Progress in telecommunications over the past two decades has been nothing short of revolutionary, with communications taken for granted in modern society to the same extent as electricity. There is therefore a persistent need for engineers who are well-versed in the principles of communication systems. These principles apply to communication between points in space, as well as communication between points in time (i.e, storage). Digital systems are fast replacing analog systems in both domains. This book has been written in response to the following core question: what is the basic material that an undergraduate student with an interest in communications should learn, in order to be well prepared for either industry or graduate school? For example, a number of institutions only teach digital communication, assuming that analog communication is dead or dying. Is that the right approach? From a purely pedagogical viewpoint, there are critical questions related to mathematical preparation: how much mathematics must a student learn to become well-versed in system design, what should be assumed as background, and at what point should the mathematics that is not in the background be introduced? Classically, students learn probability and random processes, and then tackle communication.
This does not quite work today: students increasingly (and I believe, rightly) question the applicability of the material they learn, and are less interested in abstraction for its own sake. On the other hand, I have found from my own teaching experience that students get truly excited about abstract concepts when they discover their power in applications, and it is possible to provide the means for such discovery using software packages such as Matlab. Thus, we have the opportunity to get a new generation of students excited about this field: by covering abstractions “just in time” to shed light on engineering design, and by reinforcing concepts immediately using software experiments in addition to conventional pen-and-paper problem solving, we can remove the lag between learning and application, and ensure that the concepts stick. This textbook represents my attempt to act upon the preceding observations, and is an outgrowth of my lectures for a two-course undergraduate elective sequence on communication at UCSB, which is often also taken by some beginning graduate students. Thus, it can be used as the basis for a two course sequence in communication systems, or a single course on digital communication, at the undergraduate or beginning graduate level. The book also provides a review or introduction to communication systems for practitioners, easing the path to study of more advanced graduate texts and the research literature. The prerequisite is a course on signals and systems, together with an introductory course on probability. The required material on random processes is included in the text
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