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.

Read Also:

• binary-coded decimal

Abbreviated as BCD, binary-coded decimal is a format for representing decimal numbers (integers) in which each digit is represented by four bits (a nibble ). For example, the number 375 would be represented as: 0011 0111 0101 One advantage of BCD over binary representations is that there is no limit to the size of a […]

• binary compatible

Having the exact same data format, down to the binary level. That is, two files that are binary compatible will have the same pattern of zeroes and ones in the data portion of the file. The file header, however, may be different. The term is used most commonly to state that data files produced by […]

• binary file

A file stored in binary format. A binary file is computer -readable but not human-readable. All executable programs are stored in binary files, as are most numeric data files. In contrast, text files are stored in a form (usually ASCII) that is human-readable.

• binary format

A format for representing data used by some applications. The other main formats for storing data are text formats (such as ASCII and EBCDIC), in which each character of data is assigned a specific code number. Binary formats are used for executable programs and numeric data, whereas text formats are used for textual data. Many […]

• binary tree

A special type of tree structure in which each node has at most two leaves. Binary tree are often used for sorting data, as in a heap sort.

Disclaimer: Binary definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.