How Does Binary Coding Work?

December 24,2020 - 5 min read
How does binary coding work?

It is a popular fact that computers only work in Binary. It is true that computers only understand and work with binary code which is the cryptic sequence of 1’s and 0’s. You can say that all the technology you see around is founded on the bedrock of 0’s and 1’s. In the 21st century, there are outstanding technological innovations that makes our lives easier and also joyful. However, the backbone of all these amazing technologies is binary code.

As an aware user of computer or technology, you should understand binary code. If you are a computer developer, you are expected to work with user-friendly programming languages to give instructions to computers which do not expect you to use binary code. Even if there are less chances of you writing a computer program in a binary code, it is preferrable to have a holistic knowledge of computers.

Binary code is the most fundamental concept of programming and Computer Science. I’m writing this blog and you are able to read it all because of binary code makes it possible. The binary code makes every computer you use work, the way it does. Basically, binary code enables the communication with computers and give them the necessary instructions. If you are a developer, you would probably use one or the other programming languages for writing code to curate an application. These are high order languages and are far from binary code in terms of their implementation and syntax but while compiling, these languages are translated into binary code. The computers are able to interpret them and run your programs only because it is converted in binary code.

So, the 1’s and 0’s define how computers execute and produce outputs for their users. Understanding the basics of binary coding, its working and its implementation is interesting and fascinating and also quite useful. However, learning binary code can be abstract and difficult to grasp and therefore, in today’s blog, we would explain how these 1’s and 0’s makes our world filled with simple, accessible yet amazing technology. Let’s get started with binary coding!

Binary Coding

In order to understand the complex ecosystem of how binary coding makes the computer work, we need to first understand what is binary coding. You can think of binary as a set of instructions tells a computer whether it should be on, that is ‘1’ or off that is ‘0’. This on and off or ‘0’ or ‘1’ can be understood comprehensively if we are clear about what a computer does.

Basically, computers take inputs from their users, store and process the information received and provide desired kind of outputs of various kinds. Now the question is that how this binary code helps in this working of a computer? The answer is that the 1’s and 0’s helps a computer stores and processes data. These 1’s and 0’s represent numbers, letters, other symbols and is basically the smallest unit of data that a computer understands. In modern computers, everything works according to this very basic, rudimentary machine language, i.e., 1’s and 0’s that represents the two states: either ON or OFF.

The inside a computer is a bunch of circuits and electric wires which carry all the information inside a computer and gets it to the right place. The data there is either stored or processed. A bit is the fundamental and the most basic unit of information in computer that represents either “on” or “off”. Every amount of data we want to store in a digital form can be stored with the help of ‘0’ or ‘1’. A computer uses other modern methods and technologies to store data these days. Binary code consists of 1’s and 0’s only but it can still represent the most complex of computer programs these days.

The 0’s and 1’s represents numeral values along with other data types. The numbers ranging from 0 to 9 make up the decimal number system and any combination of these 10 digits can be used to represent a numeral value. In the computing system, each digit in a decimal system, starting from the right- hand side, represents the 1’s, the 10’s, the 100’s, and so on.

For instance, in the number “123”, 3 represents the 1’s, 2 represents the 10’s, and 1 represent the 100’s. Powers of 10 is used to differentiate between the “levels” of digits in a decimal system. 1’s represents 100 , the 10’s represents for 101 , the 100’s stands for 102 The pattern here is that the powers of 10 are simply increasing as the number gets bigger.

Working of a Binary Code

Now that we have understood the basic nuances of binary coding, let’s understand how exactly does a binary code work. In this segment, we would discuss how 0’s and 1’s makes the most complex technologies work. We need to have one bit of data to store either ‘0’ or ‘1’.

In the binary system, we use powers of 2 to represent digits starting from the right- hand side. For example, the first digit stands for 20, so these are the 1’s, second digit is 21, which are the 2’s, the third digit is 22 and so on. In binary system, each of these digits tell us whether the digit is “on” or “off”. “1” indicates that the value of that digit is included in the numerical value and “0” means the opposite.

For example, if we want to represent a number, say 216, in binary, the binary sequence we would get is 11011000. You can clearly see that more digits are required than we did with the decimal system, to represent the same number. There may be more than one way of calculating the binary equivalent of a decimal number. In this blog, we look at one of the ways to represent a number in binary.

We take the example 216 and try to represent it in binary. The first and foremost step in calculating the binary equivalent of any number is to prepare a table of powers of two. Now, find the biggest value in that table that is smaller than the value of given number, in this case it is 216. The biggest value that is less than 216 is 128. 128 is two raised to the power 7 and hence we need 8 binary digits (from 20 to 27) to store it. Now, because 128 is a part of our calculation, we need to indicate and put a “1” in the 128’s place. The next step is to subtract 216 (the number) from 128. The subtraction comes out to be 88. We have to repeat the first step again and find the largest value that is less than the subtraction i.e., 88. The desired value is 64’s, so we put a “1” at 26. I hope you understood the working. We have to keep repeating these steps to find out which binary digits gets what value, it has to be either “1” or “0”. To find the complete binary code for 216, we again subtract 88 from 64 and get the answer as 24. Hence, we would put “1” at the 16’s place (largest value smaller that 24). Now, you can try and add all the values for the powers of two for each digit. The addition would come out to be 216, which is our desired number. We would get the binary sequence of a number by putting 1 at the place of the binary digit we used in our calculation and 0 at the place of the binary digit we did not use in our calculation. This way we will get the correct binary sequence of the decimal number. Talking about 216, the sequence would be


Hence, the binary sequence of the desired number (216) would be 11011000.

I hope the example was clear and you understood one of the methods to find out a binary sequence of the desired number. At first, the sequence of 1’s and 0’s may not really mean anything to us simply because we are not used to this binary system. However, it’s the most important for your computer. Also, binary numbers can be tricky to use and calculate in binary numbers since we are used to the decimal number system.

We can say that the binary system that only has 0 or 1 to store data is as good as or stores the same amount of data as a decimal system that has digits ranging from 0 to 9. However, as we mentioned above, binary code can also store other types of information including text, images and audio.


As mentioned above, learning binary code can be abstract and difficult and sometimes people might think that it is unnecessary to learn such a difficult concept. When you code and program for any application, you never dealing with the binary numbers directly. However, you write and read text, create and see images and work with all other things and hence you should know that the base of all is 0 and 1. Also, the knowledge of binary code and binary system and its working can help you understand the working of a computer and everything your computer does like receiving input, storing and processing information and producing outputs. It would not be wrong to say that all complex and sophisticated tools and technologies comes down to just 1’s and 0’s.

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