In the past twenty years, most of the major technological breakthroughs in consumer electronics have really been part of one larger breakthrough. When you get down to it, CDs, DVDs, HDTV, MP3s and DVRs are all built around the same basic process: converting conventional analog information (represented by a gradually fluctuating wave) into digital information (represented by 1s and 0s, or bits). This fundamental shift in technology totally changed how we handle visual and audio information -- it completely redefined what is possible.
A Nikon digital camera
The digital camera is one of the most remarkable instances of this shift because it is so truly different from its predecessor. Conventional cameras depend entirely on chemical and mechanical processes -- you don't even need electricity to operate one. All digital cameras have a built-in computer, and all of them record images in an entirely electronic form.
The new approach has proved monstrously successful. It may be decades before digital cameras completely replace film cameras, if they ever do, but they will probably account for around half of the U.S. market within the next few years.
In this article, we'll find out exactly what's going on inside these amazing digital-age devices.