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Code used in digital computers, based on a binary number system in which there are only two possible states, off and on, usually symbolized by 0 and 1. Whereas in a decimal system, which employs 10 digits, each digit position represents a power of 10 (100, 1,000, etc.), in a binary system each digit position represents a power of 2 (4, 8, 16, etc.). A binary code signal is a series of electrical pulses that represent numbers, characters, and operations to be performed. A device called a clock sends out regular pulses, and components such as transistors switch on (1) or off (0) to pass or block the pulses. In binary code, each decimal number (0–9) is represented by a set of four binary digits, or bits. The four fundamental arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) can all be reduced to combinations of fundamental Boolean algebraic operations (seeBoolean algebra) on binary numbers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on binary code, visit Britannica.com.
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