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Artifact calibration: theory and application :

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Electronic instruments generally contain both a large number and a wide variety of components. The circuit configuration and the values of the components determine the characteristics of the instrument. Unfortunately, because nothing is absolutely stable, the value of any component varies with time, and because of this, instruments require periodic calibration to assure continued compliance with specifications. Until the advent of the microprocessor, periodic calibration generally required the physical adjustment of components within the instrument. This was done to bring the instrument into compliance with external standards. Complex instruments might contain dozens of internal physical adjustment points such as potentiometers and variable capacitors. The adjustment process could take many
hours to complete. This approach to calibration requires traceable stimulus and measurement at each of these points. The systems used have been both manually operated and complex. Such systems may include various reference components or stimulus values, as well as bridges and other instruments. The support
of these complex and lengthy calibrations required a large and costly array of equipment, processes and manpower. In the mid-1970s, instrumentation broke new ground by using the microprocessor, not only to enhance capabilities and operation, but also to simplify the calibration process. For example, the Fluke 8500A (a high-accuracy multimeter) was designed to store and use software correction factors to compensate for gain and zero errors on each range of the instrument. This process of storing constants (based on comparison to external Artifact calibration theory and application standards) has been utilized extensively in the calibration of instruments. Today, internal software corrections have eliminated the need to remove instrument covers to make physical adjustments in almost all types of instrumentation.
However, for instruments that do not support Artifact Calibration (defined in document), it is still necessary to provide a large array of external stimulus or measurement capability for purposes of calibration. 

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