A little diddy about binary file formats

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Are Computers mystery machines? We have all seen computers do seemingly miraculous things with all kinds of sounds, pictures, graphics, numbers, and text. It seems we can build a replica of parts of our world inside the computer. You might think that this amazing machine is also amazingly complicated - it really is not.

The trick is to take all of the real-world sound, picture, number etc. Computers Are Electronic Machines. The computer uses electricity, not mechanical parts, for its data processing and storage. Electricity is plentiful, moves very fast through wires, and electrical parts fail much less frequently than mechanical parts. The computer does have some mechanical parts, like its disk drive, which are often the sources for computer failuresbut the internal data processing and storage is electronic, which is fast and reliable as long as the computer is plugged in.

Electricity can flow through switches: To process real-world data in the computer, we need a way to represent the data in switches. Computers do this representation using a binary coding system. Binary is a mathematical number system: We have all learned to count using ten digits: One probable reason is that we have ten fingers to represent numbers. The computer has switches to represent data and switches have only two states: Binary has two digits to do the counting: As you can read about in the part of this course on the history of computers, the evolution of how switches were built made computers faster, cheaper, and smaller.

Originally, a switch was a vacuum tube, about the size of a human thumb. In the 's the transistor was invented and won its inventors a Nobel Prize. One binary digit 0 or 1 is referred to, as a bitwhich is design how should i represent to-be binary data for binary digit. Thus, one bit can be implemented by one switch, as shown in Figure 6. In the following table, we see that bits can be grouped together into larger chunks to represent data.

A 0 or 1 is one bit, is four bits, and is eight bits. For several reasons that we do not go into here, computer designers use eight bit chunks called bytes as the basic unit of data. A byte is implemented with eight switches as shown in Figure 6. Computer manufacturers express the capacity of memory and storage in terms of the number of bytes it can hold. The number of bytes can be expressed as kilobytes. Kilo represents 2 to the tenth power, or Kilobyte is abbreviated KB, or simply K.

Thus, the size of a K files is x, orbytes. Some larger files may also be expressed in terms of megabytes x bytes. One megabyte, abbreviated MB, means roughly one million bytes. With storage devices, manufacturers sometimes express memory amounts in terms of gigabytes abbreviated GB ; a gigabyte is roughly a billion bytes.

Modern computer hard disks hold gigabytes e. Here is an important thing to keep in mind: A single byte can represent many different kinds of data. What data it actually represents depends on how the computer uses the byte. For instance, the byte: Since computers cannot think complexly yet! We start with zero and every new thing we count, we go to the next decimal digit - 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. When we reach the end of the decimal digits, we use two digits to count by putting a digit in the "tens place" and then starting over again using our 10 digits.

Eleven is a 1 in the "tens place" and a 1 design how should i represent to-be binary data the "ones place". If we need three digits, likewe use a third digit in the "hundred's place". We do a similar thing to count in binary - except now we only have two digits: What "places" we use depends on the counting system. In the decimal system humans use, which we call Base 10, we use powers of Ten to the second power 10 squared isso we continue in design how should i represent to-be binary data "hundred's place.

Thus, the "places" are two to the zero power "one's place"two to the one power "two's place"two to the second power "four's place"two to the third power "eight's place"and so on. When you look at a byte, the rightmost bit is the "one's place". The next bit is the "two's place", then the "four's design how should i represent to-be binary data, then the "eight's place", and so on.

The largest integer that can be represented in one byte is: For some exercises and more detail on binary numbers, try the exercises at http: Like binary is a number system of Base 2hexadecimal also Base 16or hex is a numeral system of base Hexadecimal uses sixteen distinct symbols: For example, the hexadecimal number "2AF3" is equal, in Binary, toor in Decimal Each hexadecimal digit represents four binary digits, and thus is used in computing to abstract four bits to a single unit - the hex digit.

For example, byte values can range from 0 to decimalbut may be more conveniently represented as two hexadecimal digits in the range 00 to FF. Hex editors, which are used to examine and change binary bits in computing devices, typically use this abstraction to make examination of binary data more reasonable for people.

The computer also uses a single byte to represent a single character. But just what particular set of bits is equivalent to which character? In theory we could each make up our own definitions, declaring certain bit patterns to represent certain characters. Needless to design how should i represent to-be binary data, this would be about as practical as each person speaking his or her own special language.

Since we need to communicate with the computer and with each other, it is appropriate that we use a common scheme for data representation. That is, there must be agreement on which groups of bits represent which characters. Since there are exactly unique combinations of 7 bits, this 7-bit code can represent only characters. Find the character "Escape" below. Thus, when you type a 'C' on the keyboard, circuitry on the keyboard and in the computer converts the 'C' to the byte: If the person typed the word "CAB", it would be design how should i represent to-be binary data by the following three bytes in the computer's memory think of it as three rows of eight switches in memory being ON or OFF:.

In simple graphics those without many colorsa byte can represent a single pixel. In a graphic representation called gray scale each pixel is a shade of grey from black at one extreme to white at the other.

Since eight bytes can hold different integers as described a few paragraphs agoa pixel in one byte can be one of shades of grey usually with 0 being white and being black. See color wheel in Figure We saw that computer manufacturers got together and agreed how characters will be represented the ASCII code. For graphics, there are several similar standards or formats.

