Electronic circuit Digital circuits circuit
Main article: Digital electronics
In digital electronic circuits, electric signals take on discrete values, to represent logical and numeric values. These values represent the information that is being processed. In the vast majority of cases, binary encoding is used: one voltage (typically the more positive value) represents a binary '1' and another voltage (usually a value near the ground potential, 0 V) represents a binary '0'. Digital circuits make extensive use of transistors, interconnected to create logic gates that provide the functions of Boolean logic: AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR and all possible combinations thereof. Transistors interconnected so as to provide positive feedback are used as latches and flip flops, circuits that have two or more metastable states, and remain in one of these states until changed by an external input. Digital circuits therefore can provide both logic and memory, enabling them to perform arbitrary computational functions. (Memory based on flip-flops is known as static random-access memory (SRAM). Memory based on the storage of charge in a capacitor, dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is also widely used.)
The design process for digital circuits is fundamentally different from the process for analog circuits. Each logic gate regenerates the binary signal, so the designer need not account for distortion, gain control, offset voltages, and other concerns faced in an analog design. As a consequence, extremely complex digital circuits, with billions of logic elements integrated on a single silicon chip, can be fabricated at low cost. Such digital integrated circuits are ubiquitous in modern electronic devices, such as calculators, mobile phone handsets, and computers. As digital circuits become more complex, issues of time delay, logic races, power dissipation, non-ideal switching, on-chip and inter-chip loading, and leakage currents, become limitations to the density, speed and performance.
Digital circuitry is used to create general purpose computing chips, such as microprocessors, and custom-designed logic circuits, known as application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs). Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), chips with logic circuitry whose configuration can be modified after fabrication, are also widely used in prototyping and development.