The Marvelous, Magnificent Machine


My name is Tim Akers and this blog is devoted to all the wonderfully strange and marvelous things that exist in heaven and earth. Welcome my Imagitorium.



open a book with streaming images


They’re everywhere! In cars, thermostats, microwaves, telephones, and especially people. I’m talking about computers, and are they ever cool.

Once upon a time this article was about that mysterious beige box sitting on a desk, but computers have become so much more. They can be in your DVR, car, cell phone, and even toys.

Have you ever thought about what your computer/phone/DVR/ or whatever does to make all those wonderful applications work? I could give you a long boring explanation with mega-this or giga-that, or we could play a game. How many of you vote for a game?

Take a flashlight, one you can turn off and on easily, and stand in a room. Don’t move, then have someone shut the lights off. Are you there? Great!

I want you to turn your flashlight on and then off. Ready, go. On, now off.

Easy right?

This time, turn your flashlight on and count “one.” When the light goes off count zero. Ready? Go.

Now, turn the flashlight on and off for ten minutes straight without stopping. Off. On. Off. On. Zero. One. Zero. One. Be sure you count how many times you turn the light off and on. Ready go. Done?

Turn the lights back on please – safety first. How many times did you turn the light off and on. Didn’t write it down? You weren’t allowed. You have to remember without writing it down. This is what a computer does.

Search for mail

Technically, a computer follows a list of commands to perform functions. Operating systems like Windows and OSX for Mac, are nothing but elaborate lists of instructions that tell your computer what to do. In order to do those commands, it still counts one’s and zero’s. Every time you are surfing the web or texting your friends, whatever device you’re using, all its doing is counting how many times the lights go on and off.

That doesn’t sound all that hard does it? The real amazing part is that is all the things a computer does when it’s counting. We have pictures, phone calls, television,math, videos, games,graphics, flying airplanes, and more. Computer technology exists because of math and a particular numbering system zeroes and ones.

We humans use Base Ten. A Base Ten system counts groups of tens. We count to  ten like this: zero,one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, one complete ten. It can also look like this: 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. The next group of ten looks like this: 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19. In a binary system, numbers are grouped in two’s or, 0 and 1.

In a binary system we count: 0,1. The next group of two’s are counted: 10,11. If we count further in base two, it would look like this: 0,1,01,10,11,100,101,111,1000,1001,1010,1011… and so on. Machine languages are based on binary numbers, or lights off and lights on.

Computers use other number systems too like hexidecimal, but that’s another blog.


Your brain is still cooler than a computer.

Your brain is still cooler than a computer.


According to How Stuff Works, the average human brain is capable of handling ten quadrillion instructions per second. Your desktop can manage one hundred million instructions per second (MIPS), or maybe double that. Want to see what those numbers look like?


100,000,000 = one hundred million

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = ten quidrillion.

Your brain is still cooler than a computer.


I'm Tim Akers

See you next time!


5 thoughts on “The Marvelous, Magnificent Machine

  1. Did my character inspire this post when she complained about base 2? You have just answered her question!


    • Your character reminded me of this article. I wrote seven years ago when I was take the course from the Institute of Children’s Lit. So in honor of Debbie I dusted it off and updated it. I will recheck the zero.


  2. Oh, is a 0 missing in 10 quadrillion? This isn’t my best subject…


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