The IEEE-488.1 standard greatly simplified the interconnection of programmable instruments by clearly defining mechanical, hardware, and electrical protocol specifications. For the first time, instruments from different manufactures were connected by a standard cable. This standard does not address data formats, status reporting, message exchange protocol, common configuration commands, or device specific commands.
The IEEE-488.2 standard enhances and strengthens the IEEE-488.1 standard by specifying data formats, status reporting, error handling, controller functionality, and common instruments commands. It focuses mainly on the software protocol issues and thus maintains compatibility with the hardware- oriented IEEE-488.1 standard. IEEE-488.2 systems tend to be more compatible and reliable.