Most computer languages have facilities to allow programmers access to the individual bits of a variable. Bit operators may appear more frequently in interviews than in day-to-day programming, so they merit a review.
Binary Twoâs Complement Notation
To work with bit operators, you need to start thinking on the levels of bits. Numbers are usually internally represented in a computer in binary twoâs complement notation. If youâre already familiar with binary numbers, you almost understand binary twoâs complement notation because binary twoâs complement notation is very similar to plain binary notation. Actually, itâs identical for positive numbers.
The only difference appears with negative numbers. (An integer usually consists of 32 or 64 bits, but to keep things simple, this example uses 8-bit integers.) In binary twoâs complement notation, a positive integer such as 13 is 00001101, exactly the same as in regular binary notation. Negative numbers are a little trickier. Twoâs complement notation makes a number negative by applying the rule âflip each bit and add 1â to the numberâs positive binary representation. For example, to get the number â1, you start with 1, which is 00000001 in binary. Flipping each bit results in 11111110. Adding 1 gives you 11111111, which is the twoâs complement notation for â1. If youâre not familiar with this, it may seem weird, but it makes addition and subtraction simple. For example, you can add 00000001 ...
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