Tuesday, February 02, 2010

10 types of people

I was shocked - shocked! - that the winning team on last night's University Challenge can't do binary. St John's Oxford couldn't solve three simple binary sums, like 1100011 divided by 1001*, and express the answer in decimal.

Even stranger is that they were obviously using the same method I was using, except that I got it right: work out the value of each column with a 1 in it and add it all together. Not hard.

Even more shocking was learning that apparently I'm the only one in the family who could do this. This must be how my father felt when he learnt I can't do long division.

It's simplicity itself to work out a spreadsheet that will convert numbers into binary. However I can still remember Mr Turnbull's lesson on how to make a binary calculator with nothing more complicated than a pen, some paper, some Pritt and some scissors, in those long-ago days when no one had heard of spreadsheets and "do it in Excel" would have been meaningless. I may have to dust off this skill.

(* 11)


  1. I was horrified too. I haven't worked out binary since I was 16. And my daughter, now 16, in her last year of GCSE maths, was all "how? what?" when I was working it out correctly.

  2. I have a degree in physics, I'm a bit of a computer nerd, a big Sci Fi fan, I work for a giant IP network, and I can't do binary.

    Do I miss out? Not really.


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