Mini-Course: How Computers Compute?

Binary Numbers and Adders
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 (23 ratings)
1,132 students

How binary numbers work?
What does a transistor do?
How to make adders using transistors?
How computers compute?
2s complement: How computers do subtractions


  • No


Understanding how computers compute is the first step towards understanding how computers work. There are three building blocks in understanding how computers compute.

1. How computers represent numbers: Binary numbers

2. Who does the computing: Transistor

3. How to combine transistors to do computing: Building an adder

The first hurdle in learning how computers work is binary number. A lot of people have trouble in seeing binary numbers as legit numbers, myself included. So this course aims to provide you a thorough understanding about numbers from a unique perspective. After comfortable with binary numbers, we will talk about the little device at the core of modern electronics: transistor. We won’t get into the quantum mechanics detail behind the transistors fundamental to our modern way of life, but we will briefly talk about what it does. This will pave way for a good understanding about how to use them to do computing. Once we are comfortable with how numbers are represented and what the little computing device can do, we will dive into the details about how to combine those little transistors in making an adder that can add two numbers. We will also talk about how computers do subtraction using a trick called two's complement method.

This mini course will equip you with a thorough understanding about how computers do computing exactly.

Who this course is for:

  • Anyone who's interested in computer technologies but frustrated with the current resources

Course content

7 sections11 lectures32m total length
  • Some common confusions


Your empathetic STEM instructor
Shirley Zhu
  • 4.8 Instructor Rating
  • 23 Reviews
  • 1,132 Students
  • 1 Course

About myself:

I have master’s degree in Engineering and Finance, currently I am working in finance area in Energy industry. I am passionate in innovating the outdated educational model using an integrated way. I am deeply frustrated by the assembly line approach of the science education: things are chopped and grouped in a counterintuitive way to facilitate teaching, at the cost of the learners’ experience. This assembly line model spawns a monstrous body of knowledge that’s disconnected and overwhelming, impossible for any human to digest in full. So I want to bridge the knowledge gaps by following an integrated model, rather than academic chore: teach in a way blurring the boundaries between different subjects so that the content flows. Once content flows, learners will find the learning experience pleasant and rewarding. My courses will be created following that motto. The topics will include science and technology.

My presence:

I use Youtube channel as my studio to develop free educational videos. Once I see fit, contents in those videos will be merged and crystalized into complete and integrated courses on Udemy. You are welcome to go to my channel if you want to have a more frequent update on my stuff. My blog is currently under construction and I will be sharing more insights about learning there.