Adventures of My Pet Bit: Can bits count in another way?

(Note: For the activity maybe a hexadecimal colour by number using ‘Short Hex’?)

Whew, writing out binary is sure hard work and it is confusing for us humans to read too. Lucky for us, there is a faster and easier way to write out binary using something called Hexadecimal Code. If you remember, normally we count in what’s called decimal or base-10.  Hexadecimal is the name that we have given to base-16.

Hex codes are used in many areas of computing to simplify binary codes. It is important to note that computers do not use hexadecimal – it is used by humans to shorten binary to a more easily understandable form. Hexadecimal is translated into binary for computer use. [Link] The main reason why we use hexadecimal numbers is because it is much easier to express binary number representations in hex than it is in any other base number system.

It looks like we have a problem. We might be able to count on our fingers in base-2 (binary) or base-10 (decimal) but we don’t have sixteen fingers so how can we count to base-16 when we don’t have enough digits or fingers to count on?

Lucky for us, mathematicians figured out that we can can use  0 through 9 like we are used to in base-ten but because we still need six more digits we will also add A, B, C, D, E, and F.

That can be a little confusing, because now when we write numbers in hexadecimal, they can actually have LETTERS in them! But you get used to it after awhile and it is going to be way faster for us to write bigger numbers.

Hex can be used to represent colours on web pages and image-editing programs using the format #RRGGBB (RR = reds, GG = greens, BB = blues). The # symbol indicates that the number has been written in hex format.

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