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Various A/D and D/A conversions architectures, as evolved for communication oriented and computer related instrumentation, are described, and their relative advantages and disadvantages reviewed. Important parameters of performance are defined, and a number of critical factors involved in the design of A/D converters are considered. Emphasis is placed on the need for realistic "error budgets" and a recognition of the uncertainties and harsh realities of the environment in place. A number of A/D and D/A converter applications are reviewed to illustrate the diversity of requirements to be met by conversion system designers.