Time Is Running Out
Humanity’s reliance on electronic devices is depleting critical resources. Although our number system has ten digits, modern electronic devices only use ones and zeroes. The future of technology depends on our ability to conserve ones and zeroes for future generations. Keysight is taking a stand. We put our brightest minds to work seeking solutions to this sticky situation, but we still have a long way to go.
We invite you to join our movement to #savethebits. Time is running out, so add your name to our growing list of concerned innovators today. Tomorrow, twenty lucky cyber conservationists will win Keysight prize packs valued at fifty USD.
The problem began with our ancient ancestors, who used the “base one” system on cave walls and animal bones. The earliest known mathematical problem, found on a cave wall in what is now Bulgaria, shows the shortcomings of their early counting system (shown on the right).
The notion of “carrying” or “regrouping” had not yet been invented, so it is not surprising that the answer to the solution shown on the right is incorrect. Of course, these Mesolithic mathematicians could not have known that ten thousand years later, there would be a crippling shortage of ones.
Zero was not invented until much later, circa 3 BCE. The Romans, innovative as they were, recognized that their profligacy with ones was a problem and began using a capital I as a substitute.
Modern computer scientists identified this challenge in the early nineties. Do you remember the "Y2K Problem?" The issue was that the year two thousand would have required people to use three zeroes every time 2OOO was written out or displayed on a computer - further depleting our worldwide stock of zeroes. Therefore, computer scientists developed the shorthand Y2K, which saved countless billions of zeroes.
As data storage devices grew to hold ever more billions of bytes, new ways of saving zeroes had to be invented. "Kilobyte" first found favor in common parlance in the nineteen sixties and enabled everyone to describe a larger file size without wasting precious zeroes. This practice is still in use today, but with every great leap forward in storage size comes a new prefix to the byte.
At the start of this year, the total amount of data in storage around the world is some 42 zettabytes or 42 billion trillion bytes. Just think how many ones and zeroes have been saved by this handy notation system!
Adopt Base-32 Calendars
Use a modified base 32 system for calendars. A month of thirty-one days uses fourteen ones and three zeroes. When you consider all the printed and electronic calendars, that is a LOT of wasted ones and zeroes. We should use a simple base-32 system that uses Z for one and then starts with A, B, C, and so on after 9.
Teaching the Teachers
Teachers, professors, and math book authors should teach the new methods because nothing delights students and parents more than new math! For example, scientific notation reduces the number one hundred million down to lO8. But it would be even better as ten8.
If you cannot spell out one or zero, use the lower case “ell” for one and capital “oh” for zero. For example, the number 2l,OO4,Ol6 is very readable and uses no zeroes or ones at all. The futuristic keyboard prototype shown above proves that special keys for zero and one are not necessary.
Time Is of the Essence
Spell out zero, one, ten, hundred, thousand, and million. Also, spell “out o’clock” and “thirty” to avoid using zeros in time expressions. Writing “ten o’clock” saves three zeroes.
Teach children to count starting with two. There is no point in counting just one apple. Wait until you have at least two apples or whatever to begin counting and you'll be saving ones and zeroes every time!
Reduce Fraction Reduction
Only reduce fractions to a number that does not involve one or zero. For example, the fraction 7/42 is perfectly clear. However, reducing it uses the digit one or requires you to spell out one. Instead, reduce it to
2/12 3/18 4/24.
Will Quantum Computing Help?
Some experts place hope in quantum computing, which uses values between zero and one. Sadly, many numbers between zero and one include many ones and zeroes, such as the fractions llOl/lOlll and llOIIOOO/lllOIIIIIOOl. There is no way to avoid such numbers. So, quantum computing could end up consuming vast numbers of ones and zeroes - making the situation worse!
The Twonit Circle
Another way to save ones and zeroes is to modify the standard values used in trigonometry. For example:
|Trig function||Old way||Better Way|
The traditional “unit circle” should be replaced with a twonit circle, shown on the left.
Join the Movement
People who doubt the seriousness of this problem should note that today is Thursday, April Z. Those who recognize just how serious this problem is can add their name to our growing list of concerned innovators using the form below. Add your name before midnight on April first, two thousand and twenty-one and be entered to win one of twenty prize packs, valued at fifty USD, comprising a notebook, travel mug, and backpack. You can also help us get the word out by sharing this page on your favorite social media channels with #savethebits.