The HP-IL (Hewlett-Packard Interface Loop), was a short-range interconnection bus or network introduced by Hewlett-Packard in the early 1980s.[1] It enabled several devices such as printers, floppy disk drives, tape readers, etc. to be connected to programmable calculators such as the HP-41C, HP-71B and HP-75C/D, the 80-series and HP-110 computers, as well as generic ISA bus based PCs.

HPIL (Hewlett-Packard Interface Loop)
HP-IL connectors (on an HP-71B)
Type Peripheral data bus
Designer Hewlett-Packard
Designed 1980s
Manufacturer Hewlett-Packard
Superseded by USB (mid-1990s)
External yes
Pins 2
Data signal Token ring
Bitrate 160 kbit/s
(limited to 16 kbit/s)
Max. devices 31
(with extensions up to 960)
Protocol Serial


As its name implies, the HP-IL cable formed a loop: the cable originated in the HP-IL extension module, ran through all connected devices, then came back to the module. Every device on the bus has a ring-in and a ring-out connector, either on pigtails or built in. HP used a proprietary two-pin connector design with polarizing "D"-shaped shells. HP-IL cables can be interconnected without further adapters to extend their length.

The IL used a form of token passing protocol for media access control. Each device on loop receives a sequentially assigned address automatically, from 1 up to 30. On the bus, devices could act as controllers (the calculators/computers) or slaves (the peripherals). Certain controllers like the HP-71 module or the HP82973A ISA interface could act as slaves as well, enabling a small network of calculators to be set up.

In the loop, there is one controller, one listener and one talker device at any time, others are inactive. The talker is the device that is sending information to the loop, and the listener is that one that receives information from the loop. The controller is the device that commands devices to talk and listen. In calculator-based systems (e.g. using the HP-41C), the calculator is always the active controller.


Hewlett-Packard developed a range of devices to be connected to the HP-IL, mostly peripherals such as printers and storage devices for calculators. Through the 82169A HP-IL/HP-IB Interface, HP-IL controllers could be connected to instruments with an HP-IB (aka GPIB or IEEE-488) interface, or vice versa. There were also plans to make test equipment with IL interfaces, but apart from the somewhat popular 3468A multimeter, only a few devices were introduced before HP-IL itself became obsolete.

In addition to the HP-IB interface, HP also sold RS-232 and general-purpose parallel I/O interfaces as well as a prototype kit to create custom interfaces.

HP Calculator Applications

Several HP calculators were offered with HP-IL interfaces. In the HP-75C/D it was built in, in others such as the HP-71 and HP-41, plug in interface modules were available (such as the HP82160A for the HP-41). Popular uses for the HP-IL on the calculators included printing (using the HP 82162A thermal printer) and cassette file storage (through the HP 82161A digital cassette drive). For ease of use, the calculators supported automatic I/O address assignment ("AUTOIO"), where printer or mass storage commands are directed to the first available device of the appropriate type. Where multiple devices per type were present, a manual ("MANIO") assignment mode could be used.

HP-IL to HP-IB interfacing

Through the 82169A interface converter, even small calculators could be used to control a number of devices on a standard HP-IB (GPIB, IEEE-488) bus, an interface in wide use for test and measurement equipment. The converter can operate in either of two modes, Translator or Mailbox. Translator mode is adequate for systems where only one controller is present (typically a calculator on HP-IL), while Mailbox mode applies when there are separate controllers present on both buses.

In Translator mode with an HP-IL controller, the default addressing mode is to connect the converter as the last device in the HP-IL loop, to set its own HP-IB address higher than the number of devices on the HP-IL loop, and to set the addresses of devices to be addressed on the HP-IB side must be higher than the converter's address.[2] Deviating from this scheme requires manual control of addressing.

In Mailbox mode, the controllers on either side can place a message into the converter's buffer memory, for the other side to retrieve from that memory.

Equipment with HP-IL Interface



  • HP 82164A HP-IL/RS-232C Interface (serial port)
  • HP 82165A HP-IL/GPIO Interface (generic parallel port)
  • HP 82166A HP-IL Converter (smaller version of GPIO interface intended for embedded use)
  • HP 82166C HP-IL Converter Prototyping Kit
  • HP 82169A HP-IL/HPIB Interface (bidirectional)
  • HP 5061-3166 HP-IL/SCSI Interface


  • HP 9114A/B Disc Drives
  • HP 82161A Tape Drive
  • HP 82162A Thermal Printer (HP-IL version of HP 82143A printer for HP-41C)
  • HP 82163A Video Interface
  • HP 92198A 80-Column Video Interface (Mountain Computer)
  • HP 82168A, 92205M Acoustic Couplers (Modems)
  • HP 82905A/B Printers
  • HP 2225B ThinkJet Printer
  • HP 7470A Graphics Plotter (Opt. 003 HPIL Interface)
  • HP 2671A/G Alphanumeric Graphics Thermal Printer

Test instruments

  • HP 1630 and HP1631 Logic analyzers (can be loop controller)
  • HP 3421A Data Acquisition/Control Unit
  • HP 3468A/B Digital Multimeters (HP-IL version of HP 3478A with GPIB)
  • HP 5384A and HP 5385A frequency counters with option 003 (HP-IL)
  • HP 8590A spectrum analyzer with option 022 (HP-IL)
  • HP 5890 Gas Chromatograph and companion Autosampler HP 7673 have an HP-IL interface option for instrument programming and data logging using HP 3392A.[3]


  • HP-IL Development Module (plug-in Application ROM module for HP-41C)
  • HP 82183A Extended I/O Module


  • FSI164A HP-IL/RS-232C Interface
  • Leitz IL-41 Theodolite interface

See also


  1. "HP82169A Manual" (PDF). p. 17. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  2. http://ipes.us/used/58901.pdf
  • Gerry Kane, Steve Harper, David Ushijima (1982). THE HP-IL SYSTEM: An Introductory Guide to the Hewlett-Packard Interface Loop. Berkeley: Osborne/McGraw-Hill. p. 106. ISBN 0-931988-77-2.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  • The HP-IL Interface Specification (HP P/N 82166-90017). Hewlett Packard. 1982. p. 200. The official specification.
  • The HP-IL Integrated Circuit (HP P/N 82166-90016 rev B). Hewlett Packard. 1982. p. 100. Describes 1LB3-0003 chip.
  • HP 82160A HP-IL Module Owner's Manual for the HP-41
  • HP 82401A HP-IL Interface Owner's Manual for the HP-71
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