For many measurements that require the capture and processing of analog data, data throughput speed and conversion resolution are the two most important considerations. Typical examples include Radar, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Ultrasound Imaging, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), Mass Spectroscopy/Time-of-Flight (TOF), and Production Test. These test applications usually demand high speed data transfer rates, so typically, Digitizers (A/D) or Arbitrary Waveform Generators (D/A) residing on a high-speed backplane are required. These applications many times require 2, 4 or more conversion channels, up to 16-bits of resolution, and real-time recording, processing/analysis, or playback.

Usually the conventional “box” type test equipment is fine for user interactive measurements – or tests where measurements are relatively slow (less than 1,000 readings/sec). But it is not well suited to cases where continuous real-time high-speed data flow (greater than 10 MS/s) to a host PC is required. This real-time requirement is easily met using measurement cards with a high-speed backplane interface, as inside a PC. With ever-increasing capabilities, current PC-based systems continue to provide the highest performance, the best open and flexible architecture, and are the most cost-effective affordable platform for constructing real-time high-speed data acquisition systems.

This paper provides an overview of PC-based system platform advantages over conventional signal test equipment.