There Are Only 10 People In The World –
Those Who Understand Binary And Those Who Don’t …
Did you get the joke? …. No? Don’t worry, you will by the end of this article. You’ll also be on your way to mastering the concept, and being in a position to explain binary numbers to kids in a way that makes sense to them. They will be astounded at your knowledge and very proud of their super cool mum and dad. You’ll be ready to jump into action when they bring home their binary homework for coding classes in the future. Go you!
Covering the Bases
Binary numbers, or Base 2, is an alternate way of expressing numbers which has many applications in today’s technological society. For instance, the device upon which you are currently reading this post speaks, at its very core, a language in binary code. It’s true. And understanding binary can lift a lot of the mystery about computers because at a fundamental level they are really just machines for switching binary digits on an off.
So before we can look at binary code, let’s first take a look at the counting system us mere mortals use, known as the decimal system or Base 10. In Base 10 we have ten different symbols at our disposal to represent numbers.
As you know, in different combinations the symbols can represent any number we can think of using something called “place value”. This gives us many uses for a mere ten symbols. Each column of numbers represents multiplication times the power of ten.
So for example, if we take a trip back to grade school and look at the number 876, we can see quickly that it’s made up of 8 sets of 100, 7 sets of 10s and 6 sets of 1s. Pretty simple right?
|PLACES||100’s place (102)||10’s place (101)||1’s place (100)|
Adding up these value: 800 + 70 + 6 = 876 …. Yay!
Most of the world has been using the decimal system for a long long time. Why? There actually is not definitive reason but maybe it’s because we have ten fingers?
Binary Numbers for Kids – The System Explained
So, getting back on track – the point of all that was to provide a context for how binary works. In binary, instead of using ten symbols and powers of 10 we use just two symbols and powers of 2. And we can still express big numbers using just two symbols!
Now, before we move on, I want you to think of the symbols for “one” and “zero”. Picture them in your mind. Got that? Now I want you to think of 1 as representing “on” and the 0 as representing “off”. This will assist you as we move on. I’m so excited! And a nerd…. But mostly excited!
Binary numbers use only the digits 1 and 0. Each “place” in the system represents a power of 2. The furthest digit to the right will be in the ones place, followed by the twos place to the right of it, then the fours place, eights place, and so on. Finally, if the digit is a 1 then we can say that this place is “on” and if the digit is a 0 then the place is “off”.
Let’s try this with some examples:
Binary Number: 101
|PLACES||4’s place (22)||2’s place (21)||1’s place (20)|
|ON / OFF||on||off||on|
4 + 0 + 1 = 5
So, the binary number 101 is equal to 5.
Binary Number: 1010
|PLACES||8’s place (23)||4’s place (22)||2’s place (21)||1’s place (20)|
|ON / OFF||on||off||on||off|
8 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 10
So, the binary number 1010 is equal to 10
Why use binary numbers?
It may strike you that these numbers can get very long very quickly. If it’s that inefficient then why do computers use it? Well, it’s how computers store and use information. The core of computers is just electronics after all. For any given pathway on a circuit board, you’ve got to admit, either a current is flowing or it’s not. Yes, no, on, off, one, zero – binary. So remember, binary numbers are the language of all electronics. Do you get the joke now? How many types of people are there again? …. 🙂