Analog vs. Digital

Analog vs. Digital

Though they have more general definitions, the words analog and digital are used most frequently to describe the display of time. In more specialized fields, they refer to the transfer and storage of data.

An analog clock has both an hour hand and a minute hand that are constantly in motion. Frequently, there is also a hand that measures seconds. The hands move in a circular pattern, from which we get the terms "clockwise" and "counterclockwise." In a more general sense, analog refers to any device in which data is represented by constantly changing physical properties. Analog devices transmit data in waves. Some devices can receive an analog signal (waves) and convert it to a digital signal (numbers).

A digital clock displays just the numbers corresponding to the current time and updates as the time changes (usually every minute). Computers and cell phones have digital time displays. In a more general sense, digital means relating to numerical digits, especially those that are represented in binary (0 and 1) format. The word can also refer to any device that is computerized and uses numbers. In less common usage, it can refer to use of fingers or toes (digits), such as a digital exam of a cat's ear.

There is some debate as to whether analog or digital media are superior. In general, digital data does not degenerate over time as analog does and it can be condensed to store more data in less space.

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