Analog Angle Article

I like “analog”, but I can’t figure this out at all

A recent article in The New York Times caught my attention, “In Now Digital New York, Polaroid Artists Tout Analog Art” and made me stop and think about the analog/digital divide.

Obviously, like many of you, I like “analog” solutions to design challenges more than the average engineer might. But that shouldn’t cause us to stick with “tried and true” beyond where it makes sense. What exactly is the point of using analog film, especially the inferior re-tread Polaroid film, unless you want to make an artistic “statement” or get attention? Today's digital cameras and printers do an amazingly good job in terms of resolution, color depth, and all the other factors that go into a quality mage, while film is, well, film.

Yes, I know that artists do things for reasons that we mere mortals can't always fathom, and press coverage and “buzz” are high among them. But I hope that, as design engineers, we don’t fall into this trap. We need to step back and ask “what makes sense here?” and “what answers our priorities here?”

After all, I wouldn’t want to implement a TV-signal decoder using analog circuitry or discrete transistors, right? And if I needed a peak detector for 10-MHz signals, I'd look to use a quality op amp, diode, and capacitor, rather than an expensive, power-hungry, high-resolution ADC and companion processor running a small chunk of data-comparison code. We use what makes sense—we don't have time to make “statements”. ♦

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