Gottfried Leibniz (1646−1716) was the first to generalize the idea of the (positional) decimal system to other bases. Being a deeply spiritual person, Leibniz attributed divine qualities to the binary system. He correlated the fact that any integer could be represented by a series of 1s and 0s with the idea that God (1) created the universe out of nothing (0). Until the first binary digital computers were built in the late 1940s, this system remained nothing more than a mathematical curiosity. Today, it lies at the heart of virtually every electronic device that relies on digital controls.

Because of its simplicity, the binary numbering system translates easily into electronic circuitry. It is also easy for humans ...

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