Binary is a base-2 number system, which only uses two digits (0 & 1). It is a system used at the heart of every digital computer, allowing them to encode information, perform arithmetic operations and execute logical control processes.
Using two digits as opposed to, say, the familiar ten digits used in decimal systems (0 to 9) enables hardware to be easily implemented via simple ‘on’ or ‘off’ circuit states or logic gates. This is the basis for all digital systems.
Understanding binary numbers
To understand binary values imagine each digit (or ‘bit’) of the binary notation as representing an increasing power of 2 – with the rightmost digit representing 20, the next representing 21, then 22 and so on.
For each bit, the 1 or 0 signifies whether the value of the increasing power of two summates towards the number’s total.
As a visual example, figure 2 shows the binary value 1100 converted into the decimal value 12. Blue numbers represent the binary notation, red numbers represent the increasing powers of 2, and green numbers represent the decimal values.