PRBS Messages, Eye Patterns & Noise Simulation using PRBS

ECE 5765 Modern Communication
Fall 2005, UMD
Experiment 10: PRBS Messages, Eye Patterns & Noise Simulation using
ACHIEVEMENTS: introduction to the pseudo random binary sequence (PRBS)
generator; time domain viewing: snap shot and eye patterns; understanding the Nyquist I
criterion; transmission rates via bandlimited channels; comparison of the ‘snap shot’
display with the ‘eye patterns’.
Analog systems typically use a sine wave as a simple test signal, and measure signal-to-noise ratio to
quantify the quality of transmission. Digital systems tend to use pseudo random binary sequences (PRBS).
This Lab Sheet introduces the TIMS SEQUENCE GENERATOR module. A short length of a typical
binary output sequence is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: typical sequence of length 16 bits
The TIMS SEQUENCE GENERATOR module provides two different output sequences, of adjustable
lengths. Each is available as a TTL and an ‘analog’ signal. Here ‘analog’ means it is bi-polar, and of a
peak-to-peak amplitude compatible with TIMS analog modules (eg, at the TIMS ANALOG REFERENCE
LEVEL of ± 2 volt peak). Please note that each TTL output is inverted with respect to its analog output.
The generator is driven by an external signal - the bit clock - which may be either analog or TTL.
The length (in clock periods) of each sequence is given by L = 2n, where ‘n’ may be set to 2, 5, or 11 by onboard toggle switches. See the TIMS User Manual for further details.
The start of each sequence is indicated by a SYNCH signal. This is invaluable for oscilloscope triggering.
pulse transmission
It is well known that, when a signal passes via a bandlimited channel it will suffer waveform distortion. As
an example, refer to Figure 2. As the data rate increases the waveform distortion increases, until
transmission becomes impossible.
Figure 2: waveforms before and after moderate bandlimiting
In this experiment you will be introduced to some important aspects of pulse transmission which are
relevant to digital and data communication applications.
Issues of interest include:
In the 1920s Harry Nyquist proposed a clever method now known as Nyquist`s first criterion, that
makes possible the transmission of telegraphic signals over channels with limited bandwidth without
degrading signal quality. This idea has withstood the test of time. It is very useful for digital and data
The method relies on the exploitation of pulses that look like sin(x)/x - see the Figure below. The trick
is that zero crossings always fall at equally spaced points. Pulses of this type are known as ‘Nyquist I’
(there is also Nyquist II and III).
In practical communication channels distortion causes the dislocation of the zero crossings of Nyquist
pulses, and results in intersymbol interference (ISI). Eye patterns provide a practical and very
convenient method of assessing the extent of ISI degradation. A major advantage of eye patterns is that
they can be used ‘on-line’ in real-time. There is no need to interrupt normal system operation.
The effect of ISI becomes apparent at the receiver when the incoming signal has to be ‘read’ and
decoded; ie., a detector decides whether the value at a certain time instant is, say, ‘HI’ or ‘LO’ (in a
binary decision situation). A decision error may occur as a result of noise. Even though ISI may not
itself cause an error in the absence of noise, it is nevertheless undesirable because it decreases the
margin relative to the decision threshold, ie., a given level of noise, that may be harmless in the
absence if ISI, may lead to a high error rate when ISI is present.
Another issue of importance in the decision process is timing jitter. Even if there is no ISI at the
nominal decision instant, timing jitter in the reconstituted bit clock results in decisions being made too
early or too late relative to the ideal point. As you will discover that channels with high bandwidth
efficiency are more sensitive to timing jitter.
Maximum transmission rate assessment
This is what is going to be done:
1. First, set up a pseudorandom sequence. To start you will use the shortest available sequence, so that you
can easily observe it with an oscilloscope. Very long sequences are not easy to observe because the time
elapsed between trigger pulses is too long. The oscilloscope will be triggered to the start of sequence signal.
The display has been defined as a ‘snap shot’.
2. Next you will pass this sequence through a TUNEABLE LPF module. You will observe the effect of the
filter on the shape of the sequence, at various pulse rates.
3. Then the above observations will be repeated, but this time the oscilloscope will be triggered by the bit
clock, giving what is defined as an eye pattern.
4. Finally you will compare the performance of the various cases in terms of achievable transmission rate
and ‘eye opening’.
The ‘snapshot’ display
Examine a SEQUENCE GENERATOR module, and read about it in the TIMS User Manual.
A suitable arrangement for the examination of a SEQUENCE GENERATOR is illustrated in Figure 3.
Notice that the length of the sequence is controlled by the settings of a DIP switch, SW2, located on the
circuit board.
