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Introduction to DSP - basics - What is DSP?

Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is used in a wide variety of applications, and it is hard to find a good definition that is general.

We can start by dictionary definitions of the words:

  • Digital: operating by the use of discrete signals to represent data in the form of numbers
  • Signal: a variable parameter by which information is conveyed through an electronic circuit
  • Processing: to perform operations on data according to programmed instructions

Which leads us to a simple definition of:

Digital Signal processing: changing or analysing information which is measured as discrete sequences of numbers

Note two unique features of Digital Signal processing as opposed to plain old ordinary digital processing:

  • signals come from the real world - this intimate connection with the real world leads to many unique needs such as the need to react in real time and a need to measure signals and convert them to digital numbers
  • signals are discrete - which means the information in between discrete samples is lost

The advantages of DSP are common to many digital systems and include:

  • digital systems can be reprogrammed for other applications (at least where programmable DSP chips are used)
  • digital systems can be ported to different hardware (for example a different DSP chip or board level product)
  • digital systems can be easily duplicated
  • digital systems do not depend on strict component tolerances
  • digital system responses do not drift with temperature
  • some things can be done more easily digitally than with analogue systems

DSP is used in a very wide variety of applications.

Areas where DSP is used

but most share some common features:

  • they use a lot of maths (multiplying and adding signals)
  • they deal with signals that come from the real world
  • they require a response in a certain time

Where general purpose DSP processors are concerned, most applications deal with signal frequencies that are in the audio range.

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