Digital circuits are circuits dealing with signals restricted to the extreme limits of zero and some full amount. This stands in contrast to analog circuits, in which signals are free to vary continuously between the limits imposed by power supply voltage and circuit resistances. These circuits find use in "true/false" logical operations and digital computation.
The circuits in this chapter make use of IC, or integrated circuit, components. Such components are actually networks of interconnected components manufactured on a single wafer of semiconducting material. Integrated circuits providing a multitude of pre-engineered functions are available at very low cost, benefitting students, hobbyists and professional circuit designers alike. Most integrated circuits provide the same functionality as "discrete" semiconductor circuits at higher levels of reliability and at a fraction of the cost.
Circuits in this chapter will primarily use CMOS technology, as this form of IC design allows for a broad range of power supply voltage while maintaining generally low power consumption levels. Though CMOS circuitry is susceptible to damage from static electricity (high voltages will puncture the insulating barriers in the MOSFET transistors), modern CMOS ICs are far more tolerant of electrostatic discharge than the CMOS ICs of the past, reducing the risk of chip failure by mishandling. Proper handling of CMOS involves the use of anti-static foam for storage and transport of IC's, and measures to prevent static charge from building up on your body (use of a grounding wrist strap, or frequently touching a grounded object).
Circuits using TTL technology require a regulated power supply voltage of 5 volts, and will not tolerate any substantial deviation from this voltage level. Any TTL circuits in this chapter will be adequately labeled as such, and it will be expected that you realize its unique power supply requirements.
When building digital circuits using integrated circuit "chips," it is highly recommended that you use a breadboard with power supply "rail" connections along the length. These are sets of holes in the breadboard that are electrically common along the entire length of the board. Connect one to the positive terminal of a battery, and the other to the negative terminal, and DC power will be available to any area of the breadboard via connection through short jumper wires:
With so many of these integrated circuits having "reset," "enable," and "disable" terminals needing to be maintained in a "high" or "low" state, not to mention the VDD (or VCC) and ground power terminals which require connection to the power supply, having both terminals of the power supply readily available for connection at any point along the board's length is very useful.
Most breadboards that I have seen have these power supply "rail" holes, but some do not. Up until this point, I've been illustrating circuits using a breadboard lacking this feature, just to show how it isn't absolutely necessary. However, digital circuits seem to require more connections to the power supply than other types of breadboard circuits, making this feature more than just a convenience.