Analog vs Digital: Describing modes of note-taking

With regard to note-taking is it correct to call handwriting on paper the “analog” counterpart to digital “typing” on a computer?


When contrasting analog to digital, analog means

of a system of measurement in which a continuously varying value, as sound, temperature, etc., corresponds proportionally to another value, esp. a voltage

Digital means

designating or of data, images, sounds, etc. that are stored, transmitted, manipulated, or reproduced by a process using groups of electronic bits represented as 1 or 0

While a digital systems can use numerical systems other than base 2 (which uses 1 and 0), the critical factor is that the values are whole and discrete. A discrete piece of data cannot be 0.7 in a digital system. An analog system is continuous, so a discrete piece of data can be 0.6943218.

Naturally sounds are generally described as analog, that is there is theoretically an infinite number of steps between two volumes or pitches. Digitally occurring (or recorded) sounds have discrete steps because they are recorded and reproduced by using a collection of discrete pieces of data that are either on or off, there or not there. Sophisticated digital systems can make these discrete pieces very small, giving very precise variations between to value points, but there is always a discrete step which cannot be cut in half.

Similarly, a digital watch has discrete time values that do not show the variations between the smallest units. An analog watch has a continuous dial that theoretically can show values in between minutes or seconds or tenths of seconds. In practice, many so-called analog watches are limited in their ability to show in-between values by the escape wheel in the mechanism.

How does this relate to writing? In a sense, a fixed alphabet is comparable to a digital system. There are fixed representations for a discrete number of values. There is no value in between a and b. This is true whether it is handwritten, crafted on a typewriter or transmitted by a word processor. There is no truly analog writing.

It could be argued that handwriting gives you some continuous control over size, spacing, embellishment of the letters, but the analog/digital divide generally focuses on the key values of the system, not the incidental qualities that do not reflect the actual sense of the system.

If you were discussing calligraphy (as opposed to writing), there would be a valid basis to say that hand drawn calligraphy could be called analog, since the variation of the key element, appearance, is continuous and infinitely variable, while stencilled or computer generated images would be digital, since the variability is limited to the precision of the steps in crafting or imaging.

Source : Link , Question Author : timothy.s.lau , Answer Author : Community

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