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Chapter 3: ADC and DAC

Most of the signals directly encountered in science and engineering are continuous: light intensity that changes with distance; voltage that varies over time; a chemical reaction rate that depends on temperature, etc. Analog-to-Digital Conversion (ADC) and Digital-to-Analog Conversion (DAC) are the processes that allow digital computers to interact with these everyday signals. Digital information is different from its continuous counterpart in two important respects: it is sampled, and it is quantized. Both of these restrict how much information a digital signal can contain. This chapter is about information management: understanding what information you need to retain, and what information you can afford to lose. In turn, this dictates the selection of the sampling frequency, number of bits, and type of analog filtering needed for converting between the analog and digital realms.