What is binary?

What is binary? 

By definition, binary means two. That means binary systems have just two options, for example, black and white (no gray), 0 and 1, up and down, off and on etc. When we use binary numbers, with just 0 and 1, we call the system base 2, since there are only 2 digits. We often work in a base 10 world, where we can use 10 digits to make all of the numbers we see around us.

Binary as a base 2 system was invented by Gottfried Leibniz, a famous mathematician who was the father of modern-day computing and invented the first for of calculators. Computers use 0 and 1 in their binary code. For every email you write your computer will convert your text to binary, and then on the other end convert binary to text for your friend to read. That means cyberspace is not made up of letters or images, but instead of 0s and 1s. Yes, even images are converted into binary code. You can check out our binary imaging activity if you want to learn more about how computers convert images to binary.

Why do computers use binary?

Computer memories were initially made out of tiny magnets. These magnets could either have their north facing up or down, which means there were only two states to be in. One of these states was assigned a 0 and the other state assigned a 1. 

When computers want to bring up a saved document a magnetic reader can go along the bits of magnets and read them into the system as a series of 0s and 1s. These 0s and 1s are then converted to everything you see in your document: letters, numbers, symbols, even images.

When you want to save your information the computer takes the set of 0s and 1s and writes them to the hard drive using a stronger magnet that can flip the spins.

Due to the simplicity of binary, it is still the predominant language that computers use. Of course, binary in and of itself is not a computer language – the chart that converts those binary bits into letters is actually a different language called ASCII. 

writing in binary ascii codeHow do I convert binary to text?

To convert binary to text you will need a binary code translator. Since almost all computers speak binary in a language called ASCII our binary code alphabet download uses the binary letters as defined by ASCII. If you want to learn binary code you can just download the table and begin writing in binary – I suggest graph paper to keep your bits and bytes in order. If you are looking for another activity to learn how to write in binary, check out our binary stamping activity! If your kids are loving this activity you should check out our Mission to Mars lab that teaches binary and imaging!

What is binary code?

Binary code is a set of bits that combine into bytes (8 bits per byte) to make up letters, numbers, symbols, images, and commands. Binary code uses a base 2 system, known as OFF and ON, or 0 and 1.

How do I read binary code?

Reading binary code is as easy as writing binary code. You will need our free download to help you learn binary code and see what the binary alphabet looks like. If someone writes you a letter in binary you can use this table to then convert binary to text by matching every byte (8 bits) to the letter in the table.

What are binary numbers?

It’s great to be able to write in binary using binary letters, but what about binary numbers? How do you count in binary? We have a set of binary number cards and a video to help you learn to count in base 2!

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