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Basic Concepts of Information Theory

Information Theory:  The branch of applied mathematics involving the quantification of information.

Information: A message that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or the meaning that can be interpreted from that message.


 Theory Basics






Basic Information Theory

Information theory was first developed by Claude E. Shannon while conducting research on the fundamental limits on signal processing in 1948.Shannon study was a purely statistical study with no regard for the content or meaning of the information, however it does introduce the concept of entropy in information which is similar to but not identical to thermodynamic entropy. His works produced among other things the measurement of information called the bit.

The full concept as illustrated by this chart includes the  source of information which is usually known to a person or a mechanism designed by a person. The source of the information  produces the message which is in turn is converted by a transmitter into a signal. At this point that noise can ender and degrade the signal causing a loss of information. Noise can be considered any random change in the signal content. The signal then gets picked up by a receiver which reproduces the message and then sends ir to the destination.

Information Storage

Below are several types of information storage devices. Despite differences in storage method they all work on the same basic concept. They all take some form of information and store it by imprinting a pattern into some form of medium. This is done in such a manner that the information can later be retrieved and restored to its original form or close to it.

Analog Information Storage

Analog Information Storage stores information by mimicking the pattern of the incoming signal.


Vinyl Record

A Vinyl Record used groves in the records to store sound patterns.

Audio cassette tapes

An audio cassette tape uses magnetic patterns to store sound patterns.

Digital Information Storage

Digital information systems store sound patterns and other types of data as symbolic usually numerical representations.

CD – Audio and data

A CD uses Physical patterns in the CD to store digital patterns of sound or data.

DVD - Video and data

A DVD uses Physical patterns in the DVD to store digital patterns of video or other data.

Hard drive

A Hard drive use magnetic patterns on its surface to store digital data.

USB flash drive

USB flash drive stores digital data electronically on microchips

The following are  examples of some older Digital Information Storage systems.

Books like this King James Bible.

Books contain information digitally encoded in the form of letters and words.


DNA is the digital information storage system of living cells. It contains information digitally encoded in four base pairs commonly denoted by:


A – Adenine
T  – Thymine
C - Cytosine
G – Guanine

Together they form the densest encoding system of information known.

Information Transmission

 Sound is the most common from of human transmission of information and the oldest since it is based on human speech. It is the most natural form of human communication and ultimately the bases of all other forms of human communication.

Visually transmission of information uses the visual observations of patterns to send information the following are two well known forms of visual transmission of information.

Semaphore uses flags that are moved in patterns to form an alphabet as a way to transmit information.

Smoke signals uses smoke patterns as a way to transmit information. They became famous because of their use by American Indians

Radio waves are low frequency Electromagnetic waves. The transmission of information by radio involves encoding it in to a signal. The signal is then transmitted by radio waves to a receiver that converts the signal back to recognizable form of information.

In conclusion information is an important part of life in the 21 first century. Information is the bases for the internet much of modern business data handling processes. As a result without information an the ability to transmit and processing much of what we take for granted in modern life would be impossible.

In the form of DNA information is absolutely necessary for life to exist at all. The information contained in DNA is used to make proteins, and  it tells the cell how to build needed structures. It also tells the cells in multicellular organisms how to specialize and how to form the structures of the organism.


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