Types of circuits – Basic electronics tutorial

 Analog circuits

Hitachi J100 adjustable frequency drive chassis.
Hitachi J100 adjustable frequency drive chassis.

Most analog electronic appliances, such as radio receivers, are constructed from combinations of a few types of basic circuits. Analog circuits use a continuous range of voltage as opposed to discrete levels as in digital circuits. The number of different analog circuits so far devised is huge, especially because a ‘circuit’ can be defined as anything from a single component, to systems containing thousands of components.

Analog circuits are sometimes called linear circuits although many non-linear effects are used in analog circuits such as mixers, modulators etc. Good examples of analog circuits include vacuum tube and transistor amplifiers, operational amplifiers and oscillators.

Some analog circuitry these days may use digital or even microprocessor techniques to improve upon the basic performance of the circuit. This type of circuit is usually called ‘mixed signal’.

Sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate between analog and digital circuits as they have elements of both linear and non-linear operation. An example is the comparator which takes in a continuous range of voltage but puts out only one of two levels as in a digital circuit. Similarly, an overdriven transistor amplifier can take on the characteristics of a controlled switch having essentially two levels of output.

Digital circuits

Digital circuits are electric circuits based on a number of discrete voltage levels. Digital circuits are the most common physical representation of Boolean algebra and are the basis of all digital computers. To most engineers, the terms “digital circuit”, “digital system” and “logic” are interchangeable in the context of digital circuits. In most cases the number of different states of a node is two, represented by two voltage levels labeled “Low” and “High”. Often “Low” will be near zero volts and “High” will be at a higher level depending on the supply voltage in use.

Computers, electronic clocks, and programmable logic controllers (used to control industrial processes) are constructed of digital circuits. Digital Signal Processors are another example.


• logic gates
• Adders
• Binary Multipliers
• flip-flops
• counters
• registers
• multiplexers
• Schmitt triggers

Highly integrated devices:

• microprocessors
• microcontrollers
• Application specific integrated circuit(ASIC)
• Digital signal processor (DSP)
• Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)

Mixed-signal circuits 

Mixed-signal circuits refers to integrated circuits (ICs) which have both analog circuits and digital circuits combined on a single semiconductor die or on the same circuit board. Mixed-signal circuits are becoming increasingly common. Mixed circuits contain both analog and digital components. Analog to digital converters and digital to analog converters are the primary examples. Other examples are transmission gates and buffers.

Heat dissipation and thermal management 

Thermal management of electronic devices and systems

Heat generated by electronic circuitry must be dissipated to prevent immediate failure and improve long term reliability. Techniques for heat dissipation can include heatsinks and fans for air cooling, and other forms of computer cooling such as water cooling. These techniques use convection, conduction, & radiation of heat energy.


Noise is associated with all electronic circuits. Noise is generally defined as any unwanted signal that is not present at the input of a circuit. Noise is not the same as signal distortion caused by a circuit.

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