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One very common format for serial numbers is structured thus : (from an early-90's service manual)
In the form
1234A00123; the first four digits and the letter are the serial number prefix. This prefix is the same for all identical instruments; it changes only when a change is made to the instrument. The last five digits (00123) form the suffix that is unique to each instrument.
In addition, it seems that there is a strong correlation between the first part and datecodes found elsewhere (e.g. firmware revisions); something like 3449A decodes as “week 49 of 1994”.