Analogue electronics
Analogue electronics are electronic
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

 systems with a continuously
Continuous function
In mathematics, a continuous function is a function for which, intuitively, "small" changes in the input result in "small" changes in the output. Otherwise, a function is said to be "discontinuous". A continuous function with a continuous inverse function is called "bicontinuous".Continuity of...

 variable signal, in contrast to digital electronics where signals usually take only two different levels. The term "analogue" describes the proportional relationship between a signal and a voltage or current that represents the signal. The word analogue is derived from the Greek word ανάλογος (analogos) meaning "proportional".

Analogue signals

An analogue signal uses some attribute of the medium to convey the signal's information. For example, an aneroid barometer uses the angular position of a needle as the signal to convey the information of changes in atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth . In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point...

. Electrical signals may represent information by changing their voltage, current, frequency, or total charge. Information is converted from some other physical form (such as sound, light, temperature, pressure, position) to an electrical signal by a transducer
A transducer is a device that converts one type of energy to another. Energy types include electrical, mechanical, electromagnetic , chemical, acoustic or thermal energy. While the term transducer commonly implies the use of a sensor/detector, any device which converts energy can be considered a...

 which converts one type of energy into another (e.g. a microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...


The signals take any value from a given range, and each unique signal value represents different information. Any change in the signal is meaningful, and each level of the signal represents a different level of the phenomenon that it represents. For example, suppose the signal is being used to represent temperature, with one volt
The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

 representing one degree Celsius. In such a system 10 volts would represent 10 degrees, and 10.1 volts would represent 10.1 degrees.

Another method of conveying an analogue signal is to use modulation
In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a high-frequency periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal which typically contains information to be transmitted...

. In this, some base carrier signal has one of its properties altered: amplitude modulation
Amplitude modulation
Amplitude modulation is a technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. AM works by varying the strength of the transmitted signal in relation to the information being sent...

 (AM) involves altering the amplitude of a sinusoidal voltage waveform by the source information, frequency modulation
Frequency modulation
In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its instantaneous frequency. This contrasts with amplitude modulation, in which the amplitude of the carrier is varied while its frequency remains constant...

 (FM) changes the frequency. Other techniques, such as phase modulation
Phase modulation
Phase modulation is a form of modulation that represents information as variations in the instantaneous phase of a carrier wave.Unlike its more popular counterpart, frequency modulation , PM is not very widely used for radio transmissions...

 or changing the phase of the carrier signal, are also used.

In an analogue sound recording, the variation in pressure of a sound striking a microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...

 creates a corresponding variation in the current passing through it or voltage across it. An increase in the volume of the sound causes the fluctuation of the current or voltage to increase proportionally while keeping the same waveform
Waveform means the shape and form of a signal such as a wave moving in a physical medium or an abstract representation.In many cases the medium in which the wave is being propagated does not permit a direct visual image of the form. In these cases, the term 'waveform' refers to the shape of a graph...

 or shape.

Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

, pneumatic, hydraulic and other systems may also use analogue signals.

Inherent noise

Analogue systems invariably include noise
Noise (electronics)
Electronic noise is a random fluctuation in an electrical signal, a characteristic of all electronic circuits. Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly, as it can be produced by several different effects...

; that is, random disturbances or variations, some caused by the random thermal vibrations of atomic particles. Since all variations of an analogue signal are significant, any disturbance is equivalent to a change in the original signal and so appears as noise. As the signal is copied and re-copied, or transmitted over long distances, these random variations become more significant and lead to signal degradation. Other sources of noise may include external electrical signals or poorly designed components. These disturbances are reduced by shielding, and using low-noise amplifier
Low-noise amplifier
Low-noise amplifier is an electronic amplifier used to amplify possibly very weak signals . It is usually located very close to the detection device to reduce losses in the feedline. This active antenna arrangement is frequently used in microwave systems like GPS, because coaxial cable feedline is...

s (LNA).

Analogue vs. digital electronics

Since the information is encoded differently in analogue and digital electronics, the way they process a signal is consequently different. All operations that can be performed on an analogue signal such as amplification
Generally, an amplifier or simply amp, is a device for increasing the power of a signal.In popular use, the term usually describes an electronic amplifier, in which the input "signal" is usually a voltage or a current. In audio applications, amplifiers drive the loudspeakers used in PA systems to...

