What is Binary?

Unique ID and Adelie compose computer music by flipping coins and rapping in binary. While demonstrating how to count bits with novelty lamps, ID is visited by a friendly 8-bit spectre known as The Mighty Byte.

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    >>ID: Whoa whoa whoa, Adelie! You can’t nest here.

    >>ADELIE: [squawking]

    >>ID: Oh, sorry. You’re composing computer music! With coins?

    >>ADELIE: [explanatory squawking]

    [experimental piano music]

    >>ID: That’s… nice. How does it work?

    >>ADELIE: [explanatory squawking]

    >>ID: Oh, I see. You select your instruments and notes according to the coin toss. Can I try?

    >>ID: I toss the coin and if it’s heads it’s a snare hit.

    [snare hit]

    And if it’s tails, it’s a bass kick.

    [bass kick]

    Tails.

    [bass kick]

    Heads.

    [snare hit]

    Tails.

    [bass kick]

    Heads.

    [snare hit]

    Tails.

    [bass kick]

    Heads.

    [snare hit]

    Tails.

    [bass kick]

    Tails.

    [bass kick]

    Heads.

    [snare hit]

    >>ADELIE: [impressed squawking]

    >>ID: It is a great beat. I could rap on this.

    [rapping in binary]

    >>ADELIE: [squawking in binary]

    >>ID: I didn’t know you were so fluent in binary.

    >>ADELIE: [binary squawking]

    >>ID: 011011000110111101101100. Adelie said there are ten kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t. See, because in binary “ten”, or one zero, means two. So what Adelie actually said was there are two kinds of people, not ten. Hm. I guess it’s not that funny when you tell that joke.

    >>ADELIE: Squawk

    >>ID: For those 00000001 of you who do not yet understand binary, allow me to explain. Binary is my native language; the language of machines. I’m sure you’ve heard this dismissive comment made by Luddites about computers and all things digital: “It’s just 1’s and 0’s”. Truth is, pun intended, that computer science is not, at its core, 1’s and 0’s all the way down. It’s turtles. Just kidding. It’s switches. Like the switch on this novelty binary lamp. This lamp represents a bit, which has  two states: Nebraska and Arkansa–I mean on and off. Or true and false. Or yes and no. Or 1 and 0. Or light and..

    >>ADELIE: [interrupting squawk]

    >>ID: You get the picture. If we want to say something more complex we need more lamps. Each time we add a lamp to our sequence, we double its potential value. So with two lamps, we have four possible states: off-on, or 0-1, is equal to 1; on-off, or 1-0 is equal to two, and on-on, or 1-1 is equal to three. With both lights off, we have zero. Wow, it’s dark in here. Did I put everyone to sleep?

    >>ADELIE: [squawk]

    >>ID: Oh, good. You’re still awake. You wanna see something cool?

    >>ADELIE: [squawk]

    >>ID: Peek-a-boolean!

    >>ADELIE: [squawking excitedly]

    >>ID: Peeka-boo.. whoa! Are you the sprite, sir, whose coming was foretold to me.

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: I am!

    >>ID: Who, and what are you?

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: I am a composition of 8 bits. I am The Mighty Byte!

    >>ID: The mega byte?

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: No, the mighty byte. The mega byte is my brother.

    >>ID: What is a byte?

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: I will show you, building upon this novelty light switch animation. The best bytes are made up of 8-bits, like me. With only one more light, we double our possible states, from four to eight. Count with me starting from zero:

    >>ID & THE MIGHTY BYTE: Zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven!

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: We can quickly add up  the values of the lights that are on to see that they total….

    >>ID: Seven!

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: Right, and by adding another lamp, we double the value of the previous lamp to….

    >>ID: Eight!

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: Yes. As we flip the other switches on and off, we add their values: nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, aaaand…

    >>ID: What are you looking at me for?

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: Fifteen. The final number is fifteen. But we don’t need to count up step by step to find the value of our last lamp. We simply double the value of the previous lamp. Ready? Here we go:

    >>ID & THE MIGHTY BYTE: Sixteen! Thirty-two! Sixty-four! One hundred and twenty eight!

    >>THE MIGHTY BYTE: With all of the lamps on, we have a value of 255! And zero makes 256 possible states.

    >>ADELIE: [squawk]

What is Binary? was produced by Dototot on . Dototot is a creative media company and think tank specializing in educational material.

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