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Coded transmission is an approach to solve the inherent compromise between penetration and resolution required in ultrasound imaging. Our goal was to examine the applicability of the coded excitation to HF (20-35 MHz) ultrasound imaging. A novel real-time imaging system for research and evaluation of the coded transmission was developed. The digital programmable coder- digitizer module based on the field programmable gate array (FPGA) chip supports arbitrary waveform coded transmission and RF echo sampling up to 200 megasamples per second, as well as real-time streaming of digitized RF data via a high-speed USB interface to the PC. All RF and image data processing were implemented in the software. A novel balanced software architecture supports real-time processing and display at rates up to 30 frames/sec. The system was used to acquire quantitative data for sine burst and 16-bit Golay code excitation at 20 MHz fundamental frequency. SNR gain close to 14 dB was obtained. The example of the skin scan clearly shows the extended penetration and improved contrast when a 35-MHz Golay code is used. The system presented is a practical and low-cost implementation of a coded excitation technique in HF ultrasound imaging that can be used as a research tool as well as to be introduced into production.