What is TIMS?

TIMS is a hardware training system, designed specifically for telecommunications and signal processing courses that require only an oscilloscope to use the system.

How is TIMS used?

TIMS is used to implement block diagrams, which are used to model mathematical equations, or the hardware realizations of telecommunications systems or signal processing schemes.

What equipment do I need to use TIMS?

TIMS is intended as a complete, stand-alone training system that typically only requires an oscilloscope and no other test equipment.

The following is a complete list:

  1. TIMS system + optional modules;
  2. Oscilloscope:2CH, 20MHz, conventional non-storage;
  3. A personal computer with RS-232 port if the TIMS DSP modules are being used to develop programs.
How many students per TIMS system in labs?

The ideal number of students per TIMS system is 2 to 3 students, for optimum result. However, in some cases where not enough TIMS systems are available in a lab, labs run with 4 students per system, as a short term solution.

Can TIMS interface to PC's?

Yes. With the increased processing power of personal computers, students are no longer limited to only viewing their signals in the time domain, on a basic oscilloscope. PC-based multi-instruments are now available which are both affordable and have outstanding performance. EMONA TIMS offers two options for such PC-based instrumentation with wide bandwidth oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer displays, as well as true RMS digital voltmeter and frequency counter functions. Both options incorporate the powerful ADC200/20 virtual instrument. The ADC200/20 is available stand-alone or built-into the TIMS-301C PC-Enabled Learning System.

Why use hardware when software simulators are readily available?

Manipulating objects on screen and viewing the results on screen can often seem like "magic" particularly to introductory students. There are real educational benefits to be had when a student builds and studies an experiment with real-time signals in real 'hands-on' hardware. The directness of 'hands-on' adjustment of signals gives a solid and tangible understanding of the system being studied to the student. The results observed attain real meaning which is often not attained with 'on-screen' simulations.

In order to appreciate simulation a student needs to have pre-requisite knowledge of sampling theorem and Fourier analysis. Once these fundamentals have been understood, simulations can become a useful adjunct alongside learning with a TIMS system.

Simulation can be useful as pre-lab learning. See our page on TutorTIMS on our website.

Isn't TIMS just a simple "demonstration" system?

TIMS is definitely not a "demonstration" system.

A "demonstration" system is typically one box, which only outputs demonstration waveforms eg: AM and DSB envelopes or TDM sampled signals, etc). The user has no real control over the method of implementation of each experiment, other than a few gain controls.

TIMS is a true "modelling" system. No one module has an isolated function - modules are used together to build-up systems.

TIMS does not include, for example, an "AM modulator" module, or an "SSB demodulator" module. These functions are patched together using Adder Modules, Multiplier Modules, Signal Modules, and so on.

How does TIMS fit into an electronics engineering course, because in telecommunications we use real applications such as telephone lines, microwaves, satellites, LANS, etc.?

TIMS gives students hands-on experience with the theories and concepts involved in the specific area of "transmission theory". "Transmission" involves an original message being carried from one point to another, using either analogue or digital modulation. TIMS will allow the students to learn about the concepts of the many sub-sections of a major telecommunications system: e.g. sampling and reconstruction; coding and decoding; modulation and demodulation; etc. After a student has learnt and grasped these fundamental concepts, it is much easier for them to take this knowledge and apply it to HF electronics, microwaves, telephone lines, computer local area networks, and so on.

Why can TIMS be used by both undergraduate and post graduate students, and lecturers?

TIMS is valuable to all these users because TIMS actually models mathematical equations and telecommunications block diagrams. TIMS is much more than just a waveform or experimental "demonstration system".

Describe the TIMS system hardware?

TIMS is comprised of the following system components:

  1. The FIXED UNIT, which includes 7 "fixed modules" and a rack which holds up to 12 "plug-in modules". The "fixed modules" include some of the most common functions/building-blocks that are required in most experiments.
  2. Thirteen Basic "plug-in modules". This BASIC MODULES SET includes further fundamental building blocks required in many telecommunications and signal processing experiments.
  3. 2 groups of optional Advanced modules:
    1. The ADVANCED MODULE SET which includes more specialised building blocks, and,
    2. The DSP MODULE SET.
What is the difference between BASIC modules and ADVANCED modules?

The BASIC modules include the simplest, fundamental, general purpose electronic building-blocks. e.g. Signal adder; signal multiplier; filters; oscillators; phase shifters; etc.

The ADVANCED modules include more specialised or more specific electronic building-block functions. e.g. PCM waveform encoders and decoders; bit error rate and signal to noise measuring functions; Delta modulation building-blocks; etc.

Can external signals be connected to TIMS?

As TIMS has an open architecture, and uses real electrical signals, it is easy to bring signals into the TIMS environment or take them from TIMS to other external equipment. Interfacing guidelines are provided in the "Making your own modules for TIMS" lab sheet.

How does a student relate TIMS "modules" to block diagrams? Why are there red and yellow connectors on both sides of each module and why don't gain and adjustment control knobs have calibration or level scale markings?

All TIMS modules follow a very strict and consistent "front panel convention". Once a user has been introduced to the TIMS conventions, they will find it very easy to use any TIMS module. The TIMS "front panel conventions" ensure that TIMS modules relate very closely to the Block Diagram representations that are commonly used in telecommunications and signal processing.

How many experiments can you do with TIMS? What kind of experiments can TIMS do?

Because TIMS models mathematical systems using functional building-blocks, the number and type="text" of experiments is only limited by the modules (building-blocks) available and the user's imagination (and understanding of the subject).

From this it follows that TIMS has an unlimited capability for telecommunications and signal processing experiments.

More specifically, we consider that with the FIXED and BASIC modules alone, over 50 experiments can be carried out.

The ADVANCED module set adds a further 25 new experiments.

Adding the DSP modules then expands the experiment base many times over.

How do I learn how to put together experiments - where can I get some ideas?
Ideas for block diagrams are available from many sources including:
  1. communications textbooks, magazines and research papers
  2. The user's own new ideas and theory
  3. The TIMS student labsheets experiments
  4. The "Communication System Modelling with TIMS" text, by Tim Hooper