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What’s the difference between analog and digital?

by Ronald Elias

Analog or digital? Does it matter? And what do those terms even mean?

If you’ve been surfing around the internet, trying to get to the bottom of things and find the answer to what exactly the difference is between analog and digital, then by golly, you’ve come to the right place. 

We aren’t just your local electronics store – we also see it as part of our mission to keep all of our customers educated. And while this topic is one that might not come up as much as it used to, it’s still one that’s helpful to know when it comes to electronics and technology usage. 

There aren’t any magic school buses here to help you figure things out, either. All you need to do is keep reading and we’ll walk you through exactly what people mean by these two terms, as well as plenty of examples of both. Got your learning hats on? Then let’s go!

The Basics 

Before things get too confused and we lose you, we’re going to start with the basics and break things down simply. 

When people use the terms analog or digital, they are talking about them in terms of signals. For example, “This is an analog signal” or “This is a digital signal.” It is most often used to refer to electrical signals. On the one hand, analog technology uses electrical pulses of varying amplitudes, where in digital technology, information is translated into a binary format – either zeros or ones, which is used to represent one of the two different amplitudes. 

We know, that’s still a little technical. Let’s use a music recording as an example to break it down a little bit further. In an analog recording, the signal is taken right from the microphone and recorded on to tape, perfectly capturing the analog wave from the mic and keeping it an analog wave on the tape. 

For a digital recording, that analog wave is sampled and turned into numbers that are then stored digitally. During playback, the numbers are turned into a voltage wave, that does its best to try to approximate the original wave. 

Types of Analog Signals

Now that we’ve got that (mostly) cleared up, we thought it would be helpful to include of list of some common analog signals, such as the following:

·       audio recordings

·       live sound

·       thermometers

·       photocopiers

·       film cameras

·       radio signals

·       VCRs

·       old, land line phones

·       human voice 

Types of Digital Signals

It wouldn’t be fair to all of the digital signals out there if we only listed the analog way of life, so here’s some examples of digital signals to help you get a better grasp on the differences:

 ·        computers

  ·       digital phones

  ·       CDs

  ·       DVDs

  ·       TVs (at least any that you should be using! If you are still using an analog TV, come by today and we’ll help you pick out an awesome new digital set to take home!)

  ·       Most modern cameras 

Analog Vs. Digital: The Finale 

And there we go! Now that we’ve looked at a bunch of different analog and digital devices, do you have a better idea of what each type of signal corresponds to? Another easy way to remember the difference is to look at clocks – an analog clock is your old, traditional clock with two hands that go around in a circle, where a digital clock has a numeric display that shows the time. Music is another easy way to remember: Physical vinyl records are analog recordings, while MP3s are digital files. 

Of course, no matter what type of technology or electronics you need help with, just stop on by or give us a call! We’re glad to continually serve this area and offer our electronics expertise to anyone who comes by in need of help, so don’t give reaching out a second thought!