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How to read serial data directly into Octave

02 Nov 2015  | Steve Hageman

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Now you should be a ready to use Octave with your Arduino or Rasberry PI and even with lab equipment like that great old HP34401 multi-meter on your workbench. Enjoy!

1. GNU Octave

2. MATLAB is a registered trademark of The Mathworks, Inc.

3. The latest instrument control package may be downloaded here. This article is written for version: 0.2.1 (2015-02-05). Future versions may change things significantly. Be sure to check the release notes. More information on the functions contained in the package is also located there.

4. A simple Web search will locate many examples of how to make a loopback plug for your serial port.

About the author
Steve Hageman is a confirmed analogue-a-holic since about the fifth grade when he built his first shortwave receiver. After acquiring his first Apple computer in 1982, he has continued using software to control analogue hardware and building useful measurement systems. Steve has had the pleasure of designing such diverse products as modular data acquisition systems, switching power supplies, RFIC test systems, software defined radios, and most recently, high frequency lock in amplifiers for biological sample investigation. He would be happy to discuss your custom project needs and can be reached via his website AnalogHome.

Appendix A
Code listing of the ReadToTermination() Function

function [char_array] = ReadToTermination (srl_handle, term_char)

% parameter term_char is optional, if not specified

% then CR = '\r' = 13dec is the default.

if(nargin == 1)

term_char = 13;


not_terminated = true;

i = 1;

int_array = uint8(1);

while not_terminated

val = srl_read(srl_handle, 1);

if(val == term_char)

not_terminated = false;


% Add char received to array

int_array(i) = val;

i = i + 1;


% Change int array to a char array and return a string array

char_array = char(int_array);


You can place this function in a file named "ReadToTermination.m" and place it in your project's current working directory.

Appendix B
The complete demonstration program for use with a loopback serial connection [4].

% Octave—Serial Test—Using a loopback connection

clc; clear;

% Load the package

pkg load instrument-control

% Check if serial support exists

if (exist("serial") != 3)

disp("No Serial Support");


% Instantiate the Serial Port

% Naturally, set the COM port # to match your device

% Use this crazy notation for any COM port number: 1—255

s1 = serial("\\\\.\\COM10");

pause(1); % Wait a second as it takes some ports a while to wake up

% Set the port parameters

set(s1, 'baudrate', 115200);

set(s1, 'bytesize', 8);

set(s1, 'parity', 'n');

set(s1, 'stopbits', 1);

set(s1, 'timeout', 123); % 12.3 Seconds as an example here

% Optional commands, these can be 'on' or 'off'

%set(s1, 'requesttosend', 'on'); % Sets the RTS line

%set(s1, 'dataterminalready', 'on'); % Sets the DTR line

% Optional—Flush input and output buffers


%——- Loopback Communication Test——-

% Looback using srl_write & srl_read

srl_write(s1, "Hello World!");

% reads back 12B as integers

read_back_int = srl_read(s1, 12);

% Convert the integers to a string

read_back_str = char(read_back_int);

% Use the ReadToTermination to read an entire line back

srl_write(s1, "Hello world!\r");

read_back = ReadToTermination(s1);

% Change the termination character to newline ('\n' = 10)

srl_write(s1, "Hello world!\n");

read_back2 = ReadToTermination(s1, 10);

% Read two lines back

srl_write(s1, "Hello world!\r Next Line\r");

line1 = ReadToTermination(s1);

line2 = ReadToTermination(s1);

% Finally, Close the port


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