Chapter 8. Alternatives to Ten

Ten is an exceptionally important number to us humans. Ten is the number of fingers and toes most of us have, and we certainly prefer to have all ten of each. Because our fingers are convenient for counting, we humans have adapted an entire number system that’s based on the number 10.

Two skeleton human hands are shown. The right hand is shown on the left and is numbered from 1 to 5, from the thumb to the index finger. The left hand is shown on the right and is numbered from 6 to 10, from the index finger to the thumb.

As I mentioned in the previous chapter, the number system that we use is called base ten, or decimal. The number system seems so natural to us that it’s difficult at first to conceive of alternatives. Indeed, when we see the number 10 we can’t help but think that this number refers to this many ducks:

But the only reason that the number ...

Get Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, First Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.