About Digital Electronics: Digital electronics or digital (electronic) circuits are electronics that operate on digital signals. In contrast, analog circuits manipulate analog signals whose performance is more subject to manufacturing tolerance, signal attenuation and noise. Digital techniques are helpful because it is a lot easier to get an electronic device to switch into one of a number of known states than to accurately reproduce a continuous range of values.
Digital electronic circuits are usually made from large assemblies of logic gates (often printed on integrated circuits), simple electronic representations of Boolean logic functions.
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An advantage of digital circuits when compared to analog circuits is that signals represented digitally can be transmitted without degradation caused by noise. For example, a continuous audio signal transmitted as a sequence of 1s and 0s, can be reconstructed without error, provided the noise picked up in transmission is not enough to prevent identification of the 1s and 0s.
In a digital system, a more precise representation of a signal can be obtained by using more binary digits to represent it. While this requires more digital circuits to process the signals, each digit is handled by the same kind of hardware, resulting in an easily scalable system. In an analog system, additional resolution requires fundamental improvements in the linearity and noise characteristics of each step of the signal chain.
With computer-controlled digital systems, new functions to be added through software revision and no hardware changes. Often this can be done outside of the factory by updating the product’s software. So, the product’s design errors can be corrected after the product is in a customer’s hands.
Information storage can be easier in digital systems than in analog ones. The noise immunity of digital systems permits data to be stored and retrieved without degradation. In an analog system, noise from aging and wear degrade the information stored. In a digital system, as long as the total noise is below a certain level, the information can be recovered perfectly. Even when more significant noise is present, the use of redundancy permits the recovery of the original data provided too many errors do not occur.
In some cases, digital circuits use more energy than analog circuits to accomplish the same tasks, thus producing more heat which increases the complexity of the circuits such as the inclusion of heat sinks. In portable or battery-powered systems this can limit use of digital systems. For example, battery-powered cellular telephones often use a low-power analog front-end toamplify and tune in the radio signals from the base station. However, a base station has grid power and can use power-hungry, but very flexible software radios. Such base stations can be easily reprogrammed to process the signals used in new cellular standards.
Many useful digital systems must translate from continuous analog signals to discrete digital signals. This causesquantization errors. Quantization error can be reduced if the system stores enough digital data to represent the signal to the desired degree of fidelity. The Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem provides an important guideline as to how much digital data is needed to accurately portray a given analog signal.
In some systems, if a single piece of digital data is lost or misinterpreted, the meaning of large blocks of related data can completely change. For example, a single-bit error in audio data stored directly as linear pulse code modulation causes, at worst, a single click. Instead, many people use audio compression to save storage space and download time, even though a single bit error may cause a larger disruption.
Because of the cliff effect, it can be difficult for users to tell if a particular system is right on the edge of failure, or if it can tolerate much more noise before failing. Digital fragility can be reduced by designing a digital system for robustness. For example, a parity bit or other error management method can be inserted into the signal path. These schemes help the system detect errors, and then either correct the errors, or request retransmission of the data.