Negative base

A negative base (or negative radix) may be used to construct a non-standard positional numeral system. Like other place-value systems, each position holds multiples of the appropriate power of the system's base; but that base is negative—that is to say, the base b is equal to −r for some natural number r (r ≥ 2).

Negative-base systems can accommodate all the same numbers as standard place-value systems, but both positive and negative numbers are represented without the use of a minus sign (or, in computer representation, a sign bit); this advantage is countered by an increased complexity of arithmetic operations. The need to store the information normally contained by a negative sign often results in a negative-base number being one digit longer than its positive-base equivalent.

The common names for negative-base positional numeral systems are formed by prefixing nega- to the name of the corresponding positive-base system; for example, negadecimal (base −10) corresponds to decimal (base 10), negabinary (base −2) to binary (base 2), negaternary (base −3) to ternary (base 3), and negaquaternary (base −4) to quaternary (base 4).[1][2]


Consider what is meant by the representation 12243 in the negadecimal system, whose base b is −10:

Multiples of
(−10)4 = 10,000 (−10)3 = −1,000 (−10)2 = 100 (−10)1 = −10 (−10)0 = 1
1 2 2 4 3

Since 10,000 + (−2,000) + 200 + (−40) + 3 = 8,163, the representation 12,243−10 in negadecimal notation is equivalent to 8,16310 in decimal notation, while −8,16310 in decimal would be written 9,977−10 in negadecimal.