Sunday, July 8, 2018

Or maybe Ralphie could just use his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring

The other day on its main page, Google published this image:

...and I thought "How unusual! How clever! What a fascinating concept!” An old object (a quill pen) was being used to produce a thoroughly modern object (binary code used by computers).

But can you read it?

I can.

Finding out what it says is a two-step process. First, we express the binary (base 2) data in hexadecimal (base 16) notation, a kind of shorthand that is simpler to read:

Row 1: 47 67
Row 2: 6F 6C
Row 3: 6F 65

Next, we look up the meanings of these values in an ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) conversion chart, and we get the following:

47 67 = G g
6F 6C = o l
6F 65 = o e

Eureka! (or I have found it!), as Archimedes (c.287 BCE - c.212 BCE) may or may not have said while sitting in his bathtub one day or after inventing the water screw (two completely unrelated events, and the latter is not what you may be thinking).

What I have found, friends, is that the quill was not writing rows at all, but columns, for when read as rows the message is “Ggoloe” (gibberish) but when read as columns it turns out to say “Google”!

Really, people, the torture I put myself through lengths to which I go to keep you informed know no bounds.


  1. 01100111 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110100

  2. Ralphie tells me, class, that Adrian’s comment contains the word g-r-e-a-t (67 72 65 64 74). Thank you, Adrian!

    1. Oops, teacher made a mistake in the hexadecimal. Teacher should have written 67 72 65 61 74. Teacher will try to be more accurate in the future.

  3. You, sir, are a genius! However, I was puzzled by your enigmatic reference to a "water screw". Please explain.

  4. Well, I'm certainly glad I chose today to check in....It wouldn't have crossed my mind to even wonder if it actually said something. AND since I've no mathematical inclinations, even if I had wondered, I wouldn't have pursued it, lol!
    Thank you, thank you. I wonder what else goes by me in this life that I am completely unaware of!

  5. Hilltop, glad to have been of service! A whole lot goes by me.

  6. Back in the day when I were just older than nowt but a lad I did a post grad which involved, inter alia, computer programming requiring an introduction to Fortran and Cobol. However my problem was getting my head around binary arithmetic. I might have guessed that it was Google in binary (because that is what Google tends to represent with it's headings) but I'd never have worked it out.

  7. Graham, speaking of FORTRAN and COBOL, you may see a reference to them in my next post. Binary, octal, and hexadecimal arithmetic always came easy (easily?) to me, for some unknown reason.