Analog-to-Digital Converter

What Does Analog-to-Digital Converter Mean?

An analog-to-digital converter is any device that converts analog signals (continuous quantity) into digital signals (discrete time digital representation). The analog signal is a continuous sinusoidal wave form that cannot be read by a computer, hence the need for conversion. By converting the analog signal, data can be amplified, added or taken from the original signal.

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Techopedia Explains Analog-to-Digital Converter

The usual conversion process makes use of a comparator, where at some point, the value of the input analog signal is compared to a standard, so the converter will know if the input warrants a high or low signal. In the case of audio digital conversion, the amplitude or volume is constantly measured, and the output is a list of binary data that contains sound wave values.

Typically, only a single chip does most of the conversion. The rest of the components are for other functions.

The signals are often in electrical form, as in the case of a modem or cable TV. Phone line or cable signals are analog; the modem demodulates a signal and converts it into digital signals, so that the computer or the digital TV can understand them.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.