What's the Difference Between Analog and Digital Technology?

In analog technology, a wave is recorded or used in its original form. So, for example, in an analog tape recorder, a signal is taken straight from the microphone and laid onto tape. The wave from the microphone is an analog wave, and therefore the wave on the tape is analog as well. That wave on the tape can be read, amplified and sent to a speaker to produce the sound.

In digital technology, the analog wave is sampled at some interval, and then turned into numbers that are stored in the digital device. On a CD, the sampling rate is 44,000 samples per second. So on a CD, there are 44,000 numbers stored per second of music. To hear the music, the numbers are turned into a voltage wave that approximates the original wave.

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The two big advantages of digital technology are:

  • The recording does not degrade over time. As long as the numbers can be read, you will always get exactly the same wave.
  • Groups of numbers can often be compressed by finding patterns in them. It is also easy to use special computers called digital signal processors (DSPs) to process and modify streams of numbers (see How CDs Work for a more detailed explanation).

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Analog vs. Digital FAQ

What is the difference between analog and digital technology?
Both analog and digital signals carry information. The difference lies in how signals are encoded. In analog technology, waves or signals are stored in the original form, as in the case of an analog recorder where signals are recorded in the tape directly from the microphone. However, in digital technology, waves or signals are sampled at intervals and then converted into numbers before being stored in a digital device.
Is WiFi digital or analog?
Signals are neither analog nor digital because they are simply waves of information. It’s the way they are encrypted that makes them analog or digital. So, in this way, WiFi technology sends information in digital form. Thus, WiFi is digital technology.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital technology?
Signals that are digitally transmitted require less bandwidth than analog transmitted signals. Moreover, as data is stored in the form of numbers in digital technology, it makes it compact, compressible and easy to process via Digital Signal Processors (DSPs).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of analog technology?
In analog technology, signals are easy to synchronize with smaller bandwidth. Another advantage is that they are easy to process and allow an infinite range of values to be stored. However, a major con of analog signals is that they produce unwanted noise and disturbance in the transmitted data.
Are digital watches more accurate than analog watches?
When it comes to accuracy, digital watches are more accurate than analog because they have less variation in electronic signals. A typical digital watch has only 15 to 30 seconds of variation in a month, whereas a typical mechanical analog watch can have around 5 to 20 seconds of variation in one day.