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How Pingala created the Binary Number System


“Physically separated but digitally connected!” should be our motto in these days of the Corona virus pandemic. Truly speaking digital technologies have enabled us to get through these days of lockdown.

Do you know, what is the fundamental principle on which today’s digital technology works?

It is the binary number system.

But, do you know that this is the gift of ancient Indian mathematics to the world of technology. Ancient Indian prosodist and mathematician Pingala was the first to develop and use the binary number system while studying and analysing Sanskrit poetic meters (chandah / छन्द:) in his work Chandahshastra composed around 3rd century BCE.

The binary number system like the decimal number system is a place-value system. In the decimal number system you have ten digits (0 and 1 though 9). Likewise in the binary number system you have only two digits, 0 and 1, which are called bits. Bit is short for Binary digit. The binary number system is a base two number system. In decimal number system the value of the digit depends on its position, i.e. digit times the power of ten. In the binary number system too, the value of the digit depends on its position, but here it is digit times the power of 2.

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