Thinking Digitally



Activity 4.1 – Thinking Digitally



Have you ever been to a foreign country where the people spoke a language you did not understand? You can imagine how hard it would be to communicate the most basic requests if you did not understand the language. How many different ways can you ask for a drink of water?


Digital electronics has a unique language that is based on 1’s and 0’s. Think back to your mathematics class when you had a lesson on base 2 number systems. You were probably confused when the teacher told you 10 in base ten is 10 but 10 in base 2 is 2.


This reading activity will introduce you to the world of digital electronics and explain some of the vocabulary you will be using in the activities.



Read the passage below and select the best answer. Write 1-7 in your notebook and place the letter of the correct answer next to the number of the question.

Digital Electronics


In digital electronic systems, the operations are carried out by a microprocessor. Microprocessors perform operations such as: the arithmetic computations a calculator does, the word processing a computer does, the cooking process a microwave oven uses, and the scenarios video games play. The microprocessors for these digital systems are contained in integrated circuits. The integrated circuits are made up of solid-state switches called transistors. A very simple circuit contains a few of these switches while the integrated circuits in today’s computers contain millions.


In order for us to communicate with digital electronic systems, we need to translate data into a form these systems can understand and process. This form is called binary code. The binary number system is very simple in that it has only two characters, 0 and 1. This fits nicely with the two possible states a transistor can be in; that is, off and on. However, our alphabet and number system use many different characters. So, to be able to translate all the different characters, groups of binary numbers need to be combined. A transistor can “hold” one bit (binary digit). It takes groups of eight bits (eight transistors) in various combinations of 0 and 1 to represent letters, numbers, or characters in binary code. An eight bit binary string equals one byte of data.


Sound, pictures, and video are processed into binary by a sampling process that integrated circuits can be programmed to do. But this requires lots of memory, or said differently, lots of transistors.


To get started in digital electronics, it is worthwhile to take a look at the integrated circuits that form digital systems. If we think of integrated circuits as a pyramid, the first level where transistors are combined into microprocessors is the logic gate level. Logic gates perform simple analysis of input conditions using a branch of mathematics called Boolean Logic. Calculators are made when logic gates are combined together in microprocessors. The widest application of digital electronics is in the design and manufacture of ASICS (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). These microprocessors can be found in products from cellular telephones to microwave ovens mentioned above. They are used to control the specific operations carried out in today’s digital electronic devices. Microprocessors that make computers are found at the top of the pyramid. These integrated circuits soon will contain as many as 1 billion transistors!


1.      This primary purpose of this article is to introduce____.

a.      how microprocessors are manufactured

b.      digital electronic systems...

c.      logic gates

d.      Boolean Logic


2.      According to the article, data translation is based on ____.

a.      Boolean Logic

b.      binary numbers...

c.      logic gates

d.      transistors


3.      Microprocessors are made up of ____.

a.      calculators

b.      transistors

c.   binary strings

d.      integrated circuits...


4.      According to the article, a “bit” is a/an ___.

a.      binary digit...

b.      byte

c.      binary code

d.      example of Boolean mathematics


5.      A computer’s microprocessor has more of these than a calculator has.

a.      wires

b.      Boolean math

c.      integrated circuits...

d.      logic gates


6.      In this article, Boolean Logic is described as a branch of

a.      technology

b.      engineering

c.      science

d.      mathematics ...


7.      Integrated circuits are made up of ____.

a.      microprocessors

b.      binary samplers

c.      calculators

d.      transistors...






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