Webopedia on Google+Webopedia on TwitterWebopedia on FacebookTech Bytes Blog
Main » TERM » B »

binary

Pertaining to a number system that has just two unique digits. For most purposes, we use the decimal number system, which has ten unique digits, 0 through 9. All other numbers are then formed by combining these ten digits. Computers are based on the binary numbering system, which consists of just two unique numbers, 0 and 1. All operations that are possible in the decimal system (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) are equally possible in the binary system.

We use the decimal system in everyday life because it seems more natural (we have ten fingers and ten toes). For the computer, the binary system is more natural because of its electrical nature (charged versus uncharged).

In the decimal system, each digit position represents a value of 10 to the position's power. For example, the number 345 means:

3 three 100s (10 to the 2nd power)

plus

4 four 10s (10 to the first power)

plus

5 five 1s (10 to the zeroth power)

In the binary system, each digit position represents a value of 2. For example, the binary number 1011 equals:

1 one 8 (2 to the 3rd power)

plus

0 zero 4s (2 to the 2nd power)

plus

1 one 2 (2 to the first power)

plus

1 one 1 (2 to the zeroth power)

So a binary 1011 equals a decimal 11.

Because computers use the binary number system, powers of 2 play an important role. This is why everything in computers seems to come in 8s (2 to the 3rd power), 64s (2 to the 6th power), 128s (2 to the 7th power), and 256s (2 to the 8th power).

Programmers also use the octal (8 numbers) and hexadecimal (16 numbers) number systems because they mapnicely onto the binary system. Each octal digit represents exactly three binary digits, and each hexadecimal digit represents four binary digits.







TECH RESOURCES FROM OUR PARTNERS
DID YOU KNOW?
13 Twitter Tips and Tricks to Tweet Like a Pro

From celebrity tweets to hosting live Twitter chats, our favorite Twitter tips will have you tweeting like a pro in no time. Read More »

Interesting Times: Transformation in the IT Channel

Business transformation will remain the buzzword of the moment as channel firms continue to assess the direction of their companies in the age of... Read More »

11 Tips to Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal

It's not just your lawnmower and household tools that your neighbor won't return. Our top picks include everything from updating device firmware... Read More »

QUICK REFERENCE
29 Free Android Apps for Cash-Strapped Students

From wacky alarm clocks to lecture hall tools and after class entertainment, these Android apps are a good fit for a student's life and budget. Read More »

Network Fundamentals Study Guide

A network is a group of two or more computer systems or devices, linked together to share resources, exchange files and electronic communications.... Read More »

Computer Architecture Study Guide

This Webopedia  study guide describes the different parts of a computer system and their relations. Read More »