At number three on Fortune Magazine's “50 Greatest Business Rivalries of All Time” list is a story of the conflict between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla over power distribution techniques; namely DC proposed by Edison and AC proposed by Tesla. We all know how that ended and the story offers some interesting if not gruesome sidebars regarding the effort to which Edison went to discredit Tesla's approach. By the way, Nikola's namesake, the Tesla automobile, which operates from a pack of over a thousand lithium-ion batteries, is actually AC powered, thanks to a bucket full of IGBTs. The Tesla Roadster uses an (AC) Induction motor, first patented by Nikola Tesla in 1888.
The whole AC vs. DC thing got me thinking about analog vs. digital. The Tesla powertrain is a perfect marriage of these two technologies. As I contemplated this, I tried to think if any of the electronics in my life are pure analog (or pure digital, for that matter). I walked through every room in the house and took an inventory.
Fifty years ago, this would have been a no-brainer. My TV, my car radio (AM only), my phonograph player, the heater thermostat, the telephone (anyone remember POTS?), my ham radio… they were all analog.
Today it's a different story. My TV is digital and much improved from the one in my home as a teenager. My car radio is mostly digital. My phonograph and reel-to-reel tape deck — well, I'm not sure what happened to them, but my music is now stored and played back digitally. My ham radio is full of digital stuff that makes it far superior to my old (dare I say it) Heathkits. My telephone has digital everything… memories for my frequently-called numbers (I used to use my brain for that), auto redial, caller ID, yada, yada, yada.
Even my brand new water heater has a digital chip in it. My power tools have digital speed control and laser light guides. Many of the lights in my home now have power management chips in them. My computer is mostly digital but the audio is analog. I tried to identify anything that was still all analog in my life (aside from me, and that of course remains questionable). I found one item; my Collins 30L1 Linear Amplifier (for my ham radio), but hams are an anomaly and cannot be part of any such survey. One thing I know for sure. If one of my old analog products ever broke, I could fix it.
I'd be curious to hear from you if you have any pure analog or pure digital items in your life — that is, of course, if any such items exist.