Reading text in binary: almost useless geeky skill, but fun


Tom Scott teaches us how to read text in binary, a geeky skill that might never be of any practical use. But: it is amazing. The ASCII encoding uses the US English language and it has the characters from a-z and A-Z.

Each byte equals a character and since each byte has 8 bits you will get something like this:
01100011011000010110101101100101 – “cake” in binary

To read it you first need to split the string of 0s and 1s into groups that contain 8 bits:
01100011 – c
01100001 – a
01101011 – k
01100101 – e

When they devised the ASCII encoding they made sure that letter “a” will be :
01100001

You can ignore the first three bits – 011 – and then start converting the rest of the bits into decimal to get the number. (The first three bits: 011 – is for small case; 101 for upper case ). If all 5 last digits are 0, then we have a “space” in there.

Since 00001 is 1 in decimal, that corresponds to letter 1 or “a” in the alphabet. Conversely 00011 = 1 + 2 = 3, and “c” is the third letter in the alphabet. Now 01011 = 1*2^0 + 1*2^1 + 0*2^2 + 1*2^3 + 0*2^4 = 1 + 2 + 0 + 8 + 0 = 11. Letter “k” is in the 11th place. And now 101 = 1 + 0 + 4 = 5, letter “e”.

Test your binary prowess and check your results in this binary to text converter.

2 Responses to “Reading text in binary: almost useless geeky skill, but fun”

  1. Nice article, I’m an expirenced programmer and have never used binary that often, only for some low level stuff.