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Song Parodies -> "Both Bytes Now (How Computers Work - For *NON*-Geeks)"

Original Song Title:

"Both Sides Now"

Original Performer:

Judy Collins

Parody Song Title:

"Both Bytes Now (How Computers Work - For *NON*-Geeks)"

Parody Written by:

Fiddlegirl and Tommy Turtle

The Lyrics

Picture it: A math and economics geek (TT) and a Liberal Arts major with Masters' in Music and Education (FG). “The Odd Couple”, you say? We prefer to think of it as "each contributing their strengths", although we’re willing to concede that we may, in fact, be *slightly* odd. ;)

Early on, the “artistic” FG unwittingly challenged TT by stating that the analytical, linear thinking style required for math was beyond her. She promptly forgot the matter; however, TT (“Tommy Tutor”, per Red Ant) felt compelled to compose an e-mail in reply. In moments, the secret of how that magic box on your desk or in your lap stores, processes, and displays information, and sends it over the Web, was revealed. Mystery solved!

Now, although FG will likely never feel the lure of the siren call of binary code, she can at least understand it. As today's parody explains, it's *not* rocket science. If you can add 2 + 2, or multiply 2 x 2, even with a calculator, it's a breeze!

[Note: For parody pronunciation purposes, the number "0" is read as "Oh" rather then "Zero". Oh-kay? ;) ] OS video

1s and 0s, that's all that's there
At ev'ry web site, even AIR
The Internet, and ev'rywhere
Your data, stored that way

No more, just only 0 and 1
Like switch "turned on", you're having fun [1]
A "turn-off?" Gee, there's nothing - none
A bummer of a date! ;-)

I've looked at bits ffom both sides now
They're "on" or "off", but still, somehow
They show us pictures, "paper, wall-" [2]
It's really not hard. How?

Mac™ or Windows:™? Such a deal!
It turns those bits to something real
Binary code; words, pics, reveal
So we can work and play

In C-PU, just 1 and 0 [3]
On Web they pass, as packets flow [4]
And if you care, we'll let you know
Just how they got that way

We've grouped eight "bits" and they're "bytes" now [5]
Just 1s and 0s, and yet somehow
Are colors' fusions formed by small --
-- Bytes, combinations of --
-- Them all [6]

Cheers and beers: programming crowd
Whose languages re-move the shroud
Vi-deos that sing out loud
Are cooked from bytes that way!

In C-PU, this doesn't change
Nor mem'ry, hard drive; sounding strange? [7]
Those "bits" just all get rearranged
(We did that just today!)

You've looked at puters' insides now
At bits and bytes, and golly, wow!
When of confusion, mind should stall
Just think of this lil' song:

[1] Think of a light switch in your living room. Turn it on = current flows. Turn it off = no current.
Your computer's core components are just billions of switches. If a current flows, that's read as a "1". If no current, (guess!), that's a "0".
Hence, "binary" (base 2) digits, because there are only two digits, 0 and 1.
If you contract BInary digiT, you get "Bit". (or is it "Binary digIT" - or "Binary dIgiT" -- TT can never remember. No matter. ;-)

[2] I. e., desktop "wallpaper" (background) -- *how* it does that is explained below.

[3] "CPU" = Central Processing Unit, or simply "Processor'. The brains of the outfit.

[4] You can't send colors or words over a wire, either. Nothing flows through the Internet except our old friends, 0 and 1, in their disguises, "electical charge" or "no charge here". They're grouped into "packets" so they have a better chance of staying together (and to add meaning, destination, source, and other stuff for some other parody some other time - NOT. "whew")

(In Windows) Right-click the "connection" icon in the lower right. That will look like two computer screens (only one, if your connection is wireless.) Click "Status". Where it says "Packets" about 2/3 of the way down, you can actually watch the number of packets sent and received changing as you read this.

Bits (binary digits) are grouped into sets of eight, called "bytes". So a "byte" is eight bits. Like, say, 01001100 is one byte (eight bits).
One reason: One bit gives two choices, 0 and 1, right? Two bits give four choices (2 x 2): 00, 01, 10, 11. ....
Eight bits therefore give 256 choices (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2, or if you remember any algebra, "2 to the eigth power", commonly written on the web as 2^8).
With 256 possible combinations, we can cover all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, punctuation, @#$% etc,. and still have some left over for other uses. So one "byte" can translate to one character, whether letter, number, whatever. Makin' any sense here?