Figure 3: examination of a SEQUENCE GENERATOR
T1 before inserting the SEQUENCE GENERATOR set the on-board DIP switch SW2 to
generate a short sequence. Then patch up the model of Figure 3 above. Set the AUDIO
OSCILLATOR, acting as the bit clock, to about 2 kHz. Set the oscilloscope sweep speed
to suit; say about 1 ms/cm.
T2 observe the TTL sequence on CH1-A. Try triggering the oscilloscope to the sequence
itself (CH1-A). Notice that you may be able to obtain a stable picture, but it may change
when the re-set button is pressed (this re-starts the sequence each time from the same
point, referred to as the ‘start of sequence’).
T3 try triggering off the bit clock. Notice that it is difficult (impossible?) to obtain a
stable display of the sequence.
T4 change the mode of oscilloscope triggering. Instead of using the signal itself, use the
start-of-sequence SYNC signal from the SEQUENCE GENERATOR, connected to ‘ext.
trig’ of the oscilloscope. Reproduce the type of display of Figure 1 (CH1-A). Look at the
frequency domain of the generated sequence and compare this with the one of a periodic
TTL. Then Compare the spectrum of the sequence of the PRBS when you have a short
sequence and when you have a long sequence.
T5 increase the sequence length by re-setting the on-board switch SW2. Reestablish
synchronization using the start-of-sequence SYNC signal connected to the ‘ext. trig’ of the
oscilloscope. Notice the effect upon the display.
T6 have a look with your oscilloscope at a yellow analog output from the SEQUENCE
GENERATOR. The DC offset has been removed, and the amplitude is now suitable for
processing by analog modules. Observe also that the polarity has been reversed with
respect to the TTL version.
This is just a consequence of the internal circuitry; if not noticed it can cause
band limiting
The displays you have seen on the oscilloscope are probably as you would have expected them to be! That
is, either ‘HI’ or ‘LO’ with sharp, almost invisible, transitions between them. This implies that there was no
bandlimiting between the signal and the viewing instrument.
If transmitted via a lowpass filter, which could represent a bandlimited (baseband) channel, then there will
be some modification of the shape, as viewed in the time domain.
For this part of the experiment you will use a TUNEABLE LPF to limit, and vary, the bandwidth. Because
the sequence will be going to an analog module it will be necessary to select an ‘analog’ output from the
T7 select a short sequence from the SEQUENCE GENERATOR.
T8 connect an analog version of the sequence (YELLOW) to the input of a TUNEABLE
T9 on the front panel of the TUNEABLE LPF set the toggle switch to the WIDE position.
Obtain the widest bandwidth by rotating the TUNE control fully clockwise.
T10 with the oscilloscope still triggered by the ‘start-of-sequence’ SYNC signal, observe
both the filter input and output on separate oscilloscope channels. Adjust the gain control
on the TUNEABLE LPF so the amplitudes are approximately equal.
T11 monitor the filter corner frequency, by measuring the CLK signal from the
TUNEABLE LPF with the FREQUENCY COUNTER. Slowly reduce the bandwidth, and
compare the difference between the two displays. Notice that, with reducing bandwidth:
a) identification of individual bits becomes more difficult
b) there is an increasing delay between input and output
Remember that the characteristics of the filter will influence the results of the last Task.
T12 set up the model of Figure 4. The AUDIO OSCILLATOR serves as the bit clock for
the SEQUENCE GENERATOR. A convenient rate to start with is 2 kHz. Model a
CHANNEL with a TUNABLE LPF. Select a short sequence (both toggles of the on-board
switch SW2 UP)
Figure 4: viewing snap shots and eye patterns
T13 synchronize the oscilloscope to the ‘start-of-sequence’ synchronizing signal from the
SEQUENCE GENERATOR. Set the sweep speed to display between 10 and 20 sequence
pulses (say 1 ms/cm). This is the ‘snap shot’ mode. Both traces should be displaying the
same picture, when you over pass the LPF.
You should also prepare the TUNEABLE LPF to use as a channel, giving it 40 dB attenuation at 4 kHz. To
do this:
T14 using a sinusoidal output from an AUDIO OSCILLATOR as a test input:
a) set the TUNE and GAIN controls of the TUNEABLE LPF fully clockwise. Select the
NORM bandwidth mode.
b) set the AUDIO OSCILLATOR to a frequency of, say, 1 kHz. This is well within the
current filter passband.
c) note the output amplitude on the oscilloscope.
d) increase the frequency of the AUDIO OSCILLATOR to 4 kHz.
e) reduce the bandwidth of the TUNEABLE LPF (rotate the TUNE control anti-clockwise)
until the output amplitude falls 100 times.
