Friday, March 18, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Love Binary

As Information Technologists, binary is a fundamental element of the environment in which we work. Digital computing, integrated circuitry, and logic are all based on the concept of On or Off, Yes or No, and True or False. This all stems from the binary number system, where there is no room for ambiguity.

You know that the binary only has two symbols, 0 and 1, whereas the system we typically use is based on ten symbols; 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, i.e. zero through nine.

The Romans used I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII VIII, IX X, i.e one through ten. The result was really bad accounting because the Romans had no symbol for zero. If Marcus had five chariots and he rented III to Venus and the other II to Cesar, how many did he have left? Send me your answer.

Without a number for zero, such problems result in ambiguity. Is the answer to the above math problem none, or did you leave it blank because you don’t know? See... ambiguity.

While binary eliminates any ambiguity, it can be a tad verbose. Here for example, is the year I started with my company written in binary: 11111001010. Very clear. Isn’t this much better than the Roman MCMXCIV? You see - the “CI” could be a hundred and one, or the “IV” might be four. This is so hard that the Romans probably just used Google.

As much as our occupation is based on binary - there is still a lot of ambiguity around. What’s the best way to connect two real-tine applications? SOAP, an ESB, MQ Series, Java Remote Method Invocation? Is your answer an opinion, is it based on a personal preference, or is it the same answer that ten different application designers would arrive at over the course of a year?

This is one of the value propositions of the Architecture Review Board - it represents the end of ambiguity. By assembling the company’s thought leaders in application architecture, platform solutions, infrastructure, as well as all of our technology operating practices - we are able to ensure that consistent, unambiguous solutions are applied to our business aspirations.

Our occupation is surrounded by ambiguity. We need to be able to distill some of the complexity down to the fundamental elements where we can make clear, correct, and consistent choices. The ARB represents the end of ambiguity.

So... my top 10 reasons to love binary are:

1. Only two digits to remember.
10. No waiting to get to the end.

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