In the article “Digital,” Tara McPherson defines digital and explains how it has developed along with technology. Where digital once meant anything to do with numbers less than ten or fingers and toes, it now more often refers to anything that processes zeros and ones. One large consideration McPherson makes is the fact that humans operate in an analog structure, seeing things as a spectrum and not finite open or closed, zeros and ones.

Important Aspects

Computers are not just digital, they are also analog systems that build “relationships between a problem’s variables into analogous relationships between electrical qualities.” These computers simulate “dynamic problems.” While they are not what we use for processing in most electronics, they still have their uses beyond binary systems.

“Historians of computation typically narrate the transition from analog to digital computing as a story of efficiency and progress,” but the development of computers is more than increase in power and computational ability. We must also consider what came of human response to these incoming technologies.

Humans experience the world in a purely analog format. Analog is variable and changes on a gradient spectrum rather than in a binary structure. Though most consumer digital electronics today use binary, we still experience them in analog – touch, sight, sound. “The sensations we feel as we touch our keyboards and screens are analog feelings, rich in continuous input and gradations of the sensory.”


McPherson briefly mentioned “shifting racial codes,” but did not really expound upon how that effected the digital. It seemed as though she was trying to say that binary systems work like racial views – either you’re a one or a zero. It just seemed a little too abrupt.

I concur that computational evolution is based off of what people decide to use, but why does McPherson seems to say that defining that evolution by “efficiency and progress” is a bad thing? I do not believe that examining the development of better hardware from a pure technical point of view detracts from the understanding of digital development, as McPherson seems to suggest.

Larger Implications

There are two things here that I would actually like to address. 1) How does this affect how we define digital in the class? Does this bring the analog experience of books closer to the digital experience of a screen? 2) How would we define digital if computers were mostly analog? How much different would development have been and how could that help the development of future digital mediums?