The ancient book of wisdom at the heart of every computer

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz was a German mathematician, scientist, philosopher, diplomat and theologian (which will become important to the story) and owner of many fabulous wigs.

Or what we would today call a polymath.

Leibnitz became curious about numbers. If there were 10 base numbers because humans have ten fingers, what would have happened if we had 11 fingers? What if there were 11 base numbers. Or 17. Or 38.

Or the most intriguing alternate base number system. 2.

One and zero. Zero and one.

Leibnitz realised that zero and one in combination could represent any number. And trust me…they can. So while different base systems – base 10, base 12 etc – could perform different kinds of math, Base 2, or binary, could perform all possible maths.

Nobody understood the true potential of Leibnitz binary numbers. Including Leibnitz, who couldnt find any practical purpose for his discovery. And in his despair and frustration redirected his attention to biscuit making.

Leibnitz despaired, and got fat, until he was introduced to the ancient book of wisdom at the heart of every computer…

Watch the full video essay on YouTube


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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