Why digital is bad written 12 years ago

Digital to Analog

If you get some photos developed today, chances are they’re going to be printed digitally after being scanned from the negatives. If you’re looking at a photo in a magazine, it’s likely to have come from a digital camera. Listening to almost any kind of music, will be coming from a digital source.

In each of those situations an analog (continuous) source, in the form of sound energy, or light energy is being approximated by a digital (discrete) signal. In each of these cases the digial signal will always be “as good as it needs to be” or “adequate” for the job.

At uni I did a graphics course, and the entire module was all about making digital hardware try its best to approximate the real world, using as many tricks and optimisations as possible. One noticable thing about the examples we were shown was that no matter how good they were, they didn’t compare to the real thing. The minute, tiny details make an image what it is.

But yet despite this, digitality is being squashed into more and more places. Most of the time undetectably, but I can recall countless occasions when I’ve seen poorly compressed, or grossly enlarged images featured in magazines. In this situation a print from a film negative would invariably have resulted in a better image.

Simply because of the ease and cheapness of digital technology, it is slowly replacing far superior systems. Many audiophiles will only listen to vinyl recordings as they think it captures the true sound of the music, over the 44.1 kHz sample rate of an audio CD. The reason photos are now printed digitally is because it doesn’t require vats of (expensive) chemicals to make the image appear (and you get nice index prints too).

Whilst I love all things computery, and accept that the digital format is here to stay, I can’t help but hope that one day continuous storage media will exist, and 100% replicas can be made.

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 Comments 2 comments made

I disagree with some points in your article. I feel that overall, digital products are superior in quality to older technology and will only continue to get better.

originally posted by Spud

I feel that overall, digital products are superior in quality to older technology and will only continue to get better.

But whilst they will undoubtedly get better and better; they will still only be an approximation to the real thing.

I remember reading an article a while back (maybe from digg?) whereby a photography magazine would only accept reader submitted pictures if they were on film, as digital photos simply weren’t up to the same quality. Although for the consumer digital cameras are far, far more useful than film cameras, they still don’t match up to high quality film prints.

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