An analog or analogue signal is any continuous signal for which the time varying feature (variable) of the signal is a representation of some other time varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time varying signal. It differs from a digital signal in terms of small fluctuations in the signal which are meaningful. Analog is usually thought of in an electrical context; however, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and other systems may also convey analog signals.
An analog signal uses some property of the medium to convey the signal's information. For example, an aneroid barometer uses rotary position as the signal to convey pressure information. Electrically, the property most commonly used is voltage followed closely by frequency, current, and charge.
Any information may be conveyed by an analog signal; often such a signal is a measured response to changes in physical phenomena, such as sound, light, temperature, position, or pressure, and is achieved using a transducer.
For example, in sound recording, fluctuations in air pressure (that is to say, sound) strike the diaphragm of a microphone which induces corresponding fluctuations in the current produced by a coil in an electromagnetic microphone, or the voltage produced by a condensor microphone. The voltage or the current is said to be an "analog" of the sound.
An analog signal has a theoretically infinite resolution. In practice an analog signal is subject to noise and a finite slew rate. Therefore, both analog and digital systems are subject to limitations in resolution and bandwidth. As analog systems become more complex, effects such as non-linearity and noise ultimately degrade analog resolution to such an extent that the performance of digital systems may surpass it. Similarly, as digital systems become more complex, errors can occur in the digital data stream. A comparable performing digital system is more complex and requires more bandwidth than its analog counterpart. In analog systems, it is difficult to detect when such degradation occurs. However, in digital systems, degradation can not only be detected but corrected as well.
The main advantage is the fine definition of the analog signal which has the potential for an infinite amount of signal resolution. Compared to digital signals, analog signals are of higher density.
Another advantage with analog signals is that their processing may be achieved more simply than with the digital equivalent. An analog signal may be processed directly by analog components, though some processes aren't available except in digital form.
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