as long as the components can also shrink, consume less energy and not rise in price in correlation.

Similar to how triangles are the simplest shape, which can be used to construct other larger shapes, binary is the simplest representative information (data) system. It's important to remember however that computers or the digital circuits don't work with literal "ones and zeros", but rather states (like switches) which represent numbers and more. Logic gates toggle between states (and change the output) based on the input and the logic function of the gate, such as "OR", "AND", "NOR", etc. Each binary digit (or bit) can represent two values, so each bit added doubles the number of values in a "string" of bits - e.g two bits can represent four values (00, 01, 10 and 11), while three bits would hold eight.

Last update on 2023-02-19 by DNC admin.

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