Article Title

Base Foreign Words


David Kahn


As every computer programmer knows, numbers can be read in ways other than the decimal system we normally use. The decimal system is called "to the base ten" because it employs 10 digits: 0, 1, 2, ... , 9. But systems to different bases are also possible. Utopianists have proposed a duodecimal system using 12 "digits" because 12 is divisible by more factors (and hence mathematically handier) than 10. Computers use arithmetic to the base 2, because their circuitry admits of only two states -- on or off. Base 2 arithmetic employs only the digits 0 and 1.