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What are the Different Types of Digital Media Technology?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

Digital media can either refer to the sound and visual files a user accesses on a computer, or it can refer to digital storage devices that are used to transfer computer data. Usually, when a computer user refers to digital media, she is referring to the type of audio-visual media. Types of digital media technology include digital audio and video recording technology, digital media playback devices, and digital media editing software. Compact disks (CDs), digital video disk or digital versatile disks (DVDs), and digital cable boxes for television are some of the most common forms of digital media technology in household use. Other common devices include stereos with CD or computer audio file capability, digital televisions, or monitors used to view the digital video signal put out by the computer video card.

Many digital media devices simply play back the media file for the user to enjoy. Technology used to play digital media includes hardware and software. Common hardware used for digital media includes standalone handheld audio and video players as well as multi-functional devices with digital media technology capability, like iPhone® and Android®. Many digital media users use a desktop or laptop computer to manage, edit, and play digital media files. Because video games are also a form of media, video game consoles and video games themselves are forms of digital media technology.

USB thumb drive.
USB thumb drive.

Generally, media file types include image, audio, and video files. Digital media is in contrast with analog media because analog media is a stream of information, while digital media is made up of data broken down into numbers. Analog media includes tapes and records. Digital data is expressed in binary code, a computer language characterized by strings of 0s and 1s. Types of digital media files include Moving Picture Experts Group Layer-3 Audio (mp3) files, Joint Photographic Experts Group (jpeg) files and audio video interleave (avi) files.

A portable media player.
A portable media player.

It is less common for computer users to refer to data storage devices as digital media technology, and it usually happens when discussing computer memory storage. In most cases, the storage devices that might be called digital computer media are portable and removable, like a data card in a camera or the universal serial bus (USB) thumb drives used to move data from one computer to another. Though it indicates a different category of media, digital media units like CDs and DVDs still fit into this category of media technology.

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Discussion Comments


@starrynight - You bring up an excellent point. I've never thought about switching to a different brand of ereader since I bought my Nook and lets hope I never get the urge to. Either that or by the time something I like better comes out hopefully they will have standardized ebook file types.


@ceilingcat - Convenience is great but doesn't it make you nervous you don't actually own the book or song? Normally when you purchase digital media you're really only buying a license to use it.

Also most digital media has something called Digital Rights Management embedded into it. This basically stops the user from copying or changing the file. DRM is intended to stop people from pirating files but it makes life more difficult for your average honest citizen as well.

DRM is especially relevant as far as ebooks go because there isn't one standard format yet. If you should decide to switch from say, the Nook to the Kindle, you're totally out of luck. These readers recognize different types of files so you can't read books purchased for the Kindle on the Nook or vice versa.


Digital media is certainly convenient. I love that I don't have to leave the house anymore to rent a movie or buy a CD. I'm especially enamored with ebooks!

I bought an ereader about a year ago and I love that I can carry hundreds of book with me at all times. Not to mention if I finish a book at midnight I can buy another one. No more waiting for the bookstore to open in the morning!


@allenJo - Yes, arts colleges are common destinations for students seeking to expand their skills and opportunities in digital media. You don’t have to go to an arts school, however.

Some colleges have courses in digital media design, which you alluded to, but the schools I’m thinking about have these courses as an extension of their science or engineering majors.

I used to live in Pennsylvania, and their state school has a Digital Media Design program that combines graphic design with computer science. This is for students who want to create video games or other virtual reality type applications.

With this program you will graduate with an actual Bachelor of Science degree, but of course you need to be able to handle the math and computer science; not all arts majors can.


I have a friend who attends a digital media arts college. Actually, he didn’t go there directly. He went to a regular state school and majored in Graphic Design and Video Production, but he was at the top of his class. He continued his work at the arts college and the works he produces are amazing.

He uses a lot of CGI imagery to create simulated cityscapes with rich texture and gradient color patterns. It’s all 3D and he posts a lot of his stuff on YouTube.

I don’t know what he uses to actually create the CGI work, but I do know that he uses Final Cut Pro Video Editing software to edit the final clips. He’s so good he’s about to get an internship with a company that makes Hollywood special effects for movies.

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    • USB thumb drive.
      By: Debs (ò‿ó)♪
      USB thumb drive.
    • A portable media player.
      By: ambrits
      A portable media player.
    • Multi-function devices, like an iPhone, can be used to playback digital media.
      By: bloomua
      Multi-function devices, like an iPhone, can be used to playback digital media.
    • Digital video recorders allow people to download, sort, store, and view their favorite television shows.
      By: Yoanna Boyadzhieva
      Digital video recorders allow people to download, sort, store, and view their favorite television shows.
    • CDs can store digital media.
      By: Roman Gorielov
      CDs can store digital media.