Digital describes systems that generate and process binary data. Computers are fundamentally digital machines because they process information that has been encoded as binary values either one that’s positive (represented as 1) or one that’s non-positive (represented as 0). These values, called bits, are combined to form bytes that serve as the foundation for all computer systems.

Digital vs. analog

The opposite of digital is analog. One common analog device is a clock with mechanical hands that move continuously around the face. Whereas analog clocks are capable of indicating every possible time of day, a digital clock is capable of representing only a finite number of times (every tenth of a second, for example).

In general, humans experience the world analogically. Vision, for example, is an analog experience because we can perceive infinitely smooth gradations of shapes and colors. Most analog events, however, can be simulated digitally. Photographs in newspapers, for instance, consist of an array of dots that are either black or white. From afar, the viewer does not see the dots (the digital form), but only lines and shading, which appear to be continuous. Although digital representations are approximations of analog events, they are useful because they are relatively easy to store and manipulate electronically. The challenge is in converting from analog to digital, and back again.

This is the principle behind compact discs (CDs). The music itself exists in an analog form, as waves in the air, but these sounds are then translated into a digital form that is encoded onto the disc. When a compact disc is played, the CD player reads the digital data, translates it back into its original analog form, and sends it to the amplifier and eventually the speakers.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing refers to campaigns that are executed through digital mediums, including search engines, social media, and email. Unlike traditional marketing channels, digital marketing makes it easier to collect data about a business’s audience and develop audience personas. Digital marketing also makes it easier for businesses to reach new customers on a smaller budget. Because digital marketing campaigns can be quickly launched or changed, many businesses prioritize digital marketing over traditional marketing avenues.

The Digital Revolution

Similar to the Industrial Revolution that was characterized by new manufacturing processes in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Digital Revolution marked a global shift in culture and economics that was influenced by the rise of digital electronics. The Digital Revolution also signified the start of the Information Age.

It started in the mid 1980s with the commercialization of the World Wide Web and personal computers, and many historians believe it ended around the year 2010. This is because most of the technological innovations since the smartphone have been evolutions or adaptations of existing technology rather than net new, revolutionary inventions.


Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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