Analog vs Digital

analog, digital, dj, spinning, music, science

The battle begins July 13th at 11am ET and runs for 24 hours.

In our current world, we use analog and digital signals all the time.  A classic example is the round faced clock you watched when you were waiting for your class period to end (analog) vs the clock on your mobile phone (digital).  But what exactly relegates these signals to one category or the other?

It turns out, the answer is pretty simple!  Analog signals and objects have infinite possibilities, while digital ones have a finite number of possibilities.

Think of the minute hand on a clock moving slowly in a smooth motion between one minute and the next.  At a given time, it could be anywhere in between minutes – 20 seconds, 45.3 seconds, 51.342984325789 seconds, etc.  The possibilities are endless!  And that’s what makes it analog.

Or consider a DJ spinning a record.  When the DJ scratches the record, it can be at any place along the record, and it would be nearly impossible to repeat the same scratch pattern twice.  This is because when you’re scratching a record, there are an infinite number of places the needle can hit.

A graph of an analog signal will be smooth, and continuous.  Even if there may be the finite values of a minimum and maximum the signal can achieve, between those values are infinite possibilities.

Graph via Sparkfun

Digital signals, on the other hand, have a finite set of values. A digital clock may be able to read seconds, miliseconds, nanoseconds, etc. But even if it reads units of time that are so small humans can’t even comprehend them, it still has a finite number of values it can read. Think of a digital clock changing every 60 seconds to a new minute, vs the smooth hand of the analog clock moving between minutes.

Or consider a DJ using digital equipment to make music. Although to our ears the sound seems smooth and continuous, it is really being computed using binary code, and therefore there will be a “step” between each sound, rather than a continuous flow from one sound to the next. The same thing happens if you zoom in on a digital image. If you get close enough, you’ll be able to see that each part of the image is a different colored pixel, and the colors do not “flow” from one to the next although they appear to do so from a distance.

This digital signal graph shows how digital signals may appear smooth and flowing like the analog signal graph at first glance. But when you look closely you can see that there are actually a finite number of “steps” on the graph, meaning there are a finite number of places you can be along the graph at any given time.

Image via Sparkfun

We still use both analog and digital signals and objects all the time in our everyday life. But which do you prefer? The finite, or the infinite? Make your choice and let the battle begin!

The battle begins July 13th at 11am ET and runs for 24 hours.

The usual bonuses
Earn 5,000 points – 2,500 bonus
Earn 15,000 points – 5,000 bonus
Earn 25,000 points – 10,000 bonus
For every 25,000 points above 25,000 – 5,000 bonus
Member of winning team (if you’ve scored at least 2,500 points) – 10,000 bonus
Highest scorer on each team – 5,000 bonus
Player with #1 overall score – 10,000 bonus
Player with #2 overall score – 5,000 bonus
Player with #3 overall score – 2,500 bonus

Artwork by Daniela Gamba