Trinary Computing

Imagine an odometer. Each wheel of the odometer has numbers on it. In a car, the numbers go from zero to nine. When nine is reached, it carries over, and kicks up the next wheel to the left by a notch. That is the way that mileage odometers in cars worked (until they became digital).

Now imagine an odometer that is just imprinted with a zero and a one. After it reaches one, it kicks over to the next wheel. That is essentially how the binary language on a computer works. So for example a computer would count from 0 to three in the following way:

0 = 0000
1 = 0001
2 = 0010
3 = 0011

The way that it works physically in your computer is with voltage in the millions of transistors in a computer chip. When +5 volts is flowing, it is considered a "one". When there is no voltage flowing, it is considered a zero because there is zero volts flowing. In my early days when I designed digital circuits, the first thing that you did, was supply +5 volts called vcc or Voltage to the Common Cathode (of all of the transistors in the chips).

Well, the time has come for trinary computing. Instead of 1's and 0's, trinary would have -1, 0 and 1. The -1 could be physically -5 volts. A Russian named Brusentsov invented a trinary computer at Moscow State University in 1958, but it never caught on because he was a Commie, it cost too much to produce, and that was back in the day when millions of transistors took enough power to to light up a city.

In the trinary system, the odometer has three markings instead of two. It has -1, 0, and 1. It greatly increases the computing power. In the binary system, two bits can count from 0 to three. In the trinary, the same two bits will count you from 0 to eight. When you go to four bits (called a nibble), which is half a byte, you have 16 numbers or 0 -15. With the trinary system, those four bits can count you from 0 to 80, or 81 discrete numbers.

It gets even better with a byte which is eight bits. The maximum count of a byte in the binary is 256. With the trinary system, it is 6561. Can you imagine how much memory that will save. With a conventional device, you will have almost 26 times the memory with the same device by going to the trinary system.

Instead of bits, nibbles and bytes, we will have trits, tribbles and trytes. Computing will go much much faster and we will have ultra-miniature computers with the trinary system.

There is an open source trinary or ternary as they call it, system being developed with contributions from the public. You can find them at:


Three is definitely better than two in the computing world. However it would be a tough sell in the relationship world.


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