The Decimal System

In everyday life we use a system based on decimal digits (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) to represent

numbers and refer to the system as the decimal system. Consider what the number 83 means. It

means eight tens plus three:

83 = (8 ´ 10) + 3

The number 4728 means four thousands, seven hundreds, two tens, plus eight:

4728 = (4 ´ 1000) + (7 ´ 100) + (2 ´ 10) + 8

The decimal system is said to have a base, or radix, of 10. This means that each digit in the

number is multiplied by 10 raised to a power corresponding to that digit’s position:

83 = (8 ´ 101) + (3 ´ 100)

4728 = (4 ´ 103) + (7 ´ 102) + (2 ´ 101) + (8 ´ 100)

The same principle holds for decimal fractions but negative powers of 10 are used. Thus,

the decimal fraction 0.256 stands for 2 tenths plus 5 hundredths plus 6 thousandths:

0.256 = (2 ´ 10–1) + (5 ´ 10–2) + (6 ´ 10–3)

A number with both an integer and fractional part has digits raised to both positive and

negative powers of 10:

472. 256 = (4 ´ 102) + (7 ´ 101) + (2 ´ 100) + (2 ´ 10–1) + (5 ´ 10–2) + (6 ´ 10–3)

In general, for the decimal representation of X = { . . . d2d1d0.d–1d–2d–3 . . .}, the value of X is

X = di ´10i

i å

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The Binary System

In the decimal system, 10 different digits are used to represent numbers with a base of 10. In the

binary system, we have only two digits, 1 and 0. Thus, numbers in the binary system are

represented to the base 2.

To avoid confusion, we will sometimes put a subscript on a number to indicate its base. For

example, 8310 and 472810 are numbers represented in decimal notation, or more briefly, decimal

numbers. The digits 1 and 0 in binary notation have the same meaning as in decimal notation:

02 = 010

12 = 110

To represent larger numbers, as with decimal notation, each digit in a binary number has a value

depending on its position:

102 = (1 ´ 21) + (0 ´ 20) = 210

112 = (1 ´ 21) + (1 ´ 20) = 310

1002 = (1 ´ 22) + (0 ´ 21) + (0 ´ 20) = 410

and so on. Again, fractional values are represented with negative powers of the radix:

1001.101 = 23 + 20 + 2–1 + 2–3 = 9.62510

In general, for the binary representation of Y = { . . . b2b1b0.b–1b–2b–3 . . .}, the value of Y is

Y = bi ´ 2i

i å

Converting between Binary and Decimal

It is a simple matter to convert a number from binary notation to decimal notation. In fact, we

showed several examples in the previous subsection. All that is required is to multiply each

binary digit by the appropriate power of 2 and add the results.

To convert from decimal to binary, the integer and fractional parts are handled separately.

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Integers

For the integer part, recall that in binary notation, an integer represented by

bm–1bm–2…b2b1b0 bi = 0 or 1

has the value

(bm–1 ´ 2m–1) +(bm–2 ´ 2m–2) + … + (b1 ´ 21) + b0

Suppose it is required to convert a decimal integer N into binary form. If we divide N by 2,

in the decimal system, and obtain a quotient N1 and a remainder R0, we may write

N = 2 ´ N1 + R0 R0 = 0 or 1

Next, we divide the quotient N1 by 2. Assume that the new quotient is N2 and the new remainder

R1. Then

N1 = 2 ´ N2 + R1 R1 = 0 or 1

so that

N = 2(2N2 + R1) + R0 = (N2 ´ 22) + (R1 ´ 21) + R0

If next

N2 = 2N3 + R2

we have

N = (N3 ´ 23) + (R2 ´ 22) + (R1 ´ 21) + R0

Because N > N1 > N2 . . ., continuing this sequence will eventually produce a quotient Nm–1 = 1

(except for the decimal integers 0 and 1, whose binary equivalents are 0 and 1, respectively) and

a remainder Rm–2, which is 0 or 1. Then

N = (1 ´ 2m–1) + (Rm–2 ´ 2m–2) + . . . + (R2 ´ 22) + (R1 ´ 21) + R0

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which is the binary form of N. Hence, we convert from base 10 to base 2 by repeated divisions

by 2. The remainders and the final quotient, 1, give us, in order of increasing significance, the

binary digits of N. Figure 1 shows two examples.

