Analogue is Analog

Professor Sampler was as old as tape, and Bob reluctantly stepped into his study, fearing the beginning of a long and tedious lecture on the evils of digital.

“Change is inevitable, and you should embrace digital.”

That’s the last thing Bob expected him to say.

“Of course, one needs to be careful about expressing one’s views in public. Believe me, a lynch mob is as analog as it gets.”

Analogue is Analog
“Our town isn’t like that.”

“Not on the surface, but deep in the internet underbelly are forums where even angels fear to tread, where flame wars are fought every hour over the latest press release. Countless megapixels are destroyed in the process, and keyboard manufacturers have never had it this good. This is what I want to protect you against. If you know the answer to just one question, you will have won half the battle.”

Bob’s blank stare didn’t please Professor Sampler.

“Don’t you want to know what that question is, boy?”

“Very much, professor.”

Professor Sampler pointed to his wall. Next to a photo of two dudes, Harry and Claude, was the plaque that read:

Know thyself – #TempleDelphi @wolfkrow

“Poets study nature and find words to express what they see or feel. Musicians hunt for notes. Your father looks for light and composition. Engineers try to find a way to stick all that down a wire or beam it via satellite. They are hell bent on calling it a signal. In the Neanderthal age they tried to stick signals into whatever they could find – rocks, wood, shells, nasal cavities. The idea is to control signals, to preserve them, to get paid for them. We Analog folk are descendents of this proud race – we use nature to store and transmit nature. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just leave everything where it is, and move ourselves instead.”

No wonder Bob hated analog. That didn’t make a bit of sense.

“I see you are multiplexed. That comes with being a videographer. Look at it this way: Sound travels through air via movement of particles. Light hits film and chemical reactions produce an image. Energy flows every which way. When you know where it’s going, you call it a signal. Everything around us is analog. In fact, come to think of it, there isn’t a good definition for it at all. What is most obvious to us is the toughest to explain.”

Bob decided he had had enough. “Maybe if you can explain what digital is, that might help.”

“You are brighter than you look. I’ll give it a shot. Some bright dude – maybe it was a girl, but these minor details got lost in transmission over the ages – hated the fact that analog signals are never perfect.”

Sampler brought his voice down to a whisper, afraid of being overheard. “Yes, I said it. You know what the problem with analog signals is? They don’t end like they begin. What goes in isn’t what comes out. There’s always a loss. We are always shortchanged.”

“Why’s that?”

“The laws of the universe, I’m afraid. Energy is always lost, sometimes to heat, sometimes to the atmosphere, sometimes to drunken atoms that aren’t paying attention and do their own thing – it’s a travesty. You know what that means. If the signal is imperfect the message is distorted. When the King sings you don’t want to hear Queen, do you?”

It was tough keeping up with Sampler. “How come nobody ever speaks about this?”

“We are humble folk, Bob. We are humble because we are imperfect. Our proud forefathers realized that even if somebody is perfect, there’s no way to transmit that message without loss in the signal. So it’s wise to just shut up.”

At that moment the door opened unexpectedly, and in walked Cathy Digital, with two legs, two hands, two eyes, and two ears, two of everything wonderful and twice as perfect.

“Uncle Sampler, I couldn’t find a single CF card in the entire town. This place is a dump, where dead pixels come to get buried.”

What a voice! What razor sharp eye lashes! What steady motion! What a beautiful seamless patterned dress with zero aliasing! And no signal loss! The realization dawned on him: Digital was perfection. If only he could get his hands on it! Wait…Uncle?

Cathy barely noticed the open mouthed pimple faced boy who looked like his highlights had been clipped. She glided into her room and slammed the door shut.

“I forgot to tell you, Bob. That was Cathy Digital, my niece.”

“I want to buy her flowers. What’s her favorite color space?”

Next: Digital is Discrete
Previous: Introduction