Binary As Basics Of Hashing Used In Crypto Environment
Each cryptocurrency can be described as a unique set of technologies fused as one. Behind the scene of marketing slogans and statements, several dozens of different IT components are hiding. Some of them are extremely complicated, like the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Others are rather simple to study, like Bitcoin’s block structure. Regardless of what these components are and how confusing they may seem, all of them are very interesting and exciting.
Among technological solutions used to handle data in different ways, we can segregate several groups. They are encryption techniques, encoding schemes and data conversion mechanisms. One of them is called “hashing”.
In the Bitcoin system, hashing is used in several ways. The very same thing can be said about Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. This data management technique is very convenient for several reasons, but before explaining them we should refresh some information about the binary data representation system.
Binary system presents data in the way computers process it. The computer memory consists of small data chunks called bits. Each bit can be either 0 or 1. That’s where the word “binary” comes from. All operations inside of a computer are proceeded with big sets of numbers presented in binary. Since binary management approaches come from mathematical logic methods, sometimes 0 and 1 are referred as “false” and “true”, respectively. Hashing is not an exception here. Binary basic operations are very simple. They are:
Inversion. This operation, also called “NOT”, uses only one input bit. It negates the value of a single bit. If it was 0 it becomes 1, and vice versa.
- Conjunction. This operation, also called “AND”, uses two bits as input and gives one bit as output. Both inputs must be 1 to receive 1 as a result. Otherwise, output will be 0.
- Disjunction. This operation, also called “OR”, uses two bits as input and gives one bit as output. At least one of inputs must be 1 to receive 1 as a result. Otherwise, output will be 0.
These three operations are basic both for mathematical logic and for computer data processing. Many other logical and arithmetical operations are based on them.
Hashing in crypto
So what is hashing after all? As it is defined in many sources, the hashing operation is used to take random data of different length as an input and receive an output of fixed length. This means that regardless of how many bits were used, we will get the string of the same length as an output. The most famous hashing families are SHA-2 and SHA-3 (where SHA stands for “Secure Hash Algorithm”). They are implemented in Bitcoin, Ethereum and other crypto solutions. In one case they are improved by developers, in other cases they are used as they are.
From the perspective of its internal structure, each hash function is a set of logical operations performed upon a given input in a strict order. Also, different hashes may give outputs of different length. For cryptocurrencies, it is common to use the SHA-256 hashing system, in which 256 defines the length of the output bits raw.
This article helped us plunge into the world of data conversion for a while. Hashing plays an important role in the crypto world, which is due to its ability to encode big data sets into small outputs. This is used in addresses, blocks connection, transaction search and many other cases. In our next articles, we will discuss these issues in more detail.