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An encoder/decoder is a hardware tool that interprets information and converts it into a code, while also possessing the ability to convert that code back to its original source. In computing, an encoder takes either a sequence of characters or an analog signal and formats it for efficient transmission and/or storage.
Primitive technology that ultimately led to computer programming involved gears and physical motion. When the United States government developed the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) in the mid-twentieth century, electrical signals replaced physical motion as the method of computation.
Several other projects built upon the same computing principles, from which programming languages began to emerge. Their diversity gradually necessitated tools for translation. A hardware device that performs that function is known as an "endec," which is a portmanteau of "encoder/decoder." By contrast, a software device that performs that function is known as a "codec," which is a portmanteau of "coder/decoder."