Jitter in technical terms is the deviation in or displacement of some aspect of the pulses in a high-frequency digital signal. As the name suggests, jitter can be thought of as shaky pulses. The deviation can be in terms of amplitude, phase timing, or the width of the signal pulse. Another definition is that it is "the period frequency displacement of the signal from its ideal location." Among the causes of jitter are electromagnetic interference (EMI) and crosstalk with other signals. Jitter can cause a display monitor to flicker; affect the ability of the processor in a personal computer to perform as intended; introduce clicks or other undesired effects in audio signals, and loss of transmitted data between network devices. The amount of allowable jitter depends greatly on the application.
Jitter is the time variation of a periodic signal in electronics and telecommunications, often in relation to a reference clock source. Jitter may be observed in characteristics such as the frequency of successive pulses, the signal amplitude, or phase of periodic signals. Jitter is a significant, and usually undesired, factor in the design of almost all communications links (e.g., USB, PCI-e, SATA, OC-48). In clock recovery applications it is called timing jitter.
Jitter can be quantified in the same terms as all time-varying signals, e.g., RMS, or peak-to-peak displacement. Also like other time-varying signals, jitter can be expressed in terms of spectral density (frequency content).
Jitter period is the interval between two times of maximum effect (or minimum effect) of a signal characteristic that varies regularly with time. Jitter frequency, the more commonly quoted figure, is its inverse. Generally, very low jitter frequency is not of interest in designing systems, and the low-frequency cutoff for jitter is typically specified at 1 Hz.
Full article ▸