Besides biasing of the junctions for linear operation, any state of the two junctions can occur. For example, both junctions might be forward-biased, in which case the transistor is said to be in saturation and acts nearly as a short circuit between E-C, while if the junctions are simultaneously back-biased the transistor is said to be cut off and acts as an open circuit between all terminals. The transistor can be controlled between saturation and cutoff to make it act as an electronically controlled switch. This mode of operation is especially useful for binary arithmetic, as used by almost all digital computers, where 0 and 1 logic levels are represented by the saturation and cutoff transistor states.
The path taken by an electric current in flowing through a conductor through one complete run of a set of wires from a power source, such as a panelboard, to various electrical devices and back to the same power source. The wires used for various circuits are prescribed by codes, such as the National Electrical Code.
Since active devices usually supply signal energy to an electronic circuit, and since energy can only be transformed and not created, a source of energy is needed when active devices are present. This energy is usually obtained from batteries or through rectification of sinusoidal voltages supplied by power companies. When inserted into an electronic circuit, such a source of energy fixes the quiescent operation of the circuit; that is, it allows the circuit to be biased to a given operating point with no signal applied, so that when a signal is present it will be processed properly. To be useful, an electronic circuit produces one or more outputs; often inputs are applied to produce the outputs. These inputs and outputs are called the signals and, consequently, generally differ from the bias quantities, though often it is hard to separate signal and bias variables. Biasing of electronic circuits is an important, non- trivial, and often overlooked aspect of their operation.
Because most signals in the real world are analog but digital computers work on discretizations, it is necessary to convert between digital and analog signals. As mentioned above, this is done through digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters. Most approaches to digital-to-analog conversion use summers, where the voltages representing the digital bits are applied to input resistors, either directly or indirectly through switches gated on by the digital bits which change the input resistance fed by a dc source.