An electronic tuner is a device which tunes across a part of the radio frequency spectrum by the application of a voltage or appropriate digital code words. This type of tuner supersedes mechanical tuners, which were tuned by manual adjustment of capacitance or inductance in the tuned circuits. In a more practical and everyday sense, a radio or television set which is tuned by manually turning a knob or dial contains a manual tuner into which the shaft of that knob or dial extends.
Later model televisions and radios were tuned by a rack of momentary push buttons; some of the earlier types were purely mechanical and adjusted the capacitance or inductance of the tuned circuit to a preset number of positions corresponding to the frequencies of popular local stations. Later electronic types utilized the varactor diode as a voltage controlled capacitance in the tuned circuit, to receive a number of preset voltages from the rack of buttons tuning the device instantly to local stations. The mechanical button rack was popular in car radios of the 1960s and 1970s. The electronic button rack controlling the new electronic varactor tuner was popular in television sets of the 1970s and 1980s.
Modern electronic tuners also use varactor diodes as the actual tuning elements, but the voltages which change their capacitance are obtained from a digital to analog converter (DAC) driven by a microprocessor or phase locked loop (PLL) arrangement. This modern form allows for very precise tuning and locking-in on weak signals, as well as a numerical display of the tuned frequency.
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