Oscilloscope Guide

The oscilloscope, once called an oscillograph, can be a very important tool for electronic testing. These devices are able to allow the observer to see the various and constant changes in signal voltages. You will be able to see the change in the voltage with a light on the face of the cathode ray tube. These tools are quite common in a number of different industries as well as in scientific laboratories. They are very useful when it comes to helping adjust various types of electronics so that they are working to exact specifications. In fact, the oscilloscopes are so accurate that they are able to detect and follow changes that occur within less than a billionth of a second. This is going to ensure greater accuracy.

Who Invented the Oscilloscope?

In 1897, Karl Ferdinand Braun invented the oscilloscope, which was an adaptation that he made to the cathode ray tube. He worked with and made improvements to Marconi’s wireless telegraphy. In fact, he and Marconi shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. One of the interesting things to note is that these tubes were the precursors to the tubes used for television and radar systems years later.

History of Oscilloscopes

The reason that the oscilloscope that we know today exists is the invention of the cathode ray tube. These tubes are instrumental in the scopes. Braun invented the scope, almost as a curiosity as much as a tool. Two years after the invention, Jonathan Zenneck added beam-forming plates to the tube and utilized a magnetic field along with it for “sweeping the trace”. Within a decade or two, the devices became much more common in the lab. The only problem was that the cathode emitters and the vacuum were not as stable as many would have liked. Of course, over the years, as technology advanced, they became much better.

An interesting piece of the history of the oscilloscope is that it was once quite common to see them as props in television and in the movies. They were stand-ins that represented scientific equipment in the lab. It was actually quite common to see them in the 1950s and 1960s. The old television show The Outer Limits actually made use of the device in their opening credits.

What Are Oscilloscopes Used For?

These powerful tools measure time-varying signals, which you will be able to see by the wave shape. They have the capacity to measure the frequency of the signal, as well as the peak value of the signal. Whenever you have a signal that varies, this tool is the one that you are going to want to use to measure it. The basic use of this type of scope is relatively simple. After plugging in the machine, you will turn it on, attach your input terminals, apply the signal, and make sure that the settings are going to match.

It seems easy, but it will still take some actual training on the device to understand how to use it and measure properly.

How Much Do Oscilloscopes Cost?

When it comes to the cost of one of these devices, you will find that it can vary, just as it does with just about any type of item that you want to buy. Just as a Honda is going to be less expensive than a Porsche is, they do the same basic things; get you from point A to point B. The same is true of the oscilloscope. Of course, with the higher-end models, you will be able to expect more bells and whistles in most cases.

It is possible to find scopes for well under $100 today. However, some of the models that have more options could be much higher. Well, over ten grand in many cases. When you are choosing the scope, you have to consider what you are going to be doing with it and how you will use it. Choose the one that is going to be able to provide you with the results you need without breaking the bank. One option that you might want to consider is buying an oscilloscope kit.

What Types of Oscilloscopes Exist?

When you start looking at all of the different options in the realm of oscilloscopes, you will see that you have a number of different choices. It is always a wise idea to make sure that you know at least a bit about the different types of scope before you choose one to use. After all, you do want to make sure that you are getting the right option for your needs. Here are some of the most common oscilloscopes that you will find on the market today.

Analogue Oscilloscopes – the analogue scopes, or CRT scopes, were the first real oscilloscopes. They have a cathode ray tube, a vertical amplifier, a horizontal amplifier, a timebase, and a power supply. The reason that they call these analogue scopes today is to help differentiate from the other scopes on the market, namely the digital scope. Some of the analogue scopes have an additional feature – direct view storage CRTs. This will allow the trace pattern to stay on the screen longer.

Current Probes & Clamps – the probes and clamps are some tools that you may well need to have for your oscilloscope depending on what you have. They are going to be able to attach right to your scope and have clamps so that you will be able to receive a signal easily. When you start looking for the probes and clamps, you will see that there are quite a few on the market today, so you will have to make sure that you are buying the right ones for your scope and your purposes.

Digital Oscilloscopes – digital oscilloscopes are quite popular today, as well. Instead of making use of the varying voltages, these are able to use binary numbers that match voltage samples. Most of the industries out there today prefer the digital type of oscilloscope. You can find many different types of digital oscilloscopes on the market, as well as some subtypes. The digital phosphor oscilloscope uses color information to provide information about a signal, for example.

