Animal behaviour can be viewed as a stream of elements, which, once accurately described, can be counted and timed. Data acquisition techniques and tools are reviewed, and some strategies for collection and analysis of data using PC computers are suggested. Automated instruments are not satisfactory for the study of complex behaviour and as such systemic observation remains irreplaceable. IBM PC-type computers, with a wide range of analytical software (e.g., spreadsheets, statistical packages, technical graphics), are practical for data acquisition. Several systems which can satisfy different applications are reviewed. Some systems can communicate with a videorecorder, a facility which remarkably increases the accuracy of measurement; this is essential for meaningful analyses of the internal structure of behavioural streams (sequences, time patterns) or communication processes. The power of new tools enables behavioural measurement with the necessary complexity to allow a whole new set of questions to be addressed. However, it also increases demands for meaningful content and analysis of data.