The rapid changes in technology have given way to many different types of file formats, and it can get quite difficult switching from one to another. These compatibility issues are now easily resolved, thanks to encoders.

What exactly are encoders?

In simpleest terms, encoders are programs that use a 'codec' to convert a file from one format to another. The term 'codec' is actually short for compressor / decompressor. Codec is the kind of technology that compresses and decompresses data, so that it can be recognized and opened by programs that can only read a certain type of file format. Encoders and codecs are used everywhere – in hardware and software or a combination of both.

What are the types of encoders?

Encoders can be generally classified into two major and differently different types: mechanical and optical encoders. The two function very differently.

Mechanical encoders are also called 'rotary' encoders. These types are typically used for 'low cycle' applications, such as the dial on the front panel of audio gear. These encoders are used for transducing angular positions and angular motions into electrical signals, so that they can be easily displayed, automated or controlled (numerically).

Optical encoders, on the other hand, are designed for 'continuous duty' applications. They are used for applications where reliability is imperative. Optical encoders have different kinds of electrical interfaces. Some use binary-coded digital electrical interfaces, while other use quadrature types. A binary coder is often used when very high resolutions are needed. A binary code can handle more than one signal change from one measuring step to the next. Also called 'photoelectric encoders,' optical encoders are very popular in modern machines and computer technology. They are highly accurate and reliable while at the same time relatively low cost.

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