Digital electronics is one of the fundamental courses found in all electrical engineering and most science programs. Digital electronics is essential to understanding the design and working of a wide range of applications, from consumer and industrial electronics to communications; from embedded systems, and computers to security and military equipment. As the devices used in these applications decrease in size and employ more complex technology, it is essential for engineers and students to fully understand both the fundamentals and also the implementation and application principles of digital electronics, devices and integrated circuits, thus enabling them to use the most appropriate and effective technique to suit their technical needs.
Digital logic is something of a misnomer as it implies the manipulation of decimal numbers. The name originated in early digital computers which were used mainly for numerical calculations and so the circuits inside these computers were called digital logic circuits. Instead of the ten levels required for the representation of decimal numbers, logic circuits use two levels and binary logic would be a more appropriate name. The two levels or states can be named after any distinguishable pair and the most commonly used are given in table below.
The earliest known attempt at the analysis of systems containing a number oftwo-state variables was made by Aristotle. He investigated sentences to determine the ways in which statements could be compounded and the truth or falsity of the compound statement. However, it was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that George Boole developed the mathematical structures for their analysis (Boolean algebra) and gave us many of the terms used today to describe logic circuits.
Analogue Versus Digital
There are two basic ways of representing the numerical values of the various physical quantities with which we constantly deal in our day-to-day lives. One of the ways, referred to as analogue, is to express the numerical value of the quantity as a continuous range of values between the two expected extreme values. For example, the temperature of an oven settable anywhere from 0 to 100 °C may be measured to be 65 °C or 64.96 °C or 64.958 °C or even 64.9579 °C and so on, depending upon the accuracy of the measuring instrument. Similarly, voltage across a certain component in an electronic circuit may be measured as 6.5 V or 6.49 V or 6.487 V or 6.4869 V. The underlying concept in this mode of representation is that variation in the numerical value of the quantity is continuous and could have any of the infinite theoretically possible values between the two extremes.
The other possible way, referred to as digital, represents the numerical value of the quantity in steps of discrete values. The numerical values are mostly represented using binary numbers. For example, the temperature of the oven may be represented in steps of 1 °C as 64 °C, 65 °C, 66 °C and so on. To summarize, while an analogue representation gives a continuous output, a digital representation produces a discrete output. Analogue systems contain devices that process or work on various physical quantities represented in analogue form. Digital systems contain devices that process the physical quantities represented in digital form.
Digital techniques and systems have the advantages of being relatively much easier to design and having higher accuracy, programmability, noise immunity, easier storage of data and ease of fabrication in integrated circuit form, leading to availability of more complex functions in a smaller size. The real world, however, is analogue. Most physical quantities – position, velocity, acceleration, force, pressure, temperature and flowrate, for example – are analogue in nature. That is why analogue variables representing these quantities need to be digitized or discretized at the input if we want to benefit from the features and facilities that come with the use of digital techniques. In a typical system dealing with analogue inputs and outputs, analogue variables are digitized at the input with the help of an analogue-to-digital converter block and reconverted back to analogue form at the output using a digital-to-analogue converter block. Analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue converter circuits are discussed at length in the latter part of the book. In the following sections we will discuss various number systems commonly used for digital representation of data.