What is a digitizer?


Updated: 08/04/2018 by Computer Hope

A digitizer is any device which receives analog information (such as sound or light) and creates a digital representation of it (such as a file on a computer). This process is called digitization.

For example, a digital camera is a digitizer. Light enters the camera through the lens, and the hardware and software inside the camera converts that information to binary data, and stores it an image file. The user may then transfer the file to a computer, where he or she can edit the image, print it out, or share it online.

The “digital information age” is said to have begun in 2002, which was the year that total digitized information in the world exceeded traditional analog information. As of 2018, the estimated total size of all stored digitized information in the world is greater than 300 exabytes.

Examples of digitizers

A digital camera is just one example of a digitizer. Other examples include:

  • Audio digitizers. Most computers have a microphone jack, where you can connect an analog microphone. The analog input (the audio signal) is processed in the computer by a discrete sound card, or by audio hardware on the motherboard itself. This data can then be used by software running on the computer. Some audio digitizers are small hand-held devices, and some are expensive peripherals that provide professional-level conversion quality. The microphone in a smartphone is another audio digitizer.

Illustration: Audio digitizer.

  • Digital Tablets. A tablet is a computing device which is controlled with a finger, or with a digital pen called a stylus. A tablet is usually larger than a smartphone, but smaller than a computer monitor. Some tablets have their own screen, which is touched directly, and some tablets are peripheral devices, without screens, which attach to a computer. The user can write, draw, and paint by touching the tablet. Software converts the analog touch input to lines or pressure-sensitive brush strokes in a document. The software may also perform handwriting recognition to convert handwritten text to typewritten words.

Illustration: digital tablet.

  • Accelerometers and gyroscopes. Digitizers inside smartphones and tablet computers can detect how fast the device is moving (an accelerometer), and the angle at which it is held (a gyroscope). The analog information of motion and angular rotation is converted to data your apps can use in real time. The gyroscope is what enables you to tilt your phone to simulate rolling a ball in a game, or hold your device up to the sky and see a diagram of the stars. The accelerometer helps reduce motion blur when you’re taking a photo, and can trigger safety mechanisms if the device is accidentally dropped.
  • Scanners. A scanner is a photographic device, usually stationary, which progressively captures image data. For instance, a flatbed scanner is a peripheral device which photographs a paper document or photograph by moving a small camera beneath a transparent glass surface, upon which the document is placed. A motion picture film scanner digitizes motion picture film frames by mechanically advancing the film one frame at a time, photographing the frames, and storing them as a sequence of digital images. A barcode scanner captures binary data by progressively scanning a laser across a printed barcode.

There are many other types of digitizers, with more being created every year.

Digitize, Hardware terms

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