Digital Systems

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In science, technology, business, and, in fact, most other fields of endeavor, we are constantly dealing with quantities. Quantities are measured, monitored, recorded, manipulated arithmetically, observed, or in some other way utilized in most physical systems. It is important when dealing with various quantities that we be able to represent their values efficiently and accurately. There are basically two ways of representing the numerical value of quantities: analog and digital.

Analog Representations     In analog representation a quantity is represented by a voltage, current, or meter movement that is proportional to the value of that quantity. An example is an automobile speedometer, in which the deflection of the needle is propotional to the speed of the auto. The angular position of the needle represents the value of the auto’s speed, and the needle follows any changes that occurs as the auto speeds up or slow down.

Another example is the common room thermostat, in which the bending of the bimetallic strip is proportional to the room temperature. As the temperature changes grdually, the curvature of the strip changes proportionally.

Still another example of an analog quantity is found in the familiar audio microphone. In this device an output voltage is generated in proportion to the amplitude of the sound waves that impinge on the microphone. The variations in the output voltage follow the same variations as the input sound.

Analog quantities such as those cited above have an important characteristic: they can vary over a continuous range of values. The automobile speed can have any value between zero and, say, 100 mph. Similarly, the microphone output might be anywhere within a range of zero to 10 mV (e.g., 1mV, 2.3724 mV, 9.9999 mV).

Digital Representations     In digital representation the quantities are represented not by proportional quantities but by symbols called digits. As an example, consider the digital watch, which provides the time of day in the form of decimal digits which represent hours and minutes (and sometimes seconds). As we know, the time of day changes continuously, but the digital watch reading does not change continuously; rather, it changes in steps of one per minute (or per second). In other word, this digital representation of the time of day changes in discrete steps, as compared with the representation of time provided by an analog watch, where the dial reading changes continuously.

     The major difference between analog and digital quantities, then, can be simply stated as follows:


                               digital=discrete (step by step)

Because of the discrete nature of digital representations, there is no ambiguity when reading the value of a digital quantity, whereas the value of an analog quantity is often open to interpretation.

September 20, 2007 - Posted by | Digital Systems

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