IEEE 488


IEEE 488, also known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus) or HPIB (Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus), is a digital communication standard developed by Hewlett-Packard in the late 1960s. It allows multiple devices, such as computers, instruments, and other peripherals, to connect and communicate with each other over short-range distances. This widely-used standard is most commonly found in test and measurement equipment, industrial processes, and data acquisition systems.


The phonetics of the keyword “IEEE 488” would be spoken as:India-India-Echo-Echo Four Eight Eight

Key Takeaways

  1. IEEE 488, also known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus), is a short-range, parallel, digital communication standard used for connecting instruments to computers and controllers for data transfer and control.
  2. The bus can support up to 15 devices over a distance of 20 meters with data transfer rates up to 1 Mbps, allowing for easy and cost-effective device integration with a single cable for both power and data communication.
  3. It is widely used in test and measurement applications, scientific research, and industrial automation, thanks to its simplicity, reliability, and compatibility with a wide range of instruments.


The IEEE 488, also known as the GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus), is an important technological term because it represents a standard for parallel digital communication primarily utilized in instrumentation and measurement devices.

Introduced by Hewlett-Packard in the 1960s, IEEE 488 was later standardized in the 1970s by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) under the number 488.

It simplifies the process of data collection, sharing, and automation by allowing multiple devices to be connected and interact with one another over a single bus – a task that was challenging prior to its development.

As a cornerstone for test and measurement systems, the widespread adoption of IEEE 488 continues to serve as the backbone for various scientific, industrial, and automation applications, even with the growth of other communication standards like USB and Ethernet.


IEEE 488, also known as the General Purpose Interface Bus (GPIB) or the Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus (HP-IB), is a communication protocol developed in the late 1960s by Hewlett-Packard (HP). Its primary purpose is to enable electronic instruments and devices to communicate and interact with one another in a standardized manner. This technology has become a widely accepted standard in the test and measurement industry, with many manufacturers designing their equipment to be compatible with the IEEE 488 bus.

The system provides a simple and efficient way to transfer data, commands, and status information between instruments, thus significantly improving productivity and reducing the risk of communication errors in various applications, such as laboratories, computer systems, and industrial environments. The IEEE 488 protocol allows up to 15 devices, including multi-meters, oscilloscopes, power supplies, and other electronic instruments, to be connected through a single cable to a central hub or controller, which can send and receive commands from each instrument.

This daisy-chained network is designed to provide the flexibility required in complex, multi-instrument setups and allows for easy adaptation and scaling of a system, depending on the needs of a particular application. With the use of additional hardware and software, the IEEE 488 protocol can also support computer-controllable systems, facilitating automation and remote control, making it a valuable tool for managing a wide array of equipment in today’s advanced technology landscape.

Examples of IEEE 488

The IEEE 488, also known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus) or HPIB (Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus), is an 8-bit parallel interface technology that originates from the 1960s. It is a standardized digital communication protocol used to connect and control test systems and laboratory instruments. Here are three real-world examples of IEEE 488 technology:

Scientific Laboratories: IEEE 488 has been widely adopted by scientific laboratories around the world. The technology allows lab workers to connect multiple instruments, such as oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, function generators, and multimeters, all on the same bus. This interconnection provides centralized data collection and control over all the instruments in the laboratory setup, enhancing the efficiency of the entire system.

Automated Test Equipment (ATE): ATE is a major user of the IEEE 488 interface in manufacturing facilities for quality control and product testing. These systems perform thorough tests on electronic devices and components to ensure that they meet their designated specifications. The IEEE 488 enables automated testing equipment to interface with multiple test instruments and devices simultaneously, allowing for seamless integration and real-time data collection and analysis.

Calibration Systems: High-quality calibration systems often use the IEEE 488 to interface various precision instruments. These devices, such as temperature gauges, pressure transducers, and voltage references, need to be calibrated with great accuracy. The use of GPIB simplifies this procedure by centralizing the control and facilitating seamless communication between all required equipment.


What is IEEE 488?

IEEE 488, also known as the General Purpose Interface Bus (GPIB), is an 8-bit parallel interface standard that allows multiple devices to connect to and communicate with each other. It was created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is widely used in industries such as electronics, scientific instrumentation, and automation systems.

What is the purpose of IEEE 488?

The main purpose of IEEE 488 is to provide a standardized way for devices to communicate with each other over a short distance, typically less than 20 meters. This allows for fast and efficient data transfer between devices without the need for custom cabling or protocols, simplifying system integration and maintenance.

What are the primary features of IEEE 488?

Some key features of IEEE 488 include support for up to 15 devices on a single bus, parallel data transfer, a maximum data rate of 1 Megabyte per second, and a straightforward command structure for controlling devices. Furthermore, IEEE 488 allows for both master-slave and peer-to-peer communication, ensuring flexibility and compatibility with different types of systems.

What types of devices use IEEE 488?

IEEE 488 is typically used in devices such as oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, function generators, power supplies, and various types of test and measurement equipment. It is also commonly used in industrial automation, process control, and other applications where reliable communication between devices is required.

How do I connect an IEEE 488 compatible device to my computer?

To connect an IEEE 488 compatible device to your computer, you’ll need an IEEE 488 adapter, often referred to as a GPIB adapter, which connects to your computer’s USB, PCI, or PCIe slot. Once the adapter and appropriate drivers are installed, you can use compatible software or programming languages to communicate with and control the connected devices.

Related Technology Terms

  • GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus)
  • HPIB (Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus)
  • Instrument Control
  • Data Transfer
  • Parallel Communication

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents