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Base Considerations

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Author:Keith Devlin (Devlin's Angle)
Description: A discussion of base systems, including negative bases, used in computers. "We are so used to computers nowadays that it seems obvious that computer arithmetic should be performed in a binary fashion. After all, this is the most natural form for a computer, which is ultimately, a "two-state" machine (the current in a circuit may be either on or off, an electrical "gate" may be either open or closed, etc.). But this was not always the case. When the first American high-speed electric computers were developed in the early 1940s, they used decimal arithmetic, just as did their inventors. But in 1946, John von Neumann suggested that it would be better to use the binary system of arithmetic, since which time binary computers have been the norm."

Levels: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: History and Biography, Number Theory, Computer Science

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