Mixed Signal Oscilloscopes – these oscilloscopes have two different types of inputs. They will have a small number of analog channels, which is usually between two and four. They also have a much larger number of digital channels. They often have sixteen digital channels. These can be a good solution for those who may have different needs and uses for the device.

What Types of Accessories Exist for Oscilloscopes?

Once you start to look for the different oscilloscopes on the market and find some that you like, you are probably going to want to look at all of the various accessories that you might need or want, as well. Plenty of great options are available. Here are a few of them.

  • Oscilloscope Adapters – you can find many different types of adapters for your oscilloscope, some of which will make the waveform appear differently. Other adapters may offer different channels or USB compatibility.
  • Oscilloscope Battery Packs & Chargers – since your scope is going to need to have a power source, it means that you are going to need batteries and a charger. Most of the scopes that you buy are going to come with a battery and charger, but buying more to have on hand is usually a good idea.
  • Oscilloscope Cables – another item that you will probably want to have extra of are the cables that you will be using with the scopes. These, along with the probes, are going to be vital for your device.
  • Oscilloscope Cases & Bags – of course, you are going to need to have a bag if you plan to carry your device. A great bag or case is going to help you store the item securely, as well.
  • Oscilloscope Modules – to add more functionality to devices, modular components that one can switch are an option for some of the oscilloscopes on the market today.
  • Oscilloscope Mounting & Holding Devices – mounting the scope to a bench or cart could be a good idea. Proper holding devices are another option that you could choose based on the scope you are using and how you are using it.
  • Oscilloscope Probe Accessories – it is possible to find different tips for probes, as well as cases for them, which can be helpful when it comes to organization.
  • Oscilloscope Probes – the probes come in a number of different styles, and you will find that different probes are going to work better for different applications. Always know what you need before you begin a job. It may be a good idea to have several different probes in your case so you are ready for anything. You will certainly be able to find the probe that is right for your application.

What Type of Oscilloscope Software is Available?

In today’s world, having a software component that you are going to be able to use along with your oscilloscope is going to be essential. You are going to be able to find some great software on the market from a variety of different companies. With the software, you will generally have the option of automating your testing. This will make things simpler, and you can bet that it will make things faster, as well. Some of the software on the market has other tools that you will be able to use as well, such as timing analysis, equalization, and channel emulation.

Different software packages are going to have different options and features. It is always important that you look at the features and the cost of the software to make sure that you are going to be getting your money’s worth. Some of the companies that are offering software today include Tektronix, Fluke, and Haltech. While going with a known name for your software is a good idea it is not the only thing that you should consider.

Lookup any reviews and information that you might be able to find about the program to see what other users who are actually making use of the software regularly have to say. The reviews are where you will find the little complaints and praises that could help you make your decision when you are choosing software.

What are Oscilloscope Kits?

If you want to save some money and still have a great oscilloscope, a kit could be a good idea. With the DIY kit, you are going to be able to build your own scope. This could be a fun project, and it can help you to learn more about what it takes to put together a scope.

While it can be fun, you will also find that it is going to take some know-how and some work. One of the things that you will want to do is to read the instructions carefully. Instead of proceeding without knowing when you have a question, you should double-check the instructions. If they do not provide you with any clear answers, you can contact the manufacturer, or even connect with others online who may have built the kit in the past. They will have the insight that you need.

Where Can I Buy an Oscilloscope?

Thanks to the Internet, you will be able to buy an oscilloscope from just about anywhere today. You can do your research on the devices and then find the ones that seem like they are going to be ideal for your needs. You will then be able to look at a host of different websites, even Amazon, which offers oscilloscopes.

Whenever you are shopping online, it is a good idea to compare prices to find the best deal. Do not forget to factor in the cost of shipping the device when you are choosing a place from which you can buy.

Of course, if you want to buy a scope in person, you have some options, as well. Some electronics stores, such as Radio Shack, will sometimes carry the scopes. However, since the scopes are not items that sell in large quantities they are not always going to have them in stock. Even if you are buying in person, you still want to make sure that you look up reviews to know that you are getting a quality piece of equipment.

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