Analog and digital computer theory

Frank E Block

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Analog signals abound in the natural world. With appropriate transducers these signals can be converted to continuous voltages and can be displayed, transmitted, stored, or copied. They can be processed by analog computers, the simplest of which is an audio amplifier. With analog signals, however, there can be errors because of signals loss, interference, and noise. Binary digital signals permit only two values, either 0 (‘off’ or ‘low’) or 1 (‘on’ or ‘high’). These signals are much less susceptible to transmission problems. Binary signals are commonly organized into 8-bit groups which can represent 256 different numbers or meanings. These data can be transmitted in either serial or parallel fashion at high rates of speed. Analog-to-digital converters permit analog signals to be transformed to digital signals. A computer consists of the memory, the processor, and the input/output devices. Memory includes the fastest registers, the very fast core memory, the peripheral storage devices such as diskettes and disks, and the very slow peripheral devices such as magnetic tape. The processor can only load and store numbers in memory, add two numbers, test a number, and provide input and output. The program counter indicates the next computer instruction to be performed. Input/output devices allow communication with the outside world and may assume many forms. A computer by itself can do nothing. A program or series of instructions is required. The most simplistic program language is assembler or machine language. Most programming is done in more sophisticated languages, however. When necessary, digital data can be restored to analog form by a digital-to-analog converter. Computers can accomplish many things faster, more accurately, and with less fatigue than a human being can.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • computers—analog
  • computers—digital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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