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This paper presents a survey of the basic technical methods and related terminology in common use to describe features of ultrasonic imaging instruments for medical diagnostics. Emphasis is on current commercial practice using the pulse-echo modality. This form of diagnostic technique is in a period of rapid technical change with a consequent proliferation of descriptive terminology. The approach taken is one of defining basic features of instrument operation, then introducing the various descriptive terms in this context and correlating these with each feature. The aim is to provide users of such instrumentation with a more basic understanding of designs to encourage better use of provided features and an appreciation of performance claims. A general introduction to machine configurations used for both static and dynamic imaging is followed by a more detailed examination of individual sections of instruments with emphasis on basic functional needs, user control interaction, and the effects on image appearance produced. It is concluded that the widening clinical use of ultrasound would be assisted by some commonality of terminology among manufacturers but this does not appear imminent. The current situation can be substantially alleviated by recognizing the functional similarities behind the terms used by the manufacturers of different machines.