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Computer Interfacing

Computer Lab Interfaces

Although there are up to four different ways to collect data with IBM-compatible computers and several with the Macintosh, only two are recommended for use in biology classes. These vary in types of inputs, data collection rate, resolution, and price.


Vernier's Universal Laboratory Interface can be used on both Macintosh and IBM compatible computers. Although it supports both analog and digital inputs, I expect that the analog input will be used the majority of the time in biology. At data rates below 4000 samples per second, all channels on the newer devices have 12-bit resolution -- the older versions are limited to 10-bit resolution . The ULI Interface supports all the sensors that the Serial Box can use, but is also capable of doing some things the Serial Box Interface cannot do. Specifically, it supports:

  • Fast analog data collection (for studying the sound waves of cricket chirps with a microphone, for example)
  • Motion Detectors
  • Radiation counting

If you want to use your Macintosh in all subject areas (especially physics), get the ULI.

Serial Interface

The Serial Box Interface will only collect two channels of analog signals. This is great in a biology class, since almost all of the probes and sensors I use are analog devices. The main advantage is it's low cost. It has a slower response time than the ULI, taking only 50 readings per sec or less. Most of the sensors I use have a response time MUCH longer than this, however, so this is not much of a concern. All channels have 12-bit resolution. The Serial Box Interface can be powered by an internal battery pack so it can be used with a laptop computer for remote data collection. This is great for field work, if you don't have the CBL systems.

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