Linear systems are a class of systems rather than having a specific input-output relation. Linear systems form the foundation of system theory, and are the most important class of systems in communications. They have the property that when the input is expressed as a weighted sum of component signals, the output equals the same weighted sum of the outputs produced by each component. When S (·) is linear,
for all choices of signals and gains. This general input-output relation property can be manipulated to indicate specific properties shared by all linear systems.
- S (Gx (t)) = GS (x (t)) The colloquialism summarizing this property is "Double the input, you double the output." Note that this property is consistent with alternate ways of expressing gain changes: Since 2x (t) also equals x (t)+ x (t), the linear system Definition provides the same output no matter which of these is used to express a given signal.
- S (0) =0 If the input is identically zero for all time, the output of a linear system must be zero. This property follows from the simple derivation S (0) = S (x (t) − x (t)) = S (x (t)) − S (x (t)) = 0.
Just why linear systems are so important is related not only to their properties, which are divulged throughout this course, but also because they lend themselves to relatively simple mathematical analysis. Said another way, "They're the only systems we thoroughly understand!"
We can find the output of any linear system to a complicated input by decomposing the input into simple signals. The equation above (2.34) says that when a system is linear, its output to a decomposed input is the sum of outputs to each input. For example, if
the output S (x (t)) of any linear system equals
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