A closer look at how signals analysis tools have evolved in working with the RF and microwave spectrum

March 1, 2021
Tools to visualize RF signals have evolved from the spectrum analyzer to today’s RF recorders, yet each era's tools have had limitations.

DUMFRIES, Va. – RF engineers always have been obsessed with pursuing new and better ways to observe and analyze RF signals. In the earliest days of RF engineering, pioneers like Nikola Tesla struggled simply to generate wireless signals, much less analyze them. Microwaves & RF reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

1 March 2021 -- It’s quite a leap from the crude laboratory of Tesla to the sophisticated spectrum analyzer we take for granted today, yet today’s signals-analysis instrumentation actually is the result of many decades of incremental improvements.Sean Wallace

The most fundamental limitation of the swept-tuned spectrum analyzer is its inability to characterize a time-variant signal cleanly. Because the instrument slowly sweeps a range of frequencies, the RF and microwave signal displayed on the screen is a composite of many acquisitions taken across the sweep time. The result: a screen display of a signal that never actually existed in the real world.

While this limitation may have been an acceptable compromise for relatively stable AM and FM signals, it was completely untenable for short bursted signals like radar. Attempts to overcome this limitation used more and more elaborate triggering schemes, correction factors, and zero-span modes. Ultimately, this struggle sowed the seeds for the next big breakthrough in spectrum analysis.

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John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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