Digital-to-analog converters (DACs) have been widely used since the 1980s in arbitrary function generators (AFGs) and arbitrary waveform generators (AWGs) to produce signals for verification, characterization, and stress/margin testing. However, advances in DAC technologies and techniques enabled them to directly generate highly detailed RF and electronic-warfare (EW) signals or the complex pulse trains used in advanced research, making them very suitable for high-end applications such as quantum computing.
These high-end applications include wideband RF systems, validation of high-speed silicon, coherent optical research, and leading-edge research in electronics, physics, and chemistry. If a waveform can be defined or captured, chances are a modern AWG with high sample rates can generate the signals of interest.
For some applications like radar, EW, and advanced research, there’s more to the story than top-line sample-rate performance. Factors such as price per channel, signal fidelity, and scalability have become increasingly important. High-performance equipment that can meet speed and bandwidth requirements is expensive, particularly for projects that require multiple synchronized channels.