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This chapter is from the book

Digital Signal Processing

Digital signal processing is the mathematical manipulation of the numerical values of a digital signal that changes the digital signal in some advantageous way. For example, let’s say a vocalist is singing into a microphone and we convert that analog voice signal to a digital signal. Next, the values of the numbers in the digital signal can be modified such that when the modified digital signal is converted back to an analog signal and played through a loudspeaker, we hear a slight echo in the singing that gives us a more pleasant sound. Manipulating pop singers’ voices is standard operating procedure in today’s music business. We discuss that topic in more detail in Chapter 4.

For a more serious example of digital signal processing, consider undergoing an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) test to check for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. Small electrodes, taped to your chest, detect an analog electrical signal produced by your heart that often looks like that shown in Figure 1-2(a). For various practical reasons, the analog electrode signal is contaminated with abrupt, unwanted signal-level fluctuations, called noise, making it impossible for a doctor to evaluate your heart’s electrical activity.

Figure 1-2

Figure 1-2 Electrocardiogram signals: (a) original measured noisy signal; (b) improved signal display after digital signal processing.

Today, digital signal processing comes to the rescue. As shown in Figure 1-3, the analog electrical sensor signal is converted to a digital signal. Next, the numerical values in the digital signal are modified in a way that eliminates the unwanted noise portion of the signal. The result is a clean EKG display, as shown in Figure 1-2(b), enabling a doctor to quickly evaluate the health of your heart

Figure 1-3

Figure 1-3 Using digital signal processing to improve an electrocardiogram signal display.

Other applications for DSP include military, industrial, space exploration, photography, communications, scientific, seismic, weather and many more. As we showed earlier in Table 1.1, life would go on without the benefits of DSP. However, we would have to do without so very many conveniences that we currently enjoy.

OK, this concludes our super-brief introduction to analog and digital signals, and digital signal processing. In later chapters, we’ll learn more details about signals and signal processing.

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