Aw, heck, let's just DO IT!
Copy the following, exactly: (select, Edit > Copy)
01001001 01110011 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100110 01110101 01101110 00111111
Go to the "Binary-Text Converter" link in the outtro. (We've been asked not to put off-site links inside parodies, though of course plugging yours or someone else's song here at AIR is heartily encouraged, LOL). Paste into the box and click the "Convert from binary to text" button, then click "Convert". Eureka!

Note that you can also click "Convert from text to binary", enter any text you like (keep it clean, boys and girls ;), and get the binary code for it. You could send secret messages to your friends that way, but they wouldn't be very secret to a lot of people -- including you now, right?

WOW! We now know how words are displayed on our screen, sent through the Internet, and displayed on the screen at the other end! But what about graphics?

OK, but how do bits turn into colors, for pics and videos, etc. -- or even for your desktop "wallpaper"? Like so:
Remember when you were in kindergarten, with a box of crayons? If you made a yellow stripe, then went over it with a blue crayon, it turned green. And if you mixed red and blue, you got purple. Etc. Red, yellow, and blue are the "primary colors" of crayons.

For reasons not important here, the primary colors in a computer display are red, green, and blue. Your screen is composed of tiny dots called "pixels" (for "picture element"). TT's screen has a little over a million pixels (1280 pixels wide by 800 pixels high).
*Each" pixel is fed three bytes: one for how much red, one for how much blue, and one for how much green, mixed appropriately to produce the desired color. So we have 256 possible degrees of red, from 00000000 (no red at all) to 11111111 (the most red possible). Same with green and blue.

So a set of bytes for a single pixel might look like this:
10100011 01001011 11000101
That's such a lovely shade of violet!

Want to make up your own color bytes and see how they come out? Or take any given color, and find the corresponding bytes? Of course you do!

But first, a slight digression is necessary. Web site designers, the most famous example being ChuckyG of course, would get very tired of staring at those endless groups of 1s and 0s. (Aren't you? ;) And they're hard to read.
Soooo.... we take advantage of the fact that 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16 (or algebraically, 2^4 = 16.) If we use base 16, called "hexadecimal", or "hex" for short, then one hex character takes the place of four binary characters. This also saves space -- 1/4 as much space used.

But how to express numbers up to 16 in one character? Easy: 0, 1, 2 .... 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, where A=10, B=11, ... F=15. Simple, no?

Since a byte is *eight* bits, and a hex character is four bits, we need two hex characters to make a byte, ryte? (ha, ha)

Even if you don't own a scientific calculator, you have one in your computer. We DK where it is in Mac, but in Windows, click Start, click Run, and type "calc" without the quotes. Hit "enter". Voila!

If it appears as a small square with no ABCDEF, click View, then click "Scientific". See the A-F in the bottom row now?

OK, fun time. Let's take the first color byte above, 10100011. Click "Bin" (binary) in the calculator's upper left. Click the 1 and 0 keys to enter that byte value. Or, even easier, copy it from here, and on the calculator, click Edit > Paste. (That *was* easier, wasn't it? ... bits = blindness) Now click "Dec" (decimal) and what do you get? 163, right? So our color has 163 degrees of red out of a possible 0-255. 256 choices, but geeks count starting from zero, because they're weird. And because zero is a possibility. See for yourself: Go back to "bin", hit "C" (clear), click 11111111, and click "dec". 255, right? ;)

But we said, "hex". Going back to our red color byte above, you could re-copy the binary byte, or the decimal number 163 that we already got. (**Make sure the calc is set to "bin" or "dec" or "hex" BEFORE entering that particular type of value.**) Now click "hex" (for hexadecimal.)
Ta-da! A3, right? So our color has a red hex value of A3.

Repeat this process with the other two bytes above, for green and blue. Try it before looking at the answers.

You should get for the second byte (green) 75 in dec and 4B in hex

For the third byte (blue), how about 197 in decimal and C5 in hex?

The decimal numbers are actually irrelevant here, but since it's what we're most comfortable with, it gives a familiar frame of reference - on our scale of 0-255 for "redness", "greenness" and "blueness". (If humans had only one finger on each hand, we'd have been using binary from the gitgo -- TT.)

Let's see that pretty color! Go to thei link in the outro, [6].
Where it says, " Generate Your Own Custom Hex Colors", go down to the color box, and in the 'hex'" box, replace the # with our three sets of hex characters, *without spaces*, like so:
Click the "Swatch" box on the right. Is that not a pretty shade of violet, or what?
Notice that the decimal equivalents are also there. You can enter any decimal values you like, and it will produce the color as well as convert it to the hex equivalent in that box.
Fun! But remember, practice "safe hex"!

