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.
The active elements are the sources of electric energy for the circuit; they may be batteries, direct-current generators, or alternating-current generators. The passive elements are resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The electric circuit is described by a circuit diagram or map showing the active and passive elements and their connecting conducting paths.
In basic diagrams, the standard symbols for the circuit components are arranged in correspondence with the operational principle of the device, as well as to facilitate the reading of the diagram. In design diagrams, all or some of the components are represented as equivalent circuits; in such diagrams, sources of electromotive force, current, resistance, inductance, capacitance, and so on are assumed to be components with lumped parameters.