[time-nuts] OT: Anyone programmed HP 59306A relay actuator (or other old device)?

Brooke Clarke brooke at pacific.net
Sat May 24 11:42:29 EDT 2008

Hi David:

The HP 59000 series boxes were some of the very first HP-IB instruments made. 
They are what might be called glue boxes used to build systems.  As has been 
pointed out there is not a micro controller and in addition there is no 
IEEE-488 interface chip (this was before there was an IEEE specification).

In addition they are slow.  The handshake on the HP-IB slows the buss down to 
the slowest instrument that's on the buss even if you are not talking to that 
instrument.  This has two implications, first, it's good to put the slow 
instruments on a different bus from instruments where you want speed and 
second, when talking to a slow instrument add a time delay after you send it a 
command before the program proceeds so that there's time for the instrument to 
process the command.

The 59306 has two modes, local and remote.  You can press buttons on the front 
panel in local mode and use it without a remote control.  When you want to use 
remote control you must first send the remote command <$>.  The front panel 
switches stay pressed and when the box is put into local mode those switch 
positions well be restored.

The three letter line names are control lines on the HP-IB and modern interface 
cards take care of most of those signals.  But, since there's no micro 
controller you should not send any characters after the single command byte. 
No <CR><LF>, no <EOI>.  You may need to explicitly set the termination sequence 
so that these are avoided.

For more on the 59000 series boxes see:
These are are handy when building HP-IB systems since they also allow manual 

Have Fun,

Brooke Clarke
http://www.prc68.com/P/Prod.html  Products I make and sell
http://www.prc68.com/Alpha.shtml  All my web pages listed based on html name
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Dr. David Kirkby wrote:
> I know this is a bit off-topic here, but has anyone here ever programmed 
> an HP 59306A relay actuator
> http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/product.jspx?cc=US&lc=eng&nid=-536900193.536882169
> which consists of 6 SPDT relays programmable via GPIB?
> Over the years I have programmed a number of sophisticated instruments 
> including spectrum analysers, lock-in amplifiers, the 5370B 
> time-interval counter, 8970A noise figure meters,  bench multimeter etc. 
> On the face of it, I would think a box with only 6 relays to be much 
> simpler than any of these, but I am having a hard time with it. It may 
> be it's age - the commands needed might be a bit different from anything 
> I know.
> I'm trying to control it with a National Instruments GPIB board in a Sun 
> workstation. (It's on a PCI bus and is the same card one would use in a 
> PC. ).
> Page 3-4 of the  HP 59306A's manual (page 25 in the PDF) )
> http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/redirector.jspx?action=ref&cname=AGILENT_EDITORIAL&cc=US&lc=eng&ckey=824199&nid=-536900193.536882169.07&pid=1000001496%3Aepsg%3Apro
> has an example program, but it's unlike any example I have ever seen. 
> There's no ibdev, ibwrt or similar - its basically a list of the state 
> (high or low) of the control lines and digital IO lines.
> Sequence #1 says
> EOP=high, REN=high, MRE=low, digital IO lines ascii '?'
> I assume this is basically
>        dd=ibdev(0, gpib_address, 0, T3s, 1, 0);
>        ibclr(dd);
> but I've no idea if this is so, since I'm not sure what lines ibclr() 
> sets high/low. I guess I will have to set up some LEDs on the bus to see 
> what is happening.
> I'm pretty sure the  sequences 4 to 9 can be set with
> ibwrt(dd,"A",1);
> ibwrt(dd,"3",1);
> ibwrt(dd,"5",1);
> ibwrt(dd,"B",1);
> ibwrt(dd,"3",1);
> ibwrt(dd,"A",1);
> although it might be possible to use
> ibwrt(dd,"A35B35",6);
> (It's not clear to me if this can accept multiple commands at once).
> Anyone got any ideas of what NI commands can be used to executes 
> sequences 1,2,3 and 10 in table 3-3?
> David Kirkby
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