3048A Phase Noise Test Set - Software Configuration


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The HP VECTRA-XU Used in our 3048A Configuration


HP 3048A Phase Noise Measurement System - Which Software ?

Starting from the previous chapters 5 and 6, in which we described the basis of a phase noise measurement, it's now time to see what are the various possibilities to reconstruct a complete 3048A system entirely automated under control of a computer and associated software.

The long life of the 3048 saw many hardware evolutions available at different periods, and this generated many evolutions, and even complete changes of the computer hardware and software driving the system. Here you will find a quick survey of the various configurations which can be used as a starting point, or a complete solution, to run a 3048 system:

  1. The original HP 9000, Series 200/300 computer running BASIC
  2. Other possibilities using the original BASIC program
  3. The original PC software on HP Vectra PC running DOS
  4. Other "Modern" solutions
  5. "PN3048" : HP 3048A Phase Noise Analyzer Software for Windows


HP 9000 - 300 Series with 9144 Tape

The original HP 9000,
Series 200/300 computer running BASIC


The HP 3048A Phase Noise Test System was introduced in the 1987 general catalog. At this time, the software delivered with the system was running on a HP 98580A Desktop Computer.

This HP 98580A computer was one of the many "Bundled Systems" of the Series 300, HP 9000 Technical Computer. This Bundle was named in the 1987 catalog the "Measurement Automation System".

Based on the Model 310 with a MC68010 (10 MHz) Processor, and 1 Mbyte RAM standard, it also had a 35731A, 12 " monochrome monitor, a 46020A keyboard, and a medium resolution video interface. The other interfaces installed in the standard configuration were HP-IB, RS232C, and HP-HIL. In 1987 this system was delivered with the release 4.0 of the HP BASIC Operating System.

Re-creating such a configuration today is not easy, but not impossible. It is mainly a question of competence regarding computer hardware and software of that era. The different parts of hardware are easy to find on the second hand market, ebay being one of the main resources today. As for software, many people work towards the preservation of vintage operating systems and application programs. Thebest resource for this particular repository is Jon Johnston's HP Computer Museum, and his website, from which almost every releases of HP BASIC can be downloaded for free.

An archive of the original BASIC program running on such a hardware has been created by John Miles (with permission from Agilent), and has been available on Glenn Robb's website for a long time. Thanks to Glenn and John, you can now download this zip file from the link below as well:

zip_off Click here to download the HP 3048A BASIC Software. Release A.02.00 - 1.4 Mb ZIP file.

This archive provides images of the distribution disks for the Series 300 HP-BASIC software, release A.02.00, for the HP 3048A phase noise system. Sources of the HP-BASIC program are also included as simple text files which can be edited in any text editor.

We didn't use nor test this BASIC software, but John Miles has had successful results using it on a PC running the HTBasic emulator.

Other possibilities using the original BASIC program

During the 1980s the continual evolution of the "Personal Computer" generated a need for keeping alive many programs which were originally writen in BASIC, but later became uncompatible with the DOS operating system of the new family of computers. HP's answer to this problem was to provide a version of its "Rocky Mountain BASIC (also RMB or RM-BASIC)" running on a DOS environment.

Another company, TransEra, created a clone implementation of RMB, which they called High Tech BASIC, or HT BASIC (now HTBasic). This is the solution that was tested by John Miles, and it produced successful results after some modifications of the 3048 BASIC program to adapt the intrument interfacing in the HP 3048A system.

Having never tested any of these software solutions ourselves, we will not expand this chapter any more. If you have some personal experiences with these tools, and wish to share with other interested users, don't hesitate to use the Contact Us form on this website. We will be glad to publish your comments and advice.


HP Vectra XU 5/90C

The original PC software
on HP Vectra PC running DOS


The 3048A software currently in use on our system runs on a HP VECTRA/XU-5/90C with an HP82335 HP-IB interface, and booting a DOS 6.0 operating system.

Such a "Vintage" configuration does not affect the overall performance of the system in any way. The time delay necessary to execute the analog part of the phase noise measurements process, is far longer than any calculation delay required by the measurement, even for a 15 year old PC. The only limitation is on the ability to display curves with the sophistication of today's computer graphics environment.

It is with this configuration, that were generated all of the calibrations and measurement screen dumps shown in the following chapters.

Steps 8 to 12, in the right-hand part of the selection listing, are "live reports" using our own 3048 system, with many screen dumps showing the process-flow of various calibrations and measurements.

Steps 13 and 14, show the results obtained when making the measurements on various typical HP signal sources.




zip_off_2 Click here to download the HP 3048A -Option 301 - DOS Software. Release 01.01A - 430 kb ZIP file.

This archive provides images of all the necessary program files to operate the HP 3048A phase noise system.

Other "Modern" solutions

The official 3048A software delivered by HP had to be the universal answer to every kind of phase noise measurement that could be faced by the high-tech electronic industry. To do so, it had to support a number of different hardware configurations, and to integrate a number of software routines spanning almost every category of signal source to be tested, from the lowest RF, up to the microwave spectrum.

The resulting original software is about 30,000 lines of code (source program) for the BASIC version! Migrating such a program to a modern computer solution would be a foolish task, given that most hardware components are now obsolete. But re-writing a small part of the original software to satisfy a specific case of measurement could be envisaged. Furthermore such a re-writing could be widely inspired from the original BASIC code source which is "Human readable," and it could benefit from a modern programming environment, itself running on one of today's operating systems. But such a project would obviously need a strong developer's skills.

We are working on the reconstruction of some parts of the 3048 program using the HP VEE software, (today Agilent VEE PRO software). We will update this chapter when some interesting results have been developed.


PN3048: HP 3048A Phase Noise Analyzer Software for Windows


In early 2008, an engineer named Kent Falkenstein posted to the time-nuts mailing list, indicating that he was interested in developing a modern control program for the HP 3048A phase noise measurement system. This was the start of a close collaboration with John Miles to develop a Phase Noise Analyzer Software for Windows.

The result is today available on John Miles' website, with every necessary information for installing and using the PN3048 software.

Screen Dump of the PN3048 Software




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