Slaying Dragons #10 – A Fan of Analog

John Watkinson is a big fan of analog audio.

An analog is a phenomenon that behaves similarly to another. In speech we have similes and education is full of parallels. Whilst a painting or a sculpture can last thousands of years, in audio we have a problem that sound cannot be preserved at all in its original form. We are forced to resort to analogs to preserve anything in audio. A microphone output may be used to modulate the magnetism on a ferrous medium such as tape or disc, or it may physically modulate a non-ferrous medium such as a shellac, vinyl or polycarbonate disc.

At one level we don’t actually care how it is done. Provided the sound waveform coming back from the medium resembles the original waveform with adequate fidelity, it’s not important how it works. All media that can more or less do that are analogs. 78 rpm shellac discs, Compact Cassettes, DAT tapes, 45 and 33 1/3 rpm vinyl, CDs are all storing an analog of the original waveform.

Today the majority of audio recording is done using information technology. The analog from the microphone is converted to another analog which is a binary number proportional to the voltage. Many binary numbers are known as data, the plural of datum. Data have some advantages for storage, not least that error correction is possible.

So what is stored on a hard drive or a CD is still an analog. To treat the matter as a Venn diagram,

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