Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 53 / OCTOBER 1984 / PAGE 10

What Is Binary?

I have heard a lot about binary load and save. This may seem like a silly question, but what is binary, what does it do? Can you write a binary program using a BASIC cartridge on the Atari 400?

S. Jonas

Beginners are often confused by the deluge of computer terminology. In theory, all files are binary files, since binary numbers (mathematically, base two numbers) are the lifeblood of a computer. Binary numbers are another way of expressing quantity, but they are limited to the digits 1 and 0. The number six, for example, is 0110 in binary.

When people talk about binary files, they are usually referring to a machine language program on disk. On some machines, such as the Apple II, a binary file is special, not interchangeable with BASIC or text files. On the Atari, there really is no distinction. Any BASIC program could be called a binary file. It is possible to create loadable machine language files from BASIC. For a full explanation of binary numbers, take a look at the machine language tutorials in our magazines and books.