Design Philosophy

Here, we describe the design philosophy behind InstrumentKit at a high-level. Specific implications of this philosophy for coding style and practices are detailed in Coding Style.


InstrumentKit aims to make instruments and devices look and feel native to the Python development culture. Users should not have to worry if a given instrument names channels starting with 1 or 0, because Python itself is zero- based.

>>> scope.data_source =[0] # doctest: +SKIP

Accessing parts of an instrument should be supported in a way that supports standard Python idioms, most notably iteration.

>>> for channel in # doctest: +SKIP
...     channel.coupling = scope.Coupling.ground

Values that can be queried and set should be exposed as properties. Instrument modes that should be entered and exited on a temporary basis should be exposed as context managers. In short, anyone familiar with Python should be able to read InstrumentKit-based programs with little to no confusion.


Users should not have to worry overmuch about the particular instruments that are being used, but about the functionality that instrument exposes. To a large degree, this is enabled by using common base classes, such as instruments.generic_scpi.SCPIOscilloscope. While every instrument does offer its own unique functionality, by consolidating common functionality in base classes, users can employ some subset without worrying too much about the particulars.

This also extends to communications methods. By consolidating communication logic in the instruments.abstract_instruments.comm.AbstractCommunicator class, users can connect instruments however is convienent for them, and can change communications methods without affecting their software very much.


Communications with instruments should be handled in such a way that errors are reported in a natural and Python-ic way, such that incorrect or unsafe operations are avoided, and such that all communications are correct.

An important consequence of this is that all quantities communicated to or from the instrument should be unitful. In this way, users can specify the dimensionality of values to be sent to the device without regards for what the instrument expects; the unit conversions will be handled by InstrumentKit in a way that ensures that the expectations of the instrument are properly met, irrespective of what the user knows.