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Friday, 28 September 2012

Nyquist rate relative to signaling

Long before Harry Nyquist had his name associated with sampling, the term Nyquist rate was used differently, with a meaning closer to what Nyquist actually studied. Quoting Harold S. Black's 1953 book Modulation Theory, in the section Nyquist Interval of the opening chapter Historical Background:
"If the essential frequency range is limited to B cycles per second, 2B was given by Nyquist as the maximum number of code elements per second that could be unambiguously resolved, assuming the peak interference is less half a quantum step. This rate is generally referred to as signaling at the Nyquist rate and 1/(2B) has been termed a Nyquist interval." (bold added for emphasis; italics as in the original)
According to the OED, this may be the origin of the term Nyquist rate.[3]
Nyquist's famous 1928 paper was a study on how many pulses (code elements) could be transmitted per second, and recovered, through a channel of limited bandwidth. Signaling at the Nyquist rate meant putting as many code pulses through a telegraph channel as its bandwidth would allow. Shannon used Nyquist's approach when he proved the sampling theorem in 1948, but Nyquist did not work on sampling per se.
Black's later chapter on "The Sampling Principle" does give Nyquist some of the credit for some relevant math:
"Nyquist (1928) pointed out that, if the function is substantially limited to the time interval T, 2BT values are sufficient to specify the function, basing his conclusions on a Fourier series representation of the function over the time interval T."

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