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Symbolic Signals

14 April, 2015 - 12:26

An interesting aspect of discrete-time signals is that their values do not need to be real numbers. We do have real-valued discrete-time signals like the sinusoid, but we also have signals that denote the sequence of characters typed on the keyboard. Such characters certainly aren't real numbers, and as a collection of possible signal values, they have little mathematical structure other than that they are members of a set. More formally, each element of the symbolic-valued signal s(n) takes on one of the values {a1,...,aK} which comprise the alphabet A. This technical terminology does not mean we restrict symbols to being members of the English or Greek alphabet. They could represent keyboard characters, bytes (8-bit quantities), integers that convey daily temperature. Whether controlled by software or not, discrete-time systems are ultimately constructed from digital circuits, which consist entirely of analog circuit elements. Furthermore, the transmission and reception of discrete-time signals, like e-mail, is accomplished with analog signals and systems. Understanding how discrete-time and analog signals and systems intertwine is perhaps the main goal of this course.