How does a computer represent letters? In this episode of Maths Matters Julie Gould and Phil Smyth look into the different codes used to translate binary into letters.

PLUS, Julie goes undercover to become a spy!

You can read more from her here...

Computers use the two values 1 and 0 to represent billions of other numbers in order to do complex calculations. But the computer needs to do more than just mathematical calculations. After all, most of us use computers to write emails, read articles, send Tweets and look at cat pictures.

So how does a computer represent letters? And not just lowercase ones, but uppercase ones too, and all the mathematical symbols like plus and minus and equals? And what about all the other letters in all the other languages?

All it needs is a bit of cooperation between people: we need to all agree on a list of numerical representations for the letters. A simple code to use would be to assign a decimal number to each letter: a=1, b=2, c=3 d=4 and so on. But remember, computers only work in binary…so we've only got 1 and 0 to work with.

So, a list was created that converted binary codes into letters.

Tune in to this penultimate episode of this series of Maths Matters to hear about the different codes that were used to translate binary to letters,and some of the challenges that came with translating them.

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