Learn how binary encoding works (it’s more fun and useful than you think)

Human language encodes ideas

Computer encodings map data onto binary

What’s binary?

  • A tally of how many unique data values you’re going to encode.
  • Enough bits to have at least that many unique binary sequences.
  • For each unique data value, a way to reliably find a unique binary sequence to map it to.

Example encodings




  • Can read posts (Bin 001, Dec 1)
  • Can edit posts (Bin 010, Dec 2)
  • Can create posts (Bin 100, Dec 4)


Displaying binary: Hexadecimal and Base64

“Types” inform encoding

Truthiness, falsiness, and fuzzy types

  • In PHP, an empty array [] is falsey.
  • In GameMaker Studio 2 (GMS2, a program for making video games) any number less than 0.5 is falsey.
  • In JavaScript, NaN==false yields false (NaN means "Not a Number"), but casting it to a boolean does yield false, and it's also treated as false in if statements. So NaN is both falsey and not falsey, depending on context.
  • In JavaScript, using a bitwise operator on a number (which is likely a 64-bit float) first converts it into a 32-bit integer.
  • In JavaScript, 10+"10" is "1010", while 10*"10" is 100.
  • In Python 2.X, 3/2=1 but 3.0/2=1.5, while in Python 3.X both are 1.5.

Metadata and inference

  1. Data encodings are inventions, and you can encode things however you want to.
  2. You must know how something was encoded to be able to interpret it.

Bespoke encodings

Encoding is worth thinking about




CTO and Fullstack Webdev at Butterscotch Shenanigans

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Adam Coster

Adam Coster

CTO and Fullstack Webdev at Butterscotch Shenanigans

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