This is a 40 dB reduction relative to the passband gain.
snap-shot assessment
Now it is your task to make an assessment of the maximum rate, controlled by the frequency of the AUDIO
OSCILLATOR, at which a sequence of pulses can be transmitted through the LPF before they suffer
unacceptable distortion. The criterion for judging the maximum possible pulse rate will be your opinion
that you can recognize the output sequence as being similar to that at the input.
To relate the situation to a practical communication system you should consider the filters to represent the
total of all the filtering effects at various stages of the transmission chain, ie., transmitter, channel, and the
receiver right up to the input of the decision device.
T15 record your assessment of the maximum practical data rate through the channel.
Then change the Bandwidth of the filter instead of being 4 kHz change it to 8 kHz using
the procedure mentioned in T14, after that record assessment of the maximum practical
data rate through the channel.
At the very least your report will be a record of the two maximum transmission rates. But it is also
interesting to compare these rates with the characteristics of the filters. Perhaps you might expect the filter
with the widest passband to provide the highest acceptable transmission rate?
eye pattern assessment
Now you will repeat the previous exercise, but, instead of observing the sequence as a single trace, you will
use eye patterns. The set-up will remain the same except for the oscilloscope usage and sequence length.
So far you have used a short sequence, since this was convenient for the snapshot display. But for eye
pattern displays a longer sequence is preferable, since this generates a greater number of patterns. Try it.
T16 change the oscilloscope synchronizing signal from the start-of-sequence SYNC output
of the SEQUENCE GENERATOR to the sequence bit clock.
Increase the sequence length (both toggles of the on-board switch SW2 DOWN).
T17 Use a data rate of about 2 kHz. You should have a display on CH2-A similar to that
of Figure 5 below.
Figure 5: a ‘good’ eye pattern
T18 increase the data rate until the eye starts to close. Figure 6 shows an eye not nearly
as clearly defined as that of Figure 5.
Figure 6: compare with Figure 5; a faster data rate
T19 take some time to examine the display, and consider what it is you are looking at!
There is one ‘eye’ per bit period. Those shown in Figure 5 are considered to be ‘wide
open’. But as the data rate increases the eye begins to close.
The actual shape of an eye is determined (in a linear system) primarily by the filter (channel) amplitude and
phase characteristics (for a given input waveform).
The detector must make a decision, at an appropriate moment in the bit period, as to whether or not the
signal is above or below a certain voltage level. If above it decides the current bit is a HI, otherwise a LO.
By studying the eye you can make that decision. Should it not be made at the point where the eye is wide
open, clear of any trace? The moment when the vertical opening is largest?
You can judge, by the thickness of the bunch of traces at the top and bottom of the eye, compared with the
vertical opening, the degree-of-difficulty in making this decision.
T20 determine the highest data rate for which you consider you would always be able to
make the correct decision (HI or LO). Note that the actual moment to make the decision
will be the same for all bits, and relatively easy to distinguish. Record this rate for each
of the two previously mentioned filter settings.
You have now seen two different displays, the snapshot and the eye pattern.
It is generally accepted that the eye pattern gives a better indication of the appropriate
instant the HI or LO decision should be made, and its probable success, than does the
snapshot display. Do you agree?
Simulation of Noise using PRBS
Noise and other impairments will produce the occasional transition which will produce a trace within the
apparently trace-free eye. This may not be visible on the oscilloscope, but will none-the-less cause an error.
Turning up the oscilloscope brilliance may reveal some of these transitions.
Such a trace is present in the eye pattern of Figure 6.
An oscilloscope, with storage and other features (including in-built signal analysis!), will reveal even more
It does not follow that the degradation of the eye worsens as the clock rate is increased. Filters can be
designed for optimum performance at a specific clock rate, and performance can degrade if the clock rate is
increased or reduced.
The present experiment was aimed at giving you a ‘feel’ and appreciation of the technique in a nonquantitative manner.
In the next part you will make some measurements, as data is transmitted through these filters, with added
T21 Add another SEQUENCE GENERATOR that is driven by 20 kHz VCO as a TTL
T22 Connect the output of the SEQUENCE GENERATOR to the ADDER but first pass it
through a BUFFER AMPLIFIER. Don’t forget to add the other SEQUENCE
GENERATOR to the ADDER too. (This Signal should represent the Noise)
T23 Connect the output of the ADDER to the TUNABLE LPF.
T24 Set the level of the noise first to zero, are record the result. (LPF fully clockwise)
T25 Change the noise level till you see 50% eye-open.
T26 With the same settings for the T15, record the assessment of the maximum practical
data rate through the channel. Compare your result here with T15.
Q1 why would a storage oscilloscope provide a more reliable eye pattern display?
Q2 why is a long sequence preferable for eye pattern displays?
Q3 how would timing jitter show up in an eye pattern?