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The Princeton Companion to Mathematics by Imre Leader, June Barrow-Green, Timothy Gowers

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VII.06  Reliable Transmission of InformationMadhu Sudan

1 Introduction

The notion of “digital information” emerged in the middle of the twentieth century, in response to the advent of the telegraph and to the beginnings of computer science, which at the time was principally a theoretical discipline. Of course, the use of electricity to communicate signals goes back further, but the earlier uses involved signals of a “continuous” nature: music, voice, etc. The new era was characterized by the transmission of (or the need to transmit) more “discrete” messages, i.e., messages such as English sentences, which can be described as finite sequences of letters taken from some finite alphabet. The phrase “digital information” came to be applied to such ...

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