Learn How to Read Binary in 5 minutes

Linda Vivah
Jun 22, 2018 · 4 min read

What is Binary?

  • Binary is nothing more than a System of Counting
  • Everything in a computer’s brain comes down 0’s & 1’s
  • Binary existed before computers
  • Binary is an ON or OFF counting system, all or nothing. ‘1’ represents ON, ‘0’ represents OFF.
  • Because each digit in binary can have 2 values, the base is 2 (see the example below for clarification)

Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense yet…

Let’s look at an example to clarify this..

  1. Below is an 8 digit binary number
  2. We calculate binary from right to left

3. Because it’s a base 2 system, each digit is 2 to the power of (n). (n) refers to the placement of the number.

4. A binary number is pretty much telling us whether or not we are using that value

5. The 1 value tells us we are using that value (represented by green checkmarks) & the 0 value tell us we are not using that value (represented by red X’s).

6. The first digit in this example is representing that the value 2 to the power of 0 is ON

7. The second digit (2 to the power of 1) is OFF so the value is 0.

Let’s represent those 2 values in our drawing..

Let’s calculate the rest of the values & add the ones that are ON together…

What we just did can be represented in the following equation:

If Binary is just a counting system, what do people mean when they want to write something in Binary?

  • What they mean is how to spell things with ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)
  • ASCII is a way to convert a computer’s data (which can only be in numbers) & turn it in to letters.
  • ASCII chart assigns a character to each value represented by a byte (8 bits/digits) of binary.

Let’s take a look at our previous example..

  • This example represents an Uppercase Y
  • Since 8 digits of binary can represent up to 255 values, the ASCII chart has 255 letters & symbols to choose from.

Let’s try another example:

Now that we deciphered the two letters above let’s take a look at the following example & read what it says:

01011001 01101111 01101100 01101111

Let’s evaluate….

Since we already looked at the breakdown for some of these binary letters, we only have one 8 digit binary letter left — the third one, which comes out to a lowercase l.

If you read the word it spells out…


Hope this helped you learn how to read binary :) Happy Coding!

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