Digital signal processing has never been more prevalent or easier to perform. It wasn't that long ago when the fast Fourier transform (FFT), a topic we'll discuss in Chapter 4, was a mysterious mathematical process used only in industrial research centers and universities. Now, amazingly, the FFT is readily available to us all. It's even a builtin function provided by inexpensive spreadsheet software for home computers. The availability of more sophisticated commercial signal processing software now allows us to analyze and develop complicated signal processing applications rapidly and reliably. We can perform spectral analysis, design digital filters, develop voice recognition, data communication, and image compression processes using software that's interactive both in the way algorithms are defined and how the resulting data are graphically displayed. Since the mid1980s the same integrated circuit technology that led to affordable home computers has produced powerful and inexpensive hardware development systems on which to implement our digital signal processing designs.[] Regardless, though, of the ease with which these new digital signal processing development systems and software can be applied, we still need a solid foundation in understanding the basics of digital signal processing. The purpose of this book is to build that foundation.
[] During a television interview in the early 1990s, a leading computer scientist stated that had automobile technology made the same strides as the computer industry, we'd all have a car that would go a half million miles per hour and get a half million miles per gallon. The cost of that car would be so low that it would be cheaper to throw it away than pay for one day's parking in San Francisco.
In this chapter we'll set the stage for the topics we'll study throughout the remainder of this book by defining the terminology used in digital signal processing, illustrating the various ways of graphically representing discrete signals, establishing the notation used to describe sequences of data values, presenting the symbols used to depict signal processing operations, and briefly introducing the concept of a linear discrete system.
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