ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Analog or Digital - Which is Better?

Updated on November 6, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.


The question I posed in the title of this article is not the right question. The real question should be, which system is best for which applications? Analog and digital each has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the application. I will offer a few examples to prove my case.

- Oct. 2017


In photography, the current trend is that digital photography and digital cameras are superior in convenience and quality. Traditionally, film cameras was the popular medium and most professional photographers used film cameras like Leica and Nikon until recently. There is no doubt that digital cameras offer convenience and instant results and can be sent around the world... however, in terms of image quality, analog film has a slight edge. Depending on the application and the scene, a film can capture a wider dynamic range in the highlight and shadow areas. The reason is simple.

Digital cameras uses a CCD array sensor to capture light signals and convert them to an array of numbers. The higher the number the brighter the point. The signal is proportional to the exposed area. When the resolution of the image is very high, the area is small. Signal to noise ratio is a measurement of the quality of a signal. When a number is high in a bright area, the signal strength is high and the ratio is good. When the signal is low in a dark region, the noise remains the same and the ratio is thus reduced. This means the overall signal is not so good.

On the other hand, in film photography, the light and darkness is analog. It is not a numeric value but a continuous gradation of shades. It is also not an array but contiguous over the whole image. That is why Doctors prefer to view X-rays images from the raw film. Sometimes a tumor is very subtle and hard to detect. A digital image, no matter how good, is a sampling of the original film.

Therefore in this case, depending on the application, each has advantages and disadvantages.

Another Example

In audio systems, like a high end tuner and amplifier, the control knobs for tuning and volume are analog. The system may be digital but the controls are best in analog. Why is that? Our human auditory system is analog and our human interface is also geared for analog process. For example, if you want to adjust the volume of a music piece, you can more easily accomplish this task by reaching for a knob that turns to adjust low to high. You can do this blind folded. More importantly, you can control the volume precisely to your desired taste. If you try to do this on a digital interface, one that has a numeric number, you will find that sometimes, the best setting is between two numbers. That is because the digital control is not contiguous. It is only giving you a sub sample of all the available values. You can improve the digital design by increasing the granularity such that two adjacent numbers is very slight by adding a digit. The problem this introduces is the amount of play you need to turn on the knob.

A Final Example

In automobiles, the dashboard is a most important display. It gives the driver instantaneous indicators on the operation of the vehicle. It has the following common dials.

  • Speedometer
  • odometer
  • gas gage
  • tachometer
  • temperature gage
  • power gage

In most cases, the best indicator is an analog one. The only exception is the odometer where a precise number is best to indicate the number of miles traveled.

The analog dial is ideally suited for these applications. For example, the spedometer gage not only show you the current speed but it shows the range from minimum to maximum and it shows the dynamic changes instantaneously. As you accelerate, you see the dial moving. You are given much more information in a concise manor. Some recent designers have gone to a digital display for the speedometer. This will indicate the exact speed such as 60mph, but it lacks the other information of range and change. In this particular case, the digital version is less functional.


Depending on the application, analog vs. digital is a moot point. It is a matter of fitting the right design to the application. Human factors is a big part of this equation. Control systems tends to be better implemented using analog process.

© 2017 Jack Lee


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)