Who invented the first pronunciation system for binary numbers that is roughly analogous to how we pronounce everyday decimal numbers (by which I mean how 220 is pronounced 'two hundred twenty')?

Joshua Stern in 25th June 1958 has a paper in a journal. That is the earliest one I have been able to find. Stern (1958, Science 128(3324):594-596).

There is also Franklin Steuart McFeely almost at the same time. McFeely (1959, Math. Teach. 52(5):356-357).

I have read the Stern paper, so I know how his system works. It is a usable system for binary numbers. I know nothing about McFeely's system except what the title of the paper reveals. The title is 'One plus one is toon'. I anyone can tell me where I can see the the McFeely paper, I would appreciate that very much.

I also would like to know who was the first to think of pronouncing binary in a way analogous to how we pronounce decimal numbers, whether or not he or she devised a usable system together with a set of names. For example, who first pronounced binary 110 as 'four two' or the equivalent in French or some other human language?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Wow -- I didn't know anyone talked binary like that! Is that lingo in use anywhere in present-day papers? $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2021 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft As far as I know, this way of talking binary has never been used anywhere, only talked about. Various people have proposed various systems over the years, generally getting more and more sophisticated and sensible, but the systems have largely been ignored, even by science fiction authors. I can only guess that it is an idea that is still far ahead of its time. The only other base with a pronunciation system analogous to that of decimal that is actually used seems to be base twelve, and that is because of the dozenalist movement that promotes (and uses a teeny bit) dozenal. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2021 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ McFeely's paper is available on JSTOR (accessible from most libraries). He references Stern's paper and his letter with Housholder (Science, CXXVIII (1958), 1246, 1298), and adds:"The names proposed here are somewhat different from those put forward by Stern... Counting proceeds one, toon, etooven, one toodred, one toodred one, etc." $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Apr 15, 2021 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold Thanks for posting that. I see how it works. Can you tell me what the names in this system are for 2^3, 2^6, 2^9, 2^12, and 2^15? $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2021 at 19:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In practice when people need to use strings of binary digits one tends to convert to hexadecimal, although then the usual convention is still simply to read out each digit one by one. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2021 at 20:54


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.