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Making Sense of Zeros and Ones in Programming

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What are 0s and 1s and how do they represent data in our computers?

The microchips in our computers contain billions of tiny on-off switches called transistors.

According to “Wikipedia, As of 2017, the largest transistor count in a commercially available single-chip processor is 19.2 billion.”

A transistor controls the flow of electrical currents.

When the current is on, it represents the number 1. When it’s off, 0.

A transistor is made of Silicon because it is a natural semi-conductor. This means it has good insulating properties and good conducting properties. In other words, it can be modified to conduct electricity really well in some conditions, or not at all in other conditions.

If Silicon has four bonded electrons in its outer shell, how does it become negatively charged?

I’m glad you asked! In its natural state, all the electrons in pure crystal Silicon are spoken for. So how can its electrons create an electrical current?

The Silicon has to be modified by adding Phosphorus, which has five electrons in its outer shell, or Boron, which has three, in order to create extra, un-bonded electrons.

If you inject a positive charge into the transistor, it will attract the negative, un-bonded electrons out of both strips of the transistor, drawing them into the tiny gap in-between. When enough electrons are gathered it creates an electrical current. If the positive charge is removed, the electrons go back into their places.

As a result, a transistor has two modes: on and off. 1 and 0.

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