PN3048: HP 3048A Phase Noise Analyzer Software for Windows

In early 2008, an engineer named Kent Falkenstein posted to the time-nuts mailing list, indicating that he was interested in developing a modern control program for the HP 3048A phase noise measurement system.

Although exceptionally powerful and capable of very high measurement performance, the 3048A system is controlled by obsolete computer hardware that's becoming harder by the day to set up and maintain. Having done some tentative poking at the HP 3048A hardware myself without much to show for it, I contacted Kent offline and volunteered to help test any software he developed.

It soon became clear that Kent was serious about supporting the 3048A with a professional-level development effort. He began by creating a modified version of HP's original "Rocky Mountain BASIC" system software that was suitable for use with the HTBasic emulator from TransEra. This version has been available for some time on's Equipment page; you can find it by searching for 3048 and downloading the current release of the "3048A Software Zip Repack" file. It will run for up to 30 minutes at a time on the trial version of HTBasic.

While the RMB release works well, it has the same awkward user interface as the original 1980s-era HP software. In addition, the full HTBasic license required to run the program without interruption costs over USD $500.00. Consequently, Kent began to port the RMB source code to Visual BASIC 6, a language that despite its name bears little resemblance to HP's BASIC dialect. Kent soon proved up to the challenge, delivering his first alpha build in April 2008.

At the same time, Kent travelled frequently as part of his day job. His employer dealt with seismograph sales and support, focusing on clients in the petroleum industry. Kent would spend months at a time in strange ports of call without regular net access, so I often had to wait several months between updates. But he always eventually resurfaced with a new and improved version.

The last build I received from Kent arrived in March 2011. It's a really nice piece of work, easily 95% ready for prime time. There are still some bugs here and there, but all of the mainstream measurement code for PLL and non-PLL-based phase noise measurements works well. As far as I'm aware, all of the instrumentation supported by the RMB version is supported by PN3048.

When I received this build from Kent, he seemed to be on the verge of wrapping up the project successfully... but then he dropped out of sight again. Which, again, was not unusual for him, except this time he seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth. I haven't heard from Kent since August 2011, despite repeated contact attempts. It's possible that something happened that caused him to either lose interest in the project or otherwise be unable to carry on further development -- I simply don't know. In keeping with Kent's willingness to share beta releases with other interested 3048A users and his stated intent to release PN3048 as freeware based on the generous example set by Agilent in permitting him to use the original 3048A.BAS code, it seems appropriate to post the last PN3048 build I received in 2011 here.

Download PN3048 V1.416

Important notes

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Text copyright © 2013 John Miles. Program copyright © 2008-2011 Kent Falkenstein. All rights reserved.