Analog vs. Digital

Does anyone have a way to describe the difference between analog and digital data? I’ve seen the definitions in, but these are not clear to students.

I tell them to think of analog as real world… there’s infinite detail in the real world that is completely continuous, its not discrete as you see on digital. for example you can get closer and closer to something and see so much detail, even without eyes you can use a microscope and see even more detail the detail of the real world is infinite, but on anything digital there’s only so much of that detail captured.


I dont know if these examples help or not??? (dimmer switch vs light switch)

Analog is a continuously changing signal. The word Analog means “is like”. This signal change can be gradual or significant. An Analog Signal is best represented as a physical wave. In a physical wave the signal increases and decreases, and from one moment to another, there is a gradual change up to or down. A typical example of an analog device in a home would be a dimmable light. The light can be adjusted to several different intensities, and it is not simply on or off but can be gradually made brighter or dimmer.

Digital is an on or off type of signal with no in-between. A digital signal is often referred to as blocky, where the signal will go from off to on. Most light switches are digital. When a person enters a room and flips the switch, the lights turn on. Even if they flip the switch slowly, there is a point where the lights turn on. They cannot go in between. The lights are either entirely on or off. This is representative of a digital signal because it is on or off, or in a computer system, it is a 1 or 0.


I like to use my clock in my room. It has seconds, which is continuous taking measurements. You can get pretty specific on the time down to milliseconds with the right clock.

Digital is like there clock on their phones. You know the minute, but not the second. It is taking updates every minute. You know the approximate time, but not the exact. That is also an example of sampling.

Analog is more exact because it is always reading, digital is a representation because you are only getting certain data points.