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6, 611-613 (1992)

MODERN SIGNALS AND S Y S T E M S , Huibert Kwakernaak and Raphael Sivan, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990, ISBN 0-13-809252-4,
v + 791 pp. plus Software Disk SIGSYS by Rens
C. W. Strijbos, 18.55 (softback).

Modern Signals and Systems is a new text aimed
at providing a concise and rigorous account of
the mathematical background needed for
undergraduate courses in signal processing,
control theory and telecommunications. In this
respect Kwakernaak and Sivan appear to have
met their objectives. It is a fresh and innovative
text ideal for teaching students who wish to
continue on and d o theoretical research. It
justifies its use of the word modern in the title
by exploiting the recent systems formalism of Jan
Willems. The text represents a considerable
challenge for the average electrical engineering
student, since many of the concepts tend to be
abstract and not easily absorbed. A lot of the
unique material in the text, particularly the
axiomatic manner of presentation, can be
classified as desirable but not necessary. The
book comes with professional quality PC
software SIGSYS written by Rens Strijbos.
The order of presentation of the material in the
text could create some difficulties, since notions
such as the Fourier and Laplace transforms are
introduced very late in the book. Specifically,
these transforms are dealt with after state space
ideas and only before the final three chapters
which treat applications (see the contents list
below). This may make the text difficult to
incorporate in a standard electrical engineering
curriculum, especially if the material from the
book is taught over two semesters and other
courses require these transforms after the first
semester. The text is more ideally suited to
students of applied mathematics or students
doing combined mathematics and engineering
courses and taking a course in signals and

will not be repeated here. In short, the chapters

are: 1 Overview of Signals and Systems; 2 An
Introduction t o Signals; 3 Introduction to
Systems; 4 Difference and Differential Systems; 5
State Description of Systems; 6 Expansion
Theory and Fourier Series; 7 Fourier Transforms;
8 The z- and Laplace Transforms; 9 Applications
to Signal Processing and Digital Filtering; 10
Applications to Communication; 1 1 Feedback
and Applications to Automatic Control; and
Supplements (appendices).
The text has a large number of well-chosen
problems at the end of each chapter. The general
impression is that because of the abstract bias of
the theory presented in the text, more worked
examples are needed to aid comprehension and
provide more motivation for the students.
Background experience
As a trial, the text was used in the
Interdisciplinary Engineering Program at the
Australian National University for a general
course on signals and systems held over two
semesters (an equivalent full-year course). It was
selected because of the great precision of its
treatment of signals and systems and since it
includes the highly desirable material of state
space methods. As is rather typical with
(electrical) engineering courses, this signals and
systems material tends to be taught after a first
course in circuit theory. By the end of this
prerequisite the students have been introduced to
some of the ideas of systems and frequency
response, at least as far as the notions of complex
frequency and calculating transfer functions
(without necessarily a full understanding).
Students have also had by this time courses in
differential equations and linear algebra. The
manner in which these prerequisites and
subsequent courses relate to the material in the
text is an important consideration in assessing the
suitability of the text. Here I shall highlight some
of the important features of the text (in no
particular order) which should aid in its
evaluation for a similar environment.

ContenI S

Technical aspects

The Preface to the book provides a very fine

and comprehensive summary of the text and this

The book is complete and self-contained. The

authors achieve this by laying down a large

0 1992 by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.



number of definitions which form the basis of

subsequent development and examples. This
approach, which is the basis of the books rigour,
leads to a strong hierarchy of definitions which
tend to be abstract but makes the book cohesive.
The material presented in the text is rather
concise, which can make the book cryptic at
times. For example, in the third chapter on p. 71
we are introduced to the following notion.

Non-anticipating dynamical IOM system:

Consider an Input-Output Mapping (IOM)
system with time axis T and rule W c a x 9.
Let ( u l , y l ) be any I 0 pair and f c U an
arbitrary time, and suppose that (UZ,y z ) is any
other input-output pair such that UI(T)= &(7)
for all T t with T T. Then the system is nonanticipating if y~ (7)= y 2 ( 7 ) for all T < f such
that T E D .


To understand this definition, we need to know

what an input-output mapping system means.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it is a system that
maps elements from an input set ~9/to elements
of an output set W in a one-to-one fashion. (In
general, such a system definition does not require
a notion of time, referred to as a time axis,
but clearly to define non-anticipation one is
required.) Of course, the above serves to define
IOM systems whose outputs cannot depend on
future inputs. For an introductory text where
concepts are to be met for the first time, this type
of formal definition seems quite inappropriate, at
least for engineering students and probably for
the average engineer.
The precise definition of an IOM system
provides an elegant means to incorporate initial
conditions, since for a given input a system can
have different outputs (because of the different
initial conditions). A more general system
definition presented in the text, called an
input-output system, is defined by three sets: (i)
the input set, (ii) the output set and (iii) a subset
of the Cartesian product of the input and output
sets. There is no question that the better students
would understand this and perhaps comprehend
why this axiomatic approach has advantages (i.e.
generality, precision and conciseness). However,
an inordinate amount of effort would be needed
to motivate such ideas to the average engineering
Ignoring the potential difficulties of teaching
the material, the use of norms (and normed
spaces) is a welcome feature of the book. This is
useful because it introduces students to the idea
that the way we measure signals and systems
(using, say, an induced norm) is rather arbitrary
and provides a more balanced presentation than