Fractions

For the fractional part, recall that in binary notation, a number with a value between 0 and 1

is represented by

0.b–1b–2b–3… bi = 0 or 1

has the value

(b–1 ´ 2–1) + (b–2 ´ 2–2) + (b–3 ´ 2–3) …

This can be rewritten as

2–1 ´ (b–1 + 2–1 ´ (b–2 + 2–1 ´ (b–3 + …

This expression suggests a technique for conversion. Suppose we want to convert the

number F (0 < F < 1) from decimal to binary notation. We know that F can be expressed in the

form

F = 2–1 ´ (b–1 + 2–1 ´ (b–2 + 2–1 ´ (b–3 + …

If we multiply F by 2, we obtain:

2 ´ F = b–1 + 2–1 ´ (b–2 + 2–1 ´ (b–3 + …

From this equation, we see that the integer part of (2 ´ F), which must be either 0 or 1

because 0 < F < 1, is simply b–1. So we can say (2 ´ F) = b–1 + F1, where 0 < F1 < 1 and where

F1 = 2–1 ´ (b–2 + 2–1 ´ (b–3 + 2–1 ´ (b–4 + …

To find b–2, we repeat the process. Therefore, the conversion algorithm involves repeated

multiplication by 2. At each step, the fractional part of the number from the previous step is

multiplied by 2. The digit to the left of the decimal point in the product will be 0 or 1 and

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contributes to the binary representation, starting with the most significant digit. The fractional

part of the product is used as the multiplicand in the next step. Figure 2 shows two examples.

This process is not necessarily exact; that is, a decimal fraction with a finite number of

digits may require a binary fraction with an infinite number of digits. In such cases, the

conversion algorithm is usually halted after a prespecified number of steps, depending on the

desired accuracy.

Hexadecimal Notation

Because of the inherent binary nature of digital computer components, all forms of data within

computers are represented by various binary codes. However, no matter how convenient the

binary system is for computers, it is exceedingly cumbersome for human beings. Consequently,

most computer professionals who must spend time working with the actual raw data in the

computer prefer a more compact notation.

What notation to use? One possibility is the decimal notation. This is certainly more

compact than binary notation, but it is awkward because of the tediousness of converting

between base 2 and base 10.

Instead, a notation known as hexadecimal has been adopted. Binary digits are grouped into

sets of four. Each possible combination of four binary digits is given a symbol, as follows:

0000 = 0

0001 = 1

0010 = 2

0011 = 3

0100 = 4

0101 = 5

0110 = 6

0111 = 7

1000 = 8

1001 = 9

1010 = A

1011 = B

1100 = C

1101 = D

1110 = E

1111 = F

Because 16 symbols are used, the notation is called hexadecimal, and the 16 symbols are the

hexadecimal digits.

A sequence of hexadecimal digits can be thought of as representing an integer in base 16.

Thus,

2C16 = (216 ´ 161) + (C16 ´ 160)

= (210 ´ 161) + (1210 ´ 160) = 44

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Hexadecimal notation is used not only for representing integers. It is also used as a concise

notation for representing any sequence of binary digits, whether they represent text, numbers, or

some other type of data. The reasons for using hexadecimal notation are

1. It is more compact than binary notation.

2. In most computers, binary data occupy some multiple of 4 bits, and hence some multiple

of a single hexadecimal digit.

3. It is extremely easy to convert between binary and hexadecimal.

As an example of the last point, consider the binary string 110111100001. This is

equivalent to

1101 1110 0001 = DE116

D E 1

This process is performed so naturally that an experienced programmer can mentally

convert visual representations of binary data to their hexadecimal equivalent without written

effort

Quotient

Figure 1 Examples of Converting from Decimal

Notation to Binary Notation for Integers

= 5 1

Remainder

11

2

5 = 2 1

2

2 = 1 0

2

= 0 1

10112 = 1110

(a) 1110

1

2

Quotient

= 5 0

Remainder

10

2

5 = 2 1

2

2 = 1 0

2

= 0 1

101012 = 2110

(b) 2110

1

2

21 = 10 1

2

Product

Figure 2 Examples of Converting from Decimal

Notation to Binary Notation for Fractions

0.81 ´ 2 = 1.62 1

Integer Part

0.62 ´ 2 = 1.24 1

0.24 ´ 2 = 0.48 0

0.48 ´ 2 = 0.96

0.96 ´ 2 = 1.92

0.92 ´ 2 = 1.84

0

1

1

0.1100112

(a) 0.8110 = 0.110112 (approximately)

Product

0.25 ´ 2 = 0.5 0

Integer Part

0.5 ´ 2 = 1.0 1

0.012

(B) 0.2510 = 0.012 (exactly)

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