Web site designers may or may not want to spend time making up custom colors, especially with only (256 x 256 x 256 =) 16,777,216 possible colors.
It's easier to choose from a pre-made chart that gives you the value you need to enter in your code, like the one linked in the outtro, [7]. ChuckyG or you can just look through the colors, pick one you like, and use the hex values to the left of it as you specify font color, background color, etc.

REMINDER; To paint your desktop, or to display a still image (picture) or a web page, *each* pixel needs a color value. For video, each pixel must be repainted for every frame of the video. Aren't these things *fast*? :-)

OK, but how and where are these stored and processed in our computers?

Your "hard drive" is just a disk with billions of individual spots on it, each of which either has an electromagnetic charge on it, or does not. You already know what those mean. When new information is stored there, it"s "written" in these charges and non-charges, It's read the same way.
Since a magnetic charge, like a magnet, is more or less permanent, your hard drive keeps everything on it even when the computer is off.

The processor (CPU), as mentioned, is the brains of the outfit, reading bits from the hard drive (or flash drive or CD or DVD or Internet or whatever) and manipulating them according to instructions. ("Programs", "processes" "routines" etc.) And sending them to the display gizmos so that they show on your screen when appropriate.

To do that, it will store both data and instructions in a more temporary "memory" known as RAM (Random-Access Memory), writing 1s and 0s in various places, manipulating them, and retrieving them as needed, then removing them from RAM when it is done with those particular bits -- or when the computer is turned off. No power, no RAM.
Have you ever remembered a phone number just long enough to call it, then forgotten it? Or written it down, and thrown it away after making the call? That would be like your own RAM -- short-term memory -- while your address and phone book for permanent storage would be like your hard drive -- you can still add new ones or delete old ones, but other than that, the hard drive and your phone book keep all their data. Make sense?

So, at the computer's core -- the most important components: HD, CPU, RAM -- *only* bits are being thrown around. Programmers invent programming languages that convert these into code to make your operating system (Windows, Mac, etc.) and your programs (Word processing, anti-virus and firewall, and, of course, the browser itself). And these operating systems and programs do those conversions to text and graphic display, as we saw and did above.

And there you have it.

(And now you can better understand a parody someone once wrote, "I Am Binary-Modal, Sexa-Octal Hexadecimal") [on-site plug=1 (allowed)] ;)

Apologies to all true techies for *gross* over-simplification, but hey, we *all* had to start *somewhere*, right?

[5] Binary-to-text converter
[6] Color generator from your hex input
[7] Pre-made color chart with hex values furnished for you (many others out there)

© 2010 Fiddlegirl and Tommy Turtle. All rights reserved. E-mail:

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Total Votes: 12

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User Comments

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masonr - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
This should be recorded and played at the start of every Computing 101 class!
Old Man Ribber - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
It was Geek to me! ;D
Mark Scotti - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
The first computer language that I learned! "Assembling" fives to your registers...
Rex - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Phil Nelson - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Just barely know the original, but enough to get this. Yeah I definitely don't know about that stuff, but could still appreciate this parody. 555 (Wait! That number doesn't exist!)
Patrick - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Math was never my strong suit. I once told someone I have a hard time getting interested in numerals not preceded by dollar signs. I like the original song. I like your parody. The footnotes, I'll have to wait until I have time for a graduate course in binary computation.
Tommy Turtle - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
masonr: This *was* a CompSci 101 class! ... or at least, intended to be! (j.k!) ....btw, did you ever notice that Comp 101 translates to Comp 5? (or from hex, to 257.... ) Thanks for v/c.

Old Man Ribber: (sigh) We've failed? To make it easy for non-geeks? (seriously): LOL, but *was* it comprehensible? Thanks for the usually punny comment!

Mark Scotti: I *do* remember your mentioning programming in Assembly, in a comment at the other parody, so I did think of you while FG and I were "assembling" this parody ;-) ... Registering a stack of thanks for your 101s and "accumulated" XORtations, of course! And don't let FG's added thanks cause a buffer overrun, elseif.....
          btw, the "Cheers and beers" line was also to you and to all other programmers who make it all work!

Rex: Thanks much! .. but it *would* have been OK to put a space between bytes, so that it naturally line-wraps in the comment (not an HTML line break, of course), so that the page doesn't scroll to about three times its width. The converter that is linked ignores spaces between bytes and resulting line breaks, as at the binary conversation between Warren Baker and Marian The Binarian at
Regardless, thanks for v/b! (vote, binary comment). Will *not* translate -- FG needs the practice! (mwahaha)

Phil Nelson: There is a nice video, and she was *very* pretty at the time... good enough reason to watch, wink!. ;)... Of course it exists: 1000101011 or 22B! (We had hoped the calculator would make it easier.) Thanks for v/c!

