Nerdy Party Trick: Binary Fingers

This was originally written for and posted on Thirteen.org.

I learned to count binary on my fingers while sipping an egg cream in a New York institution, Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery. A friend of mine was explaining simple hardware setups and said he had a cool trick he used at nerd parties. I practiced over and over on the subway ride back to Brooklyn, until counting became a fluid motion. Now, I can easily count up to 1,023 on my hands (though, I’ve yet to find a concrete reason I’d need to do so).

What are Binary Numbers?

The binary numeral system, otherwise known as the base-2 numeral system, represents numeric values using just two symbols: 0 and 1. It is used by almost all modern computers and in circuitry design. Just because it is the foundation of computing does not mean it wasn’t being used before the 20th century. Binary existed even in the ancient world, having been encountered as far back as the 9th century B.C. in China.  Read more