The Return to Analog

Akiba writes

So much attention has been paid to digital technology in the past couple decades that its easy to forget our electronic roots. However I’ve been seeing an interesting trend in the past few years that seems to be accelerating. Just like bellbottoms and hippy gear, it looks like analog electronics is starting to become fashionable again.

Analog is the bane of electrical engineering students and conjures up bad flashbacks of analyzing useless circuit diagrams composed of passive components in bizarre configurations and trying to remember equivalent circuits for different types of transistor signal analysis for me.  It’s even worse for non-electrical engineering students because analog is a mysterious form of black magic that only bearded old men understand. Incidentally, all of those flashbacks were eliminated after I discovered two magical tools: SPICE simulation and Matlab.

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  1. Analog never really went away. I’ve always though of digital circuits as just masked analog cuircuits, and in a way, that’s actually true.

    Just like in block trouble shooting we look at a computer, it has individual parts like a power supply, hard drive, and such. I doubt we’d call the power supply digital, though we think of the whole pc as being digital.

    Analog and Digital working hand in hand.

    So, whenever we’re working with a power supply and a couple of caps, we’re most definitely in analog country. We feed that through a voltage rectifier and feed a cpu, we’re now in the digital world.

    Digital couldn’t exist without rectified power. Most certainly they make sense of the world without all the various analog temperature sensors, piezo electric pressure sensors, and the myriad of analog devices that interface with them every day.

  2. I have to second dataman above. So many digital signals are plagued by problems often thought of as being in the “analog” realm. The example I always think of is a step response. This is a great way to test an analog circuit, by shoving a step into it and seeing how it’ll respond. In digital, this is done continuously! If you have ringing on your lines you’re screwed.

    I’d also like to point out that there is a lot of cool stuff that can be done on the other side of the ADC and DAC. Signal processing for simple math (add, subtract) can be done in analog components, lessening the load on your processor and possibly going faster than your computer can go (esp in control systems).

  3. For the layman not educated at MIT, how does one begin a self-paced education in electronics, CNC, laser cutting and how to build and equip a workshop?

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