I am trying to understand how computers work under the hood, and I came across following sentence.

"Computer technology is based on electronic circuits able to process vectors of 0's and 1's. For that reason all data are encoded by strings of 0's and 1's."

So does the vector mean normal string/number 0 and 1?

Thank you

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Vector is another word for sequence or array of fixed length. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 4:26

1 Answer 1


Vector here is essentially the same as string, sequence, or array, with the possible connotation of having fixed length.

Here is another way to express the same idea:

Computer hardware operates on bits. Therefore we have to encode all data in bits before a computer can process it.

  • $\begingroup$ It also suggests the sort of operations performed on them. With vectors, you expect operations taking and producing whole vectors, with elementwise semantics, such as vector products, or in the case of bit vectors, logical operations such as negation, AND, and OR; with strings, you except string operations such as concatenation, taking a substring, finding a character, pattern matching, etcetera. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ It does not, however, suggest arithmetic operations, which are only natural if vectors are interpreted as binary numbers. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed. R has "character vectors", for instance. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2018 at 15:59

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