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  • Writer's pictureMiss S

Counting with computers - an introduction to binary

Unless you are living on Mars or are an animal somehow using a computer (it does happen!) reading this article then you are a human on the planet Earth. As humans, we use languages. Now, this post is written in English, but we all learn a range of languages at school and there are approximately 7,111 languages spoken in the world today [1]. As humans, our brains are able to process languages and words and we can learn different languages. But computers cannot.

Now, it may seem like computers DO understand words. You may be reading this article on a computer, tablet or phone right now and you are seeing words on screens. Except the computer doesn’t understand these words. In fact, it only understands two things: 0 and 1.

Everything the computer has, is 0s and 1s to the computer itself. Every number that you see, program you open, picture you view... it is all 0s and 1s.

These 0s and 1s represent on and off signals for the computer. Everything that is ran through the computer is made up of on and off signals, and these signals (and 0s and 1s) are called binary.

Binary is the language that the computer understands, and everything we do on the computer is turned into 0s and 1s by the computer. Then the computer can complete your command, open your program, send your message or show you your image.

Reflection point:

Try to explain binary to someone you see today.


[1] Babbel, 2019, ‘How many languages are there in the world?’, Available at: (Accessed: 06/05/2021)

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