(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger

II. PARLEZ-VOUS 1's AND O's? Communicating is one of humankind's principal activities. With over three thousand languages world wide, communicating with someone from another culture often hits a language barrier. To surmount this barrier, many African tribes developed Swahili as a second language, independent from their native language. Mediterranean traders of the Middle Ages developed Lingua Franca, a language based upon Italian but using words from Spanish, French, Greek and Arabic. The age of European colonialism spread Spanish, Portugese, French and English across the Americas, Africa and Asia. Through this conquest and domination, many millions of people around the world were brought into the fold of a handful of languages. In 1887, a Polish doctor invented Esperanto, an artificial language for use in international communications, now spoken by some 8 million people. Many other visionaries have developed simplified artificial languages which have not caught on.

Today we finally have a truly new universal language. It consists of 1's and 0's.

Modern computers are electrical, and as such recognize only two states: on or off, power or no power, charge or no charge, one or zero. By translating numbers and letters and lines and colors and sounds into 1's and 0's, any communication can be put into digital form and transmitted in any fashion where two states (e.g., off and on) can be discerned. This involves the binary number system.

A binary number system, despite being limited to two numbers (1 and 0), is a very efficient way of expressing numbers. Using base 10, you can only count to 10 on both hands. Using a base 2 (binary system), on two hands you can count to 1,023. When you translate communication into binary numbers, and send those 1's and 0's to a receiving machine, which translates those 1's and 0's back into communications, you have digital communication.

The communications networks in America are converting from sending organized pulses in the form of electrons down a copper wire to sending 1's and 0's in the form of photons (laser light beams) down a glass tubes (fiberoptic cable). 1's and 0's are also sent through the air, permitting mobility during communication. The speed of fiberoptics and the mobility of radio communications are revolutionizing communications, and will ultimately revolutionize our lives. Our (electronic) communications will all be 1's and 0's. Once we standardize the translation of symbols into 1's and 0's and back out again, all people who communicate through electronic media will be able to communicate with all other people using electronic communications, each using his/her own native language, with the communication equipment doing the translating. At that point we can say: "Tout le monde parle 1's and 0's."

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Created August 27, 1996
Last updated August 27, 1996