Intelligent Instruments

About Intelligent Instruments

The impact that the microprocessor has had on the domestic consumer is very evident, with its inclusion in washing machines, vehicle fuel control systems and home computers to name but a few applications. The advent of the microprocessor has had an equally significant, though perhaps not so obviously apparent, impact on the field of instrumentation. It is therefore fitting that a section should be devoted to describing the principles of operation of microprocessors and explaining how they are included and programmed as a microcomputer within a measuring instrument, thereby producing what has come to be known as an intelligent instrument.


An intelligent instrument comprises all the usual elements of a measurement system and is only distinguished from dumb (non-intelligent) measurement systems by the inclusion of a microprocessor to fulfill the signal processing function. The effect of this computerization of the signal processing function is an improvement in the quality of the instrument output measurements and a general simplification of the signal processing task. Some examples of the signal processing which a microprocessor can readily perform include correction of the instrument output for bias caused by environmental variations (e.g. temperature changes), and conversion to produce a linear output from a transducer whose characteristic is fundamentally non-linear.

  1. Elements of a Microcomputer

  2. The Number Systems

  3. Programming and Program Execution

  4. Computer Interfacing

  5. Computer Address Decoding

  6. Data Transfer Control

  7. Analog to Digital Conversion (A/D)

  8. Digital to Analog Conversion (D/A)

  9. Intelligent Instruments in Use


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