[time-nuts] precise external reference time for a PC

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Sat Jul 12 10:26:23 EDT 2008

Quoting Marc Balmer <marc at msys.ch>, on Sat 12 Jul 2008 04:55:08 AM PDT:

> Hi all,
> for an upcoming experiment I am looking for precise external
> time reference, preferrably an atomic clock that I can hook
> up to a computer running a Unix variant.
> I should be able to read out the time with a low latency, e.g.
> over PCI or PCI-e bus.
> The time reference will serve me as a, well reference, to
> calibrate a series of various radio clocks.
> I am looking for used equipment, it should fit in a hobbyists
> budget,  sth. in the 1000-5000$ range would be nice, but it
> should be as precise as possible.
> If you have ideas or pointers for me, that would be very
> welcome.

there are a variety of cards made that can generate/receive timecode  
or sync pulses that plug into a PC.  True-Time (now Symmetricom) used  
to make an IRIG timecode card for ISA bus, for instance.  I imagine  
these are in the $1000 range.

For instance the National Instruments PCI-6601 counter timer card is  
about $350

Then, drive that with Rb standard from Stanford Research (I seem to  
recall seeing ads on the back of Electronic Design or some such for  

That's all brand new.  One can do much better if one hunts down  
surplus or used.


> Thanks,
> Marc Balmer, HB9SSB
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