Patrick: See reply to masonr -- this is "much* shorter than that grad course, believe me! (Think of it as the "Cliff's Notes" ;)
          (seriously:) Understand that the f/n would take some time to go through for the non-initiated. Hopefully, there's some fun stuff in there, too. Good news: It will be here as long as the site is up! :-) Thanks for v/c -- and even as a confirmed number-cruncher, have to agree with you that those with $ are best -- except when doing these @#$% income taxes! ;)
Andy Primus - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Interesting explanation of a topic that I know absolutely nothing about (although I now know a bit more than I did 10 mins ago)
Fiddlegirl - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Adding my thanks to masonr, OMR, Mark Scotti, Rex (how kind!), Phil Nelson, Patrick (I'm right there with you, believe me!)... and Andy Primus (a "bit" more... hahaha-- did you intend the pun?) v/c appreciated, as always. :D
Christie Marie M - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Technological and informative satire, folks! You are definitely 2 peas in a pod! Takes me back to Computer class all over again. I not only learned it from college, I even learned about that topic in high school as well! And I enjoyed learning binary digits. 01001001011011010....and so on! Great work and thanks for educating us! And I enjoyed binary and color generator activities (which I loved to form a mauve color with, since it's my fave). This satire is worth about 555 megabytes!
Meriadoc - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
be nary a bad line in it... i'll give you 101, 101, 101
Tommy Turtle - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Fiddlegirl: I *think* so -- but I say we give AP credit anyway. ("AP credit" hahaha ... oh, TT... ;)

&e Prime #s: Intended or not -- sometimes the unintentional puns are the worst (best), ... I have full faith in that bit o' wit! ... you read the footnotes and all in ten minutes? More credit! ... and thanks!

Christie Marie M: Megathanks -- no, gigathanks -- nah, still not enough -- petathanks -- no good, PETA is a sore topic around here for some people --- googolplex of tha-- n/m, I *hate* that company ... Will "tera" new page out of my book and come up with some kind of thanks - - how 'bout "exa-yotta" (extra-lotta)-thanks? :)

Meriadoc: "Hex-tra" thanks for v/c!
TJC - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
As JAB might say, "You've Put A Spell, er,'A Hex' On Me!" Furthermore, I thank you for helping me come to the realization that in our evermore computerized/always-connected world--aren't we all essentially 'bi'?
Great stuff from the humorous, semi-self-fidlaggelating intro to the massive (must be in the kB range) n' conversationally *very* informative FN's... Tommy 'Tutor' indeed!
Yewe tewe really should concoct yer own Coat (or should that be 'Gloat') of Arms!
Warren Baker - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
Hear that? That scratching sound? It's the ganglia twitching. I'll get back to you after taking 555mg of Vicodin. No blue screens here, TT and FG. Only happy screens!
Tommy Turtle - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
TJC: Oddly enough (I'm odd enough already), that occurred to moi also -- to do a JAB-esque "I Put A Hex On You". © Tommy Turtle -- might do that.
          As said in a rather mediocre movie about tech, starring a Bill Gates look-alike, "In this world, you're either a one or a zero!" ... i. e., you have power and you count, or you're nobody. Scary, but true.....
          The footnotes were about 11kB. ... TT has his shell, FG can cover her own arms.... but I like the idea! A shell-shaped shield, with logo, and slogan: "Arse gratia artis" (applies to yesterday's TeeTee post, but coined by FG a long time ago.)
Thanks for v/c!

Warren Baker: You've used that metaphor aphore.... does it mean you're twitching in disgust, or overloaded from info (I hope) , or what? ... As for those BSODs, they were covered here:
Thanks for v/c/hs!
Warren Baker - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
@TT- Whenever my brain experiences, shall we say, info o-load, I spaz. It's a good thing, cause it brings about imaginative thoughts and a preponderance of ponderousness's. No disgust here, kind Thomas of the Testudines. Only admiration of your encyclopedic wit!
TT @ Warren Baker - March 10, 2010 - Report this comment
TT=1 (i. e. turned on, happy! .. not *that* kind of "turned on* -- that was for *tuesday's* parody, LOL)
(common shorthand between the co-writers to say that one is very pleased by a given line or verse sent in a draft by the other.)

And in return, I am so impressed by your Ponderosa, with a Bonanza of far-Range-ing quips!

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