Usually when people think of what goes on inside a computer, they think of little ones and zeros zipping around their own tiny raceway at the speed of light. For the most part, that’s correct. Today, I’ll discuss what binary numbers are.

Binary is simply a number system that only has two digits, 0 and 1. The number system that we are taught all throughout school is decimal, which has ten digits, 0 thru 9. There are other number systems that are used when working with computers as well; hexadecimal uses 16 digits, 0-9 and the letters a-f, while octal uses eight digits, 0-7. Any whole number can be easily represented in any of these numbering systems.

Here’s the binary equivalent of the decimal numbers 0-10:

Decimal | 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |

Binary | 0 | 1 | 10 | 11 | 100 | 101 | 110 | 111 | 1000 | 1001 | 1010 |

You may notice that in binary, 1 + 1 = 10. That’s because you have to carry the 1, just like 1 + 9 = 10 in decimal. Once you can wrap your mind around this, you’ll be on your way to understanding binary. Like everything else in life, it just takes time and practice.

Below are some binary numbers to increase by 1:

1001

1000001001001

11111

111000

10101110

101001

Try to add 1 to each of those numbers, if you find it difficult, then re-read the post and try again. If you find it easy, try to count from 1 to 100000000 in binary. BTW, 100000000 is only 256 in decimal.

Check back in a few days for the next part in the series: conversion from decimal to binary and back to decimal.