076 Discrete noiseless systems

1. The discrete noiseless channel

Teletype and telegraphy are two simple examples of a discrete channel for transmitting information. Generally, a discrete channel will mean a system whereby a sequence of choices from a finite set of elementary symbols S1, … Sn can be transmitted from one point to another. Each of the symbols S, is assumed to have a certain duration in time Ti seconds (not necessarily the same for different Si, for example the dots and dashes in telegraphy). It is not required that all possible sequences of the S, be capable of transmission on the system; certain sequences only may be allowed. These will be possible signals for the channel. Thus in telegraphy suppose the symbols are: (1) A dot, consisting of line closure for a unit of time and then line open for a unit of time; (2) A dash, consisting of three time units of closure and one unit open; (3) A letter space consisting of, say, three units of line open; (4) A word space of six units of line open. We might place the restriction on allowable sequences that no spaces follow each other (for if two letter spaces are adjacent, it is identical with a word space). The question we now consider is how one can measure the capacity of such a channel to transmit information.


A very general type of restriction which may be placed on allowed sequences is the following: We imagine a number of possible states a1, a2, … an. For each state only certain symbols from the set S1, … Sn can be transmitted (different subsets for the different states). When one of these has been transmitted the state changes to a new state depending both on the old state and the particular symbol transmitted. The telegraph case is a simple example of this. There are two states depending on whether or not a space was the last symbol transmitted. If so then only a dot or a dash can be sent next and the state always changes. If not, any symbol can be transmitted and the state changes if a space is sent, otherwise it remains the same. The conditions can be indicated in a linear graph as shown in Fig. 2. The junction points correspond to the states and the lines indicate the symbols possible in a state and the resulting state.