Alan Freedman -- The Computer Language Company - Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Computer Desktop Encyclopedia
Longest-Running Tech Reference on the Planet

A CDE Definition

You'll love The Computer Desktop Encyclopedia (CDE) for Tech Term of the Day (TTOD)


signal ground

See ground.


A reference voltage level of "zero potential" for electric and electronic circuits. For most equipment plugged into an AC outlet, the word ground generally refers to the earth, and the metal parts are grounded ("chassis ground") to the earth for safety. In the case of a short circuit, the current flows through the green wire and third prong in the power cord (U.S. and Canada), which causes the circuit breaker to trip.

Signal Ground
Power supplies, circuit boards and signal pathways in most electronic equipment are also connected to the same earth ground as the chassis for reference voltage and safety. There are exceptions; for example, medical equipment that is attached to a patient is generally isolated from earth ground even when plugged in, because the time between a short circuit and the breaker tripping could prove fatal. Ethernet adapters and other networking equipment are also isolated from earth ground in order to prevent unbalanced ground loops from causing interference (see ground loop).

Portable Devices
Every portable, battery-operated device, such as a laptop and iPod, as well as the electrical systems in every vehicle, have their own zero reference voltage. Naturally, these systems are not connected to earth ground, but the reference voltage is still called ground.

Building Grounds
At the electric panel in U.S. and Canadian buildings, the ground lines are wired to the neutral line of the electric service, to the earth via a ground rod and to the metal plumbing pipes. In large datacenters, a separate ground system may connect every server via heavy-duty cable to the metal structure of the building to ensure that the voltage reference between all equipment is the same. See ground loop.

Personal Use Only

Before/After Your Search Term
sigma-delta convertersignal path
signsignal processing
sign insignal slope
sign offsignal to noise
sign onsignal-to-noise ratio
sign outsignaling
signalsignaling gateway
signal boostersignaling in/out-of-band
signal cablesignaling point
signal converterSignaling System 7

Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.
Computer Words You Gotta KnowSystem design
Job categoriesUnix/Linux
Interesting stuffPersonal computers
InternetIndustrial Automation/Process Control
Communications & networkingAssociations/Standards organizations
HistoryDesktop publishing
ProgrammingHealthcare IT
System design