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Number System Tutorial

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Number Systems

Number Systems Concepts
The study of number systems is useful to the student of computing due to the fact that number systems other than the familiar decimal (base 10) number system are used in the computer field. Digital computers internally use the binary (base 2) number system to represent data and perform arithmetic calculations. The binary number system is very efficient for computers, but not for humans. Representing even relatively small numbers with the binary system requires working with long strings of ones and zeroes. The hexadecimal (base 16) number system (often called "hex" for short) provides us with a shorthand method of working with binary numbers. One digit in hex corresponds to four binary digits (bits), so the internal representation of one byte can be represented either by eight binary digits or two hexadecimal digits. Less commonly used is the octal (base 8) number system, where one digit in octal corresponds to three binary digits (bits). In the event that a computer user (programmer, operator, end user, etc.) needs to examine a display of the internal representation of computer data (such a display is called a "dump"), viewing the data in a "shorthand" representation (such as hex or octal) is less tedious than viewing the data in binary representation. The binary, hexadecimal , and octal number systems will be looked at in the following pages. The decimal number system that we are all familiar with is a positional number system. The actual number of symbols used in a positional number system depends on its base (also called the radix). The highest numerical symbol always has a value of one less than the base. The decimal number system has a base of 10, so the numeral with the highest value is 9; the octal number system has a base of 8, so the numeral with the...

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