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IEEE-488 is a parallel 8-bit short-range multi-master communications bus. It is more commonly known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus).

Drive TypeSingle-ended
Num. Signal Lines16 (8 data, 3 handshake, 5 bus management) + 8 GND
Connection TopologyMulti-master, star or forked
LayersInitially, only the physical and electrical layers were specified. The commands/message format varied between manufacturers or even between devices made by the same manufacturer. Later on standard commands were specified (IEEE 488.2)


In the late 1960’s, Hewlett-Packard developed the HP Interface Bus (HP-IB) to connect the automated test and measurement instruments they manufactured to computers and other controllers. HP licensed the HP-IB technology to other manufacturers, and as the bus became popular, it became known as the General Purpose Interface Bus (GPIB)1.

In 1975 IEEE standardized the GPIB as Standard Digital Interface For Programmable Instrumentation (IEEE 488). In 1987 IEEE released 488.2 as Standard Codes, Formats, Protocols, and Common Commands which specified basic device-independent syntax and messages.

Although initially designed for connecting instrumentation to computers, in 1977 HP also used the GPIB bus inside it’s Commodore PET range of personal computers to connect peripherals1. However this was quickly replaced with faster buses such as SCSI.

Photo of the Keithley DAQ6510 Data Acquisition And Logging module which uses the IEEE-488 (GPIB) bus.

Photo of the Keithley DAQ6510 Data Acquisition And Logging module which uses the IEEE-488 (GPIB) bus.

In instrumentation, GLIB has generally been replaced with more recent communication protocols such as USB and Ethernet for new instrumentation.



Geoffrey Hunter

Dude making stuff.

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