There are 10 kinds of people on the planet.. those who understand Binary.. and those who don’t. —

I’m lazy.. I mean.. I’m really lazy. But hey.. that’s OK! I believe the best admins are the lazy ones, we plan for redundancy so it doesn’t bug us on weekends, we try to be efficient so we aren’t beating our heads against the walls to keep the bits flowing.. so.. it might not surprise you when I tell you that most of us IT people don’t understand binary.  I’m going to sum up tho why maybe we all should.

What is Binary? 

A quick description? If you’ve ever heard that all a PC understands is 1’s and 0’s.. that’s binary. But what you might not know is that this is a number system called Base 2, and using Binary you can represent any number in the system you ALREADY use which is called Base 10.

Why is Binary useful to you in IT?

The most immediate thing is Networking. All IP Addresses are a representation of Binary numbers, and yes I’m fully aware you might not need to know how it works.. but better network engineers know these things.. and so should you.

OK, give me some examples, but keep it small. 

No Problem..  Binary isn’t just 1’s or 0’s. Each digit in binary is called a bit and each bit in binary each represents a value of 2x.  To represent no value for that bit, you put a 0 no matter which place in binary you are in.

What does that mean? Lets start small, lets start with 2 bits.

in binary each place represents a value, from right to left. the first bit if it’s a 0 is 0 and if it’s a 1 it equals 1, which is 20

0 = 0

1 = 1

If we add a second bit, and it’s a 0 it still equals 0 but a 1 equals 2 which is 21

00 = 0

10 = 2

Now.. if they are both 1’s then it’s 2 + 1 which means that

11 = 3

so 3 becomes the maximum 2 bit number you can have in binary.

OK I’m ready for more.. lets go to 4 bits.

Ok.. you asked for it..

1st bit = 20 or 1
2nd bit = 21 or 2
3rd bit = 22 or 4
4th bit = 23 or 8

So if you had all ones in your binary number you’d add =

1 + 2 + 4 + 8 or 15 which is the maximum value of a 4 bit number. and if you wanted you could use 0 in there to represent any number that was between 0 and 15. Example: 10 in binary would be 1010 or 8 + 0 + 2 + 0, if you noticed the overused binary joke in the title, binary 10 is actually 2 or 2 + 0.


Although I’m not going to into Hex, Hex is a representation of 4 bit numbers. It’s 0 thru f which comes out to 16 (with 0 still being null) in a single character format. Once we move to IPV6 you will be using alot of Hex.

Why is this important in networking? 

Because Binary is the foundation of IP addressing, if you’ve ever heard of CIDR notation (like a /24 or a /30 subnet) this is referring to binary. Although you are probably very familiar with DDN which is how IPV4 represents binary, subnetting in binary is very useful

Ok how do I learn more about Binary? 

Ha.. google it. There a plenty of resources online about how binary works.  If you ever want to get a networking cert, you will surely need to know it.

Here is just one of the videos I found on teh Youtubes that goes over binary.

Categorised as: Base2 | Binary | Really Bad Math | Subnetting

One Comment

  1. Dave says:

    Please represent pi to 16 digits please, then I know you are serious.

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