The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has made it a simple matter to add almost anything to a personal computer (PC) through this simple plug-and-play interface, even microwave test equipment. Several reports in the upcoming January 2010 "Test & Measurement" issue of Microwaves & RF highlight the growing number of USB RF/microwave test instruments from a variety of vendors. The concept is simple: pack all the RF/microwave processing into a small module with a USB connector, and use software running on the PC along with the PC's computing power and monitor to massage and display the test results.
So far, available USB instruments have tended to be single-function devices. Early products were combinations of power meters and sensors, followed by signal generators, programmable attenuators to control the power levels of the signal generators, and even some RF/microwave switch units. Although considerably more sophisticated, workhorse instruments such as spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes could prove to be invaluable additions to a USB RF/microwave test equipment locker, with the ultimate goal being the capability to assemble a complete test setup in a suitcase or travel bag by means of USB connectors.