PTTI 2003

I was invited to present a paper at the annual PTTI (Precise Time and Time Interval) conference in 2003. The participants and presenters at the conference are, for the most part, professionals in the precise time & frequency field. The topic I chose was The State of the Art in Amateur Timekeeping which attempted to convey to the professionals the extent of my precise timing hobby. If you are interested here are copies of the paper and the talk:

The State of the Art in Amateur Timekeeping paper (PDF, 1.0 MB)

The State of the Art in Amateur Timekeeping presentation (Power Point, PDF, 2.3 MB)


One might assume precise time metrology is the exclusive domain of national scientific laboratories, military infrastructure, or professional calibration centers. But there are a number of amateurs who in recent years have built home timing labs purely as a hobby: the performance of which now rival that of some national labs. An even larger number of individuals, perhaps hundreds, own atomic standards and use them to satisfy or fuel their curiosity about the world of ultra precise timekeeping.

The following paper describes an extreme case of one home timing lab. First, its motivation and history: from a pair of wrist watches 30 years ago, accurate to seconds per week, to a pair of active hydrogen masers today, stable to parts in ten to the 15th.

Second, its accomplishments: in the form of web-published experiments, including stability analysis of TCXO and OCXO, comparison of frequency quadruplers, stability comparison of twelve GPS disciplined oscillators, probing the cesium hyperfine clock transition, hydrogen maser auto-tuning results, GPS performance with and without selective availability, homemade software tools for stability analysis, and PC-based instrumentation systems.

Finally, the paper describes the technical challenges that a home timing lab faces, many of which are the same challenges as a national timing laboratory, though on a smaller scale. Solutions to such problems as budget, power, temperature, space, redundancy, time transfer, security, computer logging and networking, and automated operation are discussed.

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