# Station 4**Explaining The 1 ← 2 Machine**

Let’s start with the $1\leftarrow 2$ machine and make sense of that curious device. Then understanding all the remaining machines will naturally follow.

Station 4

Let’s start with the $1\leftarrow 2$ machine and make sense of that curious device. Then understanding all the remaining machines will naturally follow.

Make $2$ dots explode, from the first to the second box.

Here are four dots into the rightmost box of the machine, each worth $1$.

Make them explode to get two dots in the second box (each worth $2$), and then explode them!

If you like, you can drag $4$ dots in the $1$s place directly into the $4$s place. Try it!

Here is one dot in a place we’ve labeled the $8$s place. Unexplode the dot to show that it is worth two $4$s. Unexplode some more to show that it is also worth four $2$s. Unexplode even more to show that it is worth eight $1$s.

Dots in the next box to the left are each worth two $8$s. That is, they are worth $16$.

What are the values of dots in boxes even further to the left?

We saw earlier that the code for thirteen in a $1\leftarrow 2$ machine is $1101$.

Make those dots explode to understand this code for thirteen.

Make $22$ dots explode and watch the code $10110$ appear!

Here are two questions you might choose to ponder.

They each require thinking of codes that require more than five boxes in a $1 \leftarrow 2$ machine!

Can you use pencil and paper?

What number has $1 \leftarrow 2$ code $100101$?

What is the $1 \leftarrow 2$ code for the number two hundred?

People call the $1\leftarrow 2$ codes for numbers the binary representations of numbers (with the prefix bi-meaning “two"). They are also called base two representations. One only ever uses the two symbols $0$ and $1$ when writing numbers in binary.

Computers are built on electrical switches that are either on or off. So it is very natural in computer science to encode all arithmetic in a code that uses only two symbols: say $1$ for “on” and $0$ for “off.”

Thus base two, binary, is the right base to use in computer science.