Any physical signal, such as a sound, or a light, or a voltage, is considered an analog signal. The thing about analog signals is that they are infinite in nature.
There are infinite numbers of sounds we can hear, there are infinite colors to perceive, and there are infinite numbers between the 1 and 2.
Digital on the other hand deals with discrete or finite signals or finite. There is only a ‘2’ between 1 and 3; no infinity.
As you can imagine, dealing with analog signals is very difficult. They are difficult to store and even more difficult to process. This is where analog to digital converters come into play.
Analog to Digital Conversion
An analog to digital converter (ADC), converts any analog signal into quantifiable data, which makes it easier to process and store, as well as more accurate and reliable by minimizing errors.
Here’s why ADCs are required:
Digital Signal Processing
Any digital processor, like a computer, needs digital input for processing, transporting and storing data. Once something is converted into a number, there is a lot that can be done with it. Calculations, manipulations, translations, transmissions, encoding, encrypting, etc. is possible only when an analog is converted into digital.
However, the reverse also needs to be done. The output is required in analog form and for that a DAC (digital analog converter). It converts digital output into analog output so that it is meaningful for the user.
There are many instruments that require analog to digital converters. Radars for example, pick up signal strengths and convert it into digital values for further processing. Digital cameras use ADC to digitize the pixels it captured with its lens.
ADCs are an integral part of the music industry today. ADCs are used for music recording, storing as well as auto-tuning. Digitizing the sounds allows it to manipulate music and voice, so that it sounds better than it actually is. Digitizing also allows eliminating any electromagnetic noise.
A rotary encoder is an electro-magnetic device that converts the angular motions of a shaft to digital signals. In this way, they can also be considered as an ADC. They are used in industrial robots, computers (as input devices), radar platforms and photographic lenses.