Theres a lot more to how the internet works, but for a few posts I want to talk about a few side topics which sort of underly everything about computers and the internet. The topic for this post is binary and bits.
So the first question is, what is binary? Binary is a base 2 number system. That might sound confusing at first, so I’ll try and compare it to a few examples you may be familiar with.
Take the number 2537. Two-thousand, five hundred, and thirty-seven. What that really means is two “thousands,” five “hundreds,” three “tens,” and seven “ones.” Our normal number system is in base-10, or decimal. What that really means is that each place stands for a power of ten. So “ones” is 10^0, “tens” is 10^1, etc.
When we talk about base-2, instead of our places standing for powers of 10, they stand for powers of two. So instead of “ones,” “tens,” and “hundreds,” we have “ones,” “twos,” and “fours.” “ones” is 2^0, “twos” is 2^1, “fours” is 2^2. (The notation X^Y means X to the power Y, so 2^3 is 2*2*2.)
If you look at the base-2 number 1011, what we have is a 1 in the “eights” place, a one in the “twos” place and a one in the “ones” place. Adding that up we get 8+2+1 = 11. The thing about binary is you only have ones or zeros, which is very easy for a computer to represent–it’s kind of like on and off.
One binary digit, a “one” or a “zero” is called a bit. Basically computers store everything in bits. All information is somehow represented in bits. It’s kinda crazy, but that’s what it is. So now you know.