Using Variables: Representing Numbers


A Bit

The computer (or an Intel computer, or a computer that runs on an Intel microprocessor) uses the binary system to represent its information. It represents data using only a 0 or 1 value:

Bit 0 Bit 1
0 1

You can represent a piece of information with one of two states. This technique of representing values is the same as the binary system. In the computer, it uses values 0 and/or 1, which themselves are called digits.

The entity used to represent such a value is called a binary digit; in its abbreviated form, it is called a bit (for binary digit). The bit (binary digit) is the most fundamental representation of the computer's counting system.

Although the C# compiler recognizes a bit, you cannot store a variable in a bit. However, eventually, you will be able to manipulate the information stored in a bit.

The Four-Bit Combination

The single bit is used only to represent a tinny piece of information. To get effective numbers, the computer combines the bits. The first combination of bits consists of grouping four consecutive bits.

Bit 0 Bit 0 Bit 0 Bit 0

To count the bits, we number them starting at 0, followed by 1, 2, and 3. The count starts with the most right bit:

The first bit, on the right side of the group, is called the Low Order bit or LO bit. This is also called the least significant bit. The last bit, on the left side of the group, is called the High Order bit or HI bit; it is also called the most significant bit. The bit on the right side is counted as bit 0. The bit on the left side is counted as bit 3. The other bits are called by their positions: bit 1 and bit 2.

Once again, each bit can have one of two states. Continuing with our illustration, when a cup is empty, it receives a value of 0. Otherwise, it has a value of 1. On a group of four consecutive bits, we can have the following combinations:

This produces the following binary combinations: 0000, 0001, 0010, 0011, 0100, 0101, 0110, 0111, 1000, 1001, 1010, 1011, 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111 = 16 combinations. When using the decimal system, these combinations can be represented as 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

This combination is also a system that the computer uses to count bits internally. Sometimes, in your program or in the help files, you will encounter a number that is less than four bits, such as 10 or 01 or 101. The technique used to complete and fill out the group of 4 bits consists of displaying 0 for each non-represented bit. The binary number 10 will be the same as 0010. The number 01 is the same as 0001. The number 101 is the same as 0101. This technique is valuable and allows you to always identify a binary number as a divider of 4.

When all bits of a group of 4 are 0, the combination has the lowest value, which is 0000. Any of the other combinations has at least one 0 bit, except for the last one. When all bits are 1, this provides the highest value possible for a group of 4 bits. The lowest value, also considered the minimum value, can be represented in the decimal system as 0. The highest value, also considered the maximum, can be expressed in decimal value as 24 (2 represents the fact that there are two possible states: 0 and 1; 4 represents the fact that there are four possible combinations), which is 16. This produces 16 because 24 = 16.

As you can see, the binary system can appear difficult to read when a value combines various bit representations. To make it easier, the computer recognizes the hexadecimal representation of bits. Following the box combinations above, we can represent each 4-bit of the sixteen combinations using the decimal, hexadecimal, and binary systems as follows:

Decimal Binary Hexadecimal
0 0000 0
1 0001 1
2 0010 2
3 0011 3
4 0100 4
5 0101 5
6 0110 6
7 0111 7
8 1000 8
9 1001 9
10 1010 A
11 1011 B
12 1100 C
13 1101 D
14 1110 E
15 1111 F
Table of Numeric Conversions

When looking at a binary value represented by 4 bits, you can get its decimal or hexadecimal values by referring to the table above. A group of four consecutive bits has a minimum and maximum values on each system as follows:

Decimal Hexadecimal Binary
Minimum 0 0x0 0000
Maximum 15 0xf 1111

Although the C# compiler recognizes a group of four consecutive bits, you cannot store any variable in it. You can, however, manipulate the bits of the group.


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