Analog chips are small electronic circuits. Unlike digital chips that can differentiate only between "on" and "off" signals, analog chips can process gradations. In practical terms, digital chips are the best at manipulating or storing data bits as the numeral 1 or the numeral 0, and analog chips can read and process waveforms such as speech, music and video. Hence, analog chips create a bridge to the digital world full of storage and manipulation capabilities.
Examples of Uses
Digital cameras, cell phones, Internet telephony and downloading or uploading Internet audio, video or image files all involve analog technology. The typed word "hello" is simple for a digital chip to understand, but only analog chips can understand the spoken word. Storage on compact discs (CDs) and digital versatile discs (DVDs) is digital. Analog chips are used as translators to bridge the gaps into and out of the digital world, converting waveforms into digital data, then reassembling the data back into waveforms for it to be seen or heard. The digital format provides the storehouse.
When music is recorded to a CD, analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) sample the waveform at a discretionary rate. The higher the rate, the more accurate the reading. The term "CD quality" refers to a rate of 44,100 times per second.
Each rate sampling is logged as a discrete value, with one of 65,536 gradations possible within the value. This continuous record provides an extremely accurate measurement of the waveform in a numerical format. The numerical data gets translated into digital bits, which are recorded by a laser beam onto the CD or DVD surface in the form of pits and lands.
When the music or movie is played back, a laser reads the pits and lands to a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which reconstitutes the analog waveform from the digital blueprint. The waveform is amplified and sent through the speakers. ADCs and DACs, or coder-decoders, are known as codecs for short. Analog chips understand the language of codecs.
Analog chips are vital in many areas, including the automobile industry. Used as sensors, analog chips can detect a rise in motor temperature, report the health of the battery and provide accurate data on other systems. In an effort to further unite the digital and analog worlds, many chips are manufactured as hybrids of digital and analog chips. Although digital technology gets most of the attention, analog technology is what incorporates the human environment of waveforms and shades of gray into the ideal electronic formats.