The Two Digits that Started It All

In today’s technology, it is easy to forget where it all started, data wise.  You see, or do not see, numbers run computers.  The most important digits in computing are 1 and 0.  Their significance is immeasurable.

Instead of going into a deep discussion on 0’s and 1’s, we will just talk about the basic concept of these numbers in simple terms, like an introduction.


Machine Code

In the early days of computing, 1’s and 0’s were used to create programs.  It was called machine code.  Unfortunately, the main problem with machine code is that it took a very long time to complete a program.  Therefore, newer and easier computer languages were developed, to make it easier for programmers to code without putting together a bunch of 1’s and 0’s.

It is All Binary

A binary digit is either 1 or 0.  Binary numbers are composed of 1’s and 0’s.  Take a look at the binary number representation for the letter A.

Binary numbers for the letter A

If you noticed, the letter A has two different binary numbers, one for lowercase, and one for uppercase.  Just about every single thing in computing has a unique binary representation.  Just imagine the chaos and difficulty if A = a, etc.

Also, imagine if you had to type 01000001 or 01100001 instead of A or a.  The latter is much easier.

True and False

This is what I really want to get into, true and false, which is very important in computing.  You see, to get from one location to another, inside a computer, different gates must open.  These gates rely on true results and false results.

In computing, 0 represents true and 1 represents false.

0 = True; 1 = False

Now that you know these basic concepts, you can also look at it this way:

0 = False, 1 = True

0 = No, 1 = Yes

0 = Negative, 1 = Positive

0 = Off, 1 = On

So, when you turn on a light, think of it as switching from 0 to 1; and, vice versa for lights off.

Based on this knowledge, 0 is considered a significant digit in computing.

Finally, I will give you something to think about.  Logically, do you think -1, 2, 3, or any nonzero number is considered true or false?

Try This

In Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, try out the following functions and check out the results:




What were the results?  You can also substitute with different numbers.

Now that you know a little something about 1’s and 0’s, you can start your journey into bigger things in computing.

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