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Origin and History of the Binary System

We start with a course on the Binary System. Understanding the binary system is fundamental to understanding modern computing, as almost all of our computers operate internally in the binary system.

Although as programmers, most of the time we won’t have to deal with it directly, on many occasions we will have to have some understanding of what it is and how to use it. In addition to being general knowledge, and… well, you should know it.

In summary, the binary system is a number base that uses only two digits, 0 and 1. Unlike the decimal system we use in our daily life, which is based on 10 digits (0 to 9), the binary system is composed exclusively of these two basic digits.

But before we start, let’s explore what the binary system is, learn a little about its history, and why it is so relevant today.

A little history of the binary system

The first references to the binary system date back to very ancient times. The Chinese mathematician Pingala, around the 3rd century B.C., used the binary system in his treatise on Sanskrit poetry. In this treatise, Pingala used the binary system to describe the metrical structure of verses and accentuation patterns.

Much later, the binary system was also used by the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz in the 17th century. Leibniz realized that, on some occasions, the binary system could be used to perform arithmetic and logical calculations more efficiently than the decimal system.

Boolean algebra, developed by George Boole in the 19th century, is a mathematical system that allows logical operations to be expressed in terms of variables and operators such as AND, OR, and NOT. This way of representing logic became the basis for the design of digital circuits and the operation of the binary system in modern computing.

However, its application in modern computing is mainly due to the work of Claude Shannon, an American mathematician and computer scientist considered the “father of information theory”.

Shannon introduced the concept of binary logic in 1937. His work, “A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits,” laid the groundwork for designing digital circuits using Boolean logic, which operates with true or false values, represented respectively by the digits 1 and 0.

The use of the binary system in computing

The binary system is essential for digital electronics and modern computing, as electronic devices can be in two states, on or off. This can be easily represented by the digits 0 and 1.

Most electronic circuits used in computer systems are based on binary logic, meaning that calculations and operations are performed using only two possible values.

Basically, a bunch of objects in your everyday life are using binary numbers as if there were no tomorrow.

Do you want to know more about What is the binary system? Why is it so important? And learn to handle it and perform operations. Keep reading the rest of the course, and I hope you like it.