, filtering
Electronic filter
Electronic filters are electronic circuits which perform signal processing functions, specifically to remove unwanted frequency components from the signal, to enhance wanted ones, or both...

, limiting, and others, can also be duplicated in the digital domain. Every digital circuit is also an analogue circuit, in that the behaviour of any digital circuit can be explained using the rules of analogue circuits.

The first electronic devices invented and mass produced
Mass production
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines...

 were analogue. The use of microelectronics
Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. As the name suggests, microelectronics relates to the study and manufacture of very small electronic components. Usually, but not always, this means micrometre-scale or smaller,. These devices are made from semiconductors...

 has reduced the cost of digital techniques and now makes digital methods feasible and cost-effective such as in the field of human-machine communication by voice.

The main differences between analogue and digital electronics are listed below:


Because of the way information is encoded in analogue circuits, they are much more susceptible to noise
In common use, the word noise means any unwanted sound. In both analog and digital electronics, noise is random unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the acoustic noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission with significant electrical noise...

 than digital circuits, since a small change in the signal can represent a significant change in the information present in the signal and can cause the information present to be lost. Since digital signals take on one of only two different values, a disturbance would have to be about one-half the magnitude of the digital signal to cause an error; this property of digital circuits can be exploited to make signal processing
Digital signal processing
Digital signal processing is concerned with the representation of discrete time signals by a sequence of numbers or symbols and the processing of these signals. Digital signal processing and analog signal processing are subfields of signal processing...

 noise-resistant. In digital electronics, because the information is quantized
Quantization (signal processing)
Quantization, in mathematics and digital signal processing, is the process of mapping a large set of input values to a smaller set – such as rounding values to some unit of precision. A device or algorithmic function that performs quantization is called a quantizer. The error introduced by...

, as long as the signal stays inside a range of values, it represents the same information. Digital circuits use this principle to regenerate the signal at each logic gate
Logic gate
A logic gate is an idealized or physical device implementing a Boolean function, that is, it performs a logical operation on one or more logic inputs and produces a single logic output. Depending on the context, the term may refer to an ideal logic gate, one that has for instance zero rise time and...

, lessening or removing noise.


A number of factors affect how precise a signal is, mainly the noise present in the original signal and the noise added by processing. See signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio
Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise...

. Fundamental physical limits such as the shot noise
Shot noise
Shot noise is a type of electronic noise that may be dominant when the finite number of particles that carry energy is sufficiently small so that uncertainties due to the Poisson distribution, which describes the occurrence of independent random events, are of significance...

 in components limits the resolution of analogue signals. In digital electronics additional precision is obtained by using additional digits to represent the signal; the practical limit in the number of digits is determined by the performance of the analogue-to-digital converter (ADC), since digital operations can usually be performed without loss of precision. The ADC takes an analogue signal and changes into a series of binary numbers. The ADC may be used in simple digital display devices e. g. thermometers, light meters but it may also be used in digital sound recording and in data acquisition. However, a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) is used to change a digital signal to an analogue signal. A DAC takes a series of binary numbers and converts it to an analogue signal. It is common to find a DAC in the gain-control system of an op-amp which in turn may be used to control digital amplifiers and filters.

Design difficulty

Analogue circuits are harder to design, requiring more skill, than comparable digital systems. This is one of the main reasons why digital systems have become more common than analogue devices. An analogue circuit must be designed by hand, and the process is much less automated than for digital systems. However, if a digital electronic device is to interact with the real world, it will always need an analogue interface. For example, every digital radio
Digital radio
Digital radio has several meanings:1. Today the most common meaning is digital radio broadcasting technologies, such as the digital audio broadcasting system, also known as Eureka 147. In these systems, the analog audio signal is digitized into zeros and ones, compressed using formats such as...

 receiver has an analogue preamplifier as the first stage in the receive chain.

See also

  • Analogue computer
  • Analogue signal
  • Digital
    A digital system is a data technology that uses discrete values. By contrast, non-digital systems use a continuous range of values to represent information...

     - See here for a discussion of digital vs. analogue.
  • Analogue recording vs. digital recording
  • Analogue chip
  • Analogue verification
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