In Israel, where I live, it is common to represent the date in the following order: day, month, and then the last two digits of the year. And so today, the date is recorded: 01/11/11. Which reminded me of the binary code, and its importance in our modern lives.
As exciting as it is, to use the computer as an instrument for ‘word processing’ or for editing our photography… or even as a terminal for receiving information from the internet, which may include music and motion pictures as well as mail, newspapers and blogs, I think it’s important that we remember from time to time, that at the very basis of this technology which has changed our day to day world completely, is a different language than that we grew up with. It is the most minimalistic language we may encounter, based on an alphabet that has only two letters, 0 and 1. It is called the binary code.
In computing and telecommunication, binary codes are used in numerous ways to encode data. A sentence, a paragraph, or a page can be converted into strings of those two numbers, which eventually will be translated back by the computer into text or pictures that will appear on our computer screen. Instructions relating to the text, or to the behavior of the computer, are also represented by these strings, often called ‘bit strings’. The method by which the information is transcribed may use fixed-width or variable-width bit strings. These bit strings would look like words were they to appear as a line on a page. As in the example I put here, which is a binary representation of my name:
01010011 01101000 01101001 01101101 01101111 01101110
In a fixed-width binary code, each letter, digit, or other character, is represented by a bit string of the same length. There are many character sets and many character encodings for them. A bit string, interpreted as a binary number, can be translated into a decimal number. For example, the lowercase “a” is represented by the bit string 01100001, and can also be represented as the decimal number 97.
The earliest use of binary numbers is said to have occurred at around 100 BC. The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz used a binary code in the 17th century in an attempt to translate logic into mathematics. After his ideas were ignored, he came across a classic Chinese text called ‘I Ching’ or ‘Book of Changes’, which used a type of binary code. this book strengthened his theory that the understanding of life could be reduced to a series of straightforward propositions. He created a system consisting of rows of zeros and ones. At the time, though, Leibiniz had not yet found a use for this system.
The first person to suggest the application of binary code in electrical machinery was one Claude Shannon, at MIT, who noticed that the Boolean algebra he learned was similar to an electric circuit. Shannon wrote his thesis in 1937, which implemented his findings. Shannon’s thesis became a starting point for the use of the binary code in practical applications such as computers and electric circuits. A binary system in general is any system that allows only two choices such as a switch in an electronic system or circuit.
Braille is a type of binary code that is widely used by blind people to read and write. This system consist of 6 dot positions, three in each column. Each dot has two states, raised or not raised.