Instead of impulses, usually the sequence of numbers update the analogue voltage at uniform sampling intervals.

These numbers are written to the DAC, typically with a clock signal that causes each number to be latched in sequence, at which time the DAC output voltage changes rapidly from the previous value to the value represented by the currently latched number. The effect of this is that the output voltage is held in time at the current value until the next input number is latched resulting in a piecewise constant or 'staircase' shaped output. This is equivalent to a zero-order hold operation and has an effect on the frequency response of the reconstructed signal.

The fact that DACs output a sequence of piecewise constant values (known as zero-order hold in sample data textbooks) or rectangular pulses causes multiple harmonics above the Nyquist frequency. Usually, these are removed with a low pass filter acting as a reconstruction filter in applications that require it.

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