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The general concepts associated with applying power system stabilizers utilizing shaft speed, ac bus frequency, and electrical power inputs are developed in this first part of a three-part paper. This lays the foundation for discussion of the tuning concepts and practical aspects of stabilizer application in Parts II and III. The characteristics of the "plant" through which the power system stabilizer must operate are discussed and the implications upon stabilizer tuning and performance are noted. A general approach for analyzing stabilizers utilizing an arbitrary input signal is described and applied to the frequency and electrical power input signals.