November 12, 2009 by TMO
A digital system is a data technology that uses discrete (discontinuous) values. By contrast, non-digital (or analog) systems use a continuous range of values to represent information. Although digital representations are discrete, the information represented can be either discrete, such as numbers,letters or icons, or continuous, such as sounds, images, and other measurements of continuous systems.
The word digital comes from the same source as the word digit and digitus (the Latin word for finger), as fingers are used for discrete counting.
The word digital is most commonly used in computing and electronics, especially where real-world information is converted to binary numeric form as in digital audio and digital photography.
When data is transmitted, or indeed handled at all, a certain amount of noise enters into the signal. Noise can have several causes: data transmitted wirelessly, such as by radio, may be received inaccurately, suffer interference from other wireless sources, or pick up background noise from the rest of the universe. Microphones pick up both the intended signal as well as background noise without discriminating between signal and noise, so when audio is encoded digitally, it typically already includes noise.
In a digital signal, similar variances will not matter, as any signal close enough to a particular value will be interpreted as that value. Care must be taken to avoid noise and distortion when connecting digital and analog systems, but more when using analog systems.