I saw this cartoon the other day. It’s fairly funny but there is more to it than meets the eye of ordinary people. The binary actually represents a message for the true computer person. When you saw it (if you haven’t yet go ahead I’ll wait) did you decode it? Would it even occur to your students to decode it? We don’t teach much in the way of binary or ASCII any more. I think that is a shame.
Now in the old days a lot of people knew the ASCII table by memory. OK not me but I know people who did (and still do). So as soon as one of those people told me he laughed at the decoded message but didn’t tell me the punch line I knew I had to decode it myself. Since I didn’t have an ASCII table handy and I didn’t really want to do the binary to decimal by hand I did the only logical thing. I wrote a piece of code that converted a string of ones and zeros to a decimal and then displayed the ASCII value. I used Visual Basic .NET because I always use VB for string manipulation. But I suppose a good programmer (or even a beginning student – see the project potential here?) could do it in what ever language they are comfortable with.
It’s a nice little project when you think about it. A little string manipulation with a simple loop and you are pretty much all there. I think I used about 8-10 lines of code including the variable declaration, the return code (I created a function to convert the string to a decimal so I could reuse it later) and the display statement. So you could probably even do this as an in class demo, quiz or short project. And students seem to like things that look like codes, ciphers and secret messages.