There are others like iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy, Pepsi vs Coca-cola (Okay, just had to throw in that last one). Anyway, seriously, analog vs digital seems to be popping up now and again and we decided to share a few things about what these two terms really are.
The perception nowadays is that everything buzz worded with digital is modern and analog is dated. Well in some sense that may be true as most digital technologies are more modern than their analog equivalents.
Before we go further just to be on the same page, analog can be best described as a continuous signal which represents physical quantities. On the other hand, digital is a set of discrete time signals in one or two states of either on or off.
A Deeper Dive into Analog vs Digital
In reality we live in an analog world. What that means is that the signals we see or hear reach our eyes and ears via analog means. This is something we are destined to live with for the rest of lives.
These signals can either be natural or artificial. Natural signals can be waveforms in the form of light or sounds. Examples of artificial waveforms include radio and television signals among others.
If you live in modern times, you probably know that there are also digital signals flying past us depending on how close you are to civilization. In most cases these digital signals are created artificially.
In both cases the signals can transmitted via physical media such as cables or through the air as wireless signals.
Taking a Closer Look
Analog is seen as inferior technology as the quality of media under analog tends to be of a worse of quality than digital when perceived through our senses. We all know the old movies recorded on VHS video tapes or music on Magnetic or Cassette tapes.
The quality to start off was not the best. It got worse as the same media was copied across several tapes. This is because analog being a continuous signal of variations in amplitude in very tiny wavelengths. These signals are easily corrupted by external interference called noise. So every attempt to duplicate the signal results in loss of quality.
Again to store high quality video and audio or radio signals, a lot of memory and bandwidth is needed to accommodate this.
On the other hand digital signals are stored in distinct forms of the two states of electricity which are on and off. These are represented as 0s and 1s on storage media. Because of this, duplicating and transmitting does not result in loss of quality.
In contrast to analog vs digital this would be one of the reasons why the length of analog cables such as computer VGA cabled are limited by length. Again cables that transmit digital signals can be significantly longer such as HDMI cables.
Unfortunately even though digital tends to store much better quality data than analog in a similar memory capacity, we as humans cannot consume data in digital form. It must therefore be converted back to analog for us to make any use of it.
This is done by devices such as DACs (Digital Analog converters). In the case of sound, the digital audio data from the hard-disk for example has to be converted to analog and transmitted to your speakers which in turn converts the continuous signal into sound waves which we can then pick up with our ears.
Likewise the digital signal from a video card on a computer has to be converted to analog in the case of a VGA output. In the case of HDMI the digital data is sent to the monitor device in digital form. In either case the signal is eventually converted back to light waves of varied wavelengths represented as color. This waves are picked up by our eyes and interpreted as visuals that form distinct pictures.
So What’s the Verdict on Analog vs Digital
In a perfect world, digital on its own would be bad, the same as analog on its own. The ideal situation is where digital is ideal for storage, duplication and transmission while consumption is left to analog.