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An oscilloscope is a device that allows you to see how voltage changes over time by displaying a waveform of electronic signals.

Why is that important?

Electronics such as lights, TVs, air-conditioning need electrical energy delivered by circuits.

A circuit is a path between two or more points which a current runs through.

Voltage is the electrical force that drives a current between two points.

Sometimes the voltage is not behaving correctly and you have to find out where in order to correct it.

Trying to find that problem without an oscilloscope is like driving a car with blindfolds on.

When you have circuits that have constant voltages a multimeter is a tool that can be used to measure a single number for the voltage. This becomes redundant when you start building more complex circuits. This is where an oscilloscope comes in handy.

An oscilloscope allows you to view how voltage changes over time. These voltages are called signals which are used to convey information such as an audio signal playing music on a loudspeaker.

Some of the things that the display screen on an oscilloscope shows is the measured signal of the voltage using a graph. The voltage is represented on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis.

This display will allow you to determine if the behavior of your circuits is working correctly. It will also allow you to locate any problems within your circuit like unwanted signals called noise.

A Brief History of the Oscilloscope

The oscilloscope was invented by a French physicist André Blondel in 1893. His device was able to register the values of electrical quantities such as alternative current intensity. An ink pendulum attached to a coil recorded the information on a moving paper tape. The first oscilloscopes had a very small bandwidth, between 10 and 19 kHz.

We will talk more about what bandwidth is later, but let's wrap up our history lesson first.

Big developments came in 1897 when a German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun invented a cathode ray tube (CRT). Oscilloscope development started to increase after WW2.

In 1946, two men by the name of Howard Vollum and Melvin Jack Murdock founded Tektronix, which today is one of the world’s leaders in producing oscilloscopes. In that same year, they invented their first oscilloscope, the model 511, with triggered sweep and 10 MHz bandwidth. Triggered sweep allowed stationary display of a repeating waveform.

Now let's talk about the difference between an analog and digital oscilloscope.

What is a Digital Oscilloscope?

A digital oscilloscope uses a modern LCD screen. Almost all new oscilloscopes manufactured today are digital.

In a digital oscilloscope an extra step is used before the signal is displayed on the screen. The extra step converts the signal into a digital stream with an analog to digital converter, which removes the need for CRT type screens.

This reduces the complexity of the design and allows room for more features.

An example would be the addition of signal manipulation and complex mathematical operations that are now standard features for most digital oscilloscopes.

What Do the Systems On An Oscilloscope Do?

A basic oscilloscope has four different systems, which are the vertical, horizontal, trigger and display system. Each of these systems allow you to measure specific things

The vertical system controls can be used to position and the scale the waveform vertically. It can also be used to set input coupling, bandwidth limit, and bandwidth enhancement.

The horizontal system can be used to find the sample rate and record length, along with positioning and scaling the waveform horizontally.

The trigger system allows you to stabilize repetitive waveforms and essentially snap a photo of the waveform. There are different types of trigger systems such as edge triggering, threshold triggering that respond to specific conditions in the incoming signal.

To collect the data that is read by the oscilloscope, you need a probe.

A probe has two main parts which are the ground clip and the probe tip. You would attach the ground clip to the ground reference for your circuit, then you would use the probe tip to poke around and measure voltages at various points throughout the circuit.

Oscilloscope Terminology

Bandwidth determines an oscilloscopes ability to measure a signal. As signal frequency rises, the oscilloscope’s ability to accurately display the signal, decreases. Without adequate bandwidth, all the other features on an oscilloscope mean nothing. Rise time describes the frequency range of an oscilloscope. An oscilloscope with faster rise time will accurately capture details of fast transitions.

Sample rate is specified in samples per second or S/s and refers to how frequently an oscilloscope takes a snapshot of the signal. The higher the sample rate, the greater the detail of the displayed waveform.

Waveform capture rate is expressed as waveforms per second (wfms/s) which refers to how quickly an oscilloscope acquires waveforms.

Product Range:

We have many variants of digital oscilloscopes available to suit your needs, Search: (Oscilloscope) In the search bar for a line up of our range available.

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