One of the original formats still in use is called a bitmap. Design how should i represent to-be binary data store every pixel of the image and thus results in files with large amounts of bytes.

A simple bitmap drawing can easily exceed several megabytes. These files gobble up lots of storage space! File compression, discussed below, doesn't store design how should i represent to-be binary data pixel, but instead stores patterns of pixles. For instance if 20, pixels in a region of the image were all black, instead of storing 20, black pixels, a compression algorithm might store just a few bytes that mean "repeat black 20, times".

This makes JPEG and GIF much better suited to storing on the small flash cards of digital cameras or for downloading over the relatively slow Internet. The size of each image becomes especially important when designing a Web page, sending digital photographs through email, downloading pictures over the Internet, and storing photographs on small flash cards of digital cameras or any other secondary storage device. The primary goal of using these compressed formats such as JPEG and GIF is to shrink the file size to as few bytes as possible without negatively altering the image quality.

Image Quality Affects Size! When considering Web page graphics, the compression ratio is commonly adjusted to make the file size of a graphic smaller. The following images will provide you with an example of the effect that different compression ratios can have on the quality of an image. Each of the images are equal in pixels, x The original image is in the bitmap format; as previously discussed, this format stores every pixel of the image and results in the largest file size.

Digital images can be created by generating pixel patterns using software such as a drawing program like Paint or an original program you write that draws shapes; by manipulating existing digital images; or by combining images. Using existing software such as video editors, or by modified software can create digital effects and animations that you program yourself to include functionality to implement the effects and animations.

Once again the image is greatly reduced in file size. Programs such as Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop allow you to significantly shrink the size of a file. Most current electronic speakers, the means that we use to electronically reproduce sound, also produce analog waves. However, as we have design how should i represent to-be binary data, all data in the computer is digital and must be processed in bytes.

The process of taking analog data, such as sound, and making it digital is called analog to digital conversion. Many music CD's from old original analog recordings on tapes were converted to digital to be placed on a CD a CD is digital; it is just a collection of bits with a small hole burned in the CD representing a 1 and no hole representing a 0. Current music CD's have the analog to digital conversion done in the recording equipment itself, which produces better conversion.

To convert an design how should i represent to-be binary data wave into digital, converters use a process called sampling.

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A binary file is a computer file that is not a text file. Binary files are usually thought of as being a sequence of bytes , which means the binary digits bits are grouped in eights. Binary files typically contain bytes that are intended to be interpreted as something other than text characters.

Compiled computer programs are typical examples; indeed, compiled applications are sometimes referred to, particularly by programmers, as binaries.

But binary files can also mean that they contain images, sounds, compressed versions of other files, etc. Some binary files contain headers , blocks of metadata used by a computer program to interpret the data in the file. The header often contains a signature or magic number which can identify the format. For example, a GIF file can contain multiple images, and headers are used to identify and describe each block of image data. If a binary file does not contain any headers, it may be called a flat binary file.

To send binary files through certain systems such as email that do not allow all data values, they are often translated into a plain text representation using, for example, Base The increased size may be countered by lower-level link compression, as the resulting text data will have about as much less entropy as it has increased size, so the actual data transferred in this scenario would likely be very close to the size of the original binary data.

See Binary-to-text encoding for more on this subject. A hex editor or viewer may be used to view file data as a sequence of hexadecimal or decimal, binary or ASCII character values for corresponding bytes of a binary file. If a binary file is opened in a text editor , each group of eight bits will typically be translated as a single character, and the user will see a probably unintelligible display of textual characters.

If the file is opened in some other application, that application will have its own use for each byte: Other type of viewers called 'word extractors' simply replace the unprintable characters with spaces revealing only the human-readable text.

This type of view is useful for quick inspection of a binary file in order to find passwords in games, find hidden text in non-text files and recover corrupted documents. If the file is itself treated as an executable and run, then the operating system will attempt to interpret the file as a series of instructions in its machine language. Standards are very important to binary files. For example, a binary file interpreted by the ASCII character set will result in text being displayed.

A custom application can interpret the file differently: Binary itself is meaningless, until such time as an executed algorithm defines what should be done with each bit, byte, word or block. Thus, just examining the binary and attempting to match it against known formats can lead to the wrong conclusion as to what it actually represents. This fact can be used in steganography , where an algorithm interprets a binary data file differently to reveal hidden content. Without the algorithm, it is impossible to tell that hidden content exists.

Two files that are binary compatible will have the same sequence of zeros and ones in the data portion of the file. The file header, however, may be different. The term is used most commonly to state that data files produced by one application are exactly the same as data files produced by another application. For example, some software companies produce applications for Windows and the Macintosh that are binary compatible, which means that a file produced in a Windows environment is interchangeable with a file produced on a Macintosh.

This avoids many of the conversion problems caused by importing and exporting data. One possible binary compatibility issue between different computers is the endianness of the computer. Some computers store the bytes in a file in a different order. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For double stars, see Binary star.

For the CD image format, see Disk image. This article does not cite any sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. For binary code executable file compatibility, see Binary compatible. Open Close Read Write. File comparison File compression File manager Comparison of file managers File system permissions File transfer File sharing File verification.

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