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What is boolean algebra?

January 26, 2013

Boolean vs. Conventional Algebra

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll call all the “algebra” that you learned in middle- and high-school “conventional algebra”. We’ll hardly mention it, though. For now, set aside all your knowledge of conventional algebra. Boolean and conventional algebra may look and sound similar, but the ideas that they represent are entirely different.

What Boolean Algebra Is

How many values are there in conventional algebra? That is, how many values can a variable, expression, or function have? Your answer should be “an infinite number”!

In boolean algebra, however, your answer must always be “two”. Just two. You can call them 1 and 0, or “true” and “false”, “up” and “down”, or anything you like as long as there are only two values. We’ll stick to “true” and “false” for the purposes of this tutorial, though.

What Boolean Algebra Isn’t

Boolean algebra is not convential algebra done with binary numbers (numbers represented using only 1’s and 0’s). That’s still conventional algebra. It only looks different.

Boolean algebra can be used to perform conventional algebra on cleverly encoded binary numbers, but that’s an entirely different matter, and one which we won’t get to until later.

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From → Boolean Logic

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