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An adaptive decision feedback equalizer to detect digital information transmitted by pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM) through a noisy dispersive linear channel is described, and its performance through several channels is evaluated by means of analysis, computer simulation, and hardware simulation. For the channels considered, the performance of both the fixed and the adaptive decision feedback equalizers are found to be notably better than that obtained with a similar linear equalizer. The fixed equalizer, which may be used when the channel characteristics are known, exhibits performance which is close to that of the optimum, but impractical, Bayesian receiver and is considerably superior to that of the linear equalizer. The adaptive decision feedback equalizer, which is used when the channel impulse response is unknown or time varying, has a better transient and steady-state performance than the adaptive linear equalizer. The sensitivity of the receiver structure to adjustment and quantization errors is not pronounced.