ones that tend to focus exclusively on Euclidean

norms (energy). That these ideas are introduced
in the second chapter is an indication of the
strong mathematical slant of the text.
Typical of the text is its thoroughness in
dealing with technical matters. An example is its
treatment of stability of systems and in particular
of convolution systems. Both bounded
input-bounded output (BIBO) and converging
input-converging output (CICO) stability are
developed and discussed. The latter definition,
which is not standard, is a stronger notion than
BIBO stability and additionally requires that two
outputs of a n 1 0 system tend towards each other
if their corresponding inputs d o likewise. The fine
line between BIBO and CICO stability and the
importance of initial conditions when concluding
stability given locations of poles and zeros, their
cancellations and multiplicities is well developed.
The treatment of state space methods is
another positive feature of the book. An
input-output state (10s) system is defined by
augmenting the definition of an input-output
system (whose definition was sketched above)
with state signals belonging to a set. A subset of
the triple of the input set, the output set and the
new state set serves to define the 10s system.
Those familiar with the standard state space
approach will recognize the clever cloaking of the
concept, but it is difficult t o see how students are
better off with the abstract (and admittedly
general) definition rather than a more concrete
approach which usually first considers linear
systems. With 10s systems the stability flavours
expand to include BIBS and CIBS stability where
the final letter of the acronym stands for state
in lieu of the previous output.
Chapters 6-9 deal with what can be loosely
defined as frequency domain methods. This
includes treatment of general expansion theory,
the projection theorem, spectral expansions,
finite and infinite Fourier series expansions,
Fourier transforms and finally the z- and Laplace
transforms. The approach taken is completely
consistent with earlier chapters. First a general
framework is given, and only after the general
picture is completed are specific cases considered.
This reinforces the mathematical concerns of the
authors more so than the engineering aspects.
The latter typically provide greater motivation
and more examples earlier to encourage
(engineering) students to invest time in
understanding the concepts.
For example, Fourier transforms are arrived at
firstly by regarding transforms as bijective
mappings of a signal space to itself. A special
case of this is the so-called expansion transform



which is given by coefficients or weights in a

representation of the signal in terms of basis
elements (for the linear space). For a system its
eigensignals are a natural choice for the basis
functions and this leads to the so-called spectral
transforms. Finally, the choice of complex
exponentials as eigenfunctions for linear systems
leads t o the various Fourier transforms (both
continuous and discrete). Contrary to the
approach adopted in the text, there are strong
arguments in the interest of pedagogics to reverse
the development of concepts to move from
specific to general.
The treatment of z- and Laplace transforms is
very good, albeit very late. The concepts are
developed with great clarity. The consideration of
inverse transforms forms one of the clearest
presentations amongst texts which do not resort
heavily to complex analysis tools. This material,
as indeed is the whole text, is fine reference
material for a highly structured rigorous account
of the theory.
If the chapters on applications dealing with
communications and feedback and automatic
control were stuck in a blender and incorporated
into the earlier chapters, then many of the
difficulties regarding motivating students to learn
the abstract formalism should vanish. There is a
certain logic in treating these themes separately
because it reduces the notational burden and
removes potential redundancy. However, the cost
is to leave this material until too late. Another
side effect is that the chapters tend to step on the
toes of following courses in the usage of
(potentially non-standard) terminology and
The text contains supplementary material in
the form of appendices and a tutorial on the
substantial piece of PC software called SIGSYS

written by Rens C. W. Strijbos (which is provided

on a floppy disk). This software was not
evaluated nor used in the course given at ANU,
a decision which was unrelated to its quality.

My opinion is that any student who masters this
text is well placed to understand what the text
purports to teach, i.e. modern signals and
systems - at least modern in the sense of
developments which have been taking place in. the
late 1980s and early 1990s. If it were possible to
identify future research engineers (and mathematicians working in the engineering field) at
such an early stage of their development, then the
book superbly fits the bill for their undergraduate
education. This forte of the text tends to come at
the expense of the average students who are
encouraged to learn concepts strictly not needed
nor crucial for their early engineering education.
On the other hand, anything less than what
Kwakernaak and Sivan have produced would
compromise their primary objective, which is to
create a text which emphasizes the modern trend
towards more concise, rigorous mathematical
expression in engineering education. At the least
the book should be on the reading list of every
course on signals and systems, and in those cases
where the curriculum allows it should be
considered a strong candidate for the main text.
Department of Systems Engineering
RS Phys SE and the Interdisciplinary Engineering
Faculty of Science
Australian National University
GPO Box 4, Canberra ACT 2601