How To: Read A Binary Watch


UPDATE: I just released A Geek Clock on the App Store, you can check out more info in this post A Geek Clock

So I decided that I would write up a quick tutorial on how to read a binary watch. It’s actually pretty simple after you learn how to convert binary to decimal. Not to worry converting from binary to decimal is easy. I’ll give you a quick example of how this can be done, quickly and easily.

Let’s say you have an 8 bit binary ( base 2 ) number 00010011 and you want to know how to convert it to a decimal ( base 10 ) number. You can write it out similar to the example below.

128 64 32 16 8 4 2 1
0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1

All you have to do her is for every number that has a one in the bottom field add the top numbers together. So in this example we have 16 + 2 + 1 which equals 19. So our binary number 00010011 becomes 19 in its decimal form. This is as much information as you’ll need to know about converting binary to decimal in order to read a binary watch, therefore I will not go much further into converting binary to decimal or decimal to binary.

Most binary watches have 2 rows of lights, the lights indicate a 1 or 0. If the light is on, it represents a 1 if the light is off it represents a 0. I’m going to use the image below as an example:

Example Binary Watch

Example Binary Watch

In this example, there are 2 rows. The first row reads 1011 and the second row reads 110100. See if you can figure that out on your own by looking at the watch. Notice that I’ve substituted the lights that are on with 1′s and the lights that are off represent 0′s.

You’ll also notice that these watches don’t represent 8 bit binary numbers. This is o.k. and doesn’t pose a problem whatsoever. Either you can read from right to left or you can add leading 0′s. For example:

The top row being 1011 would actually be 00001011 and the bottom row of 110100 would be 00110100. Not too bad but it does waste time doing it this way. If you can remember the numbers: 1,2,4,8,16,32 then you’re all set, each number is just a multiple of the previous one. So knowing these numbers, we would read the lights from right to left. Starting with the top row, the light is on so it has a value of 1, the 2nd light is on so it has a value of 2 and the 4th light is on, so it has a value of 8. If we add these numbers together we get 11 and that would be the hour of the time. Now for the bottom row, The first and second light are off so they don’t get a value the third light is on so it has a value of 4. The fifth light is on and thus has a value of 16 and the sixth light is on giving it a value of 32 if we add all of these number together: 4 + 16 + 32 we get 52 which is the minutes. So the time that this binary watch is displaying is 11:52

It may seem like a difficult task at first but the more you use it, the easier it will get. Just think about it this way, we were all raised on base 10 system growing up. So for all the years in our life we’ve been using this base 10 system, trying to get used to a base 2 system for every day use is not simple but can be achieved with patience and practice.

On a side note, as I was writing this post, I thought it would be cool to make a dashboard widget of a Binary Watch for Mac OS X. I’ve actually finished developing it before I finished writing this post. You can download the widget from my Projects Page. Let me know what you guys think. If you like this widget, then you should definitely check out the real thing. How cool would it be to wear this widget on your wrist. Well if you check out thinkgeek.com, you’ll find that they are selling a binary watch that you can wear on your wrist. In fact their design is what inspired this widget. Here is a link to the watch http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/watches/6a17/

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