What is an oscilloscope? Essentially it’s a bench-mounted, hand-held or PC powered device that measures voltage and time (the duration of a frequency) from an input signal of constantly varying voltages. They are sometimes simply referred to as scopes and in some circles as a CRO, which stands for cathode-ray oscilloscope. A modern digital storage oscilloscope may be referred to as a DSO.
The essential elements are:
- display screen with a focus control
- vertical control for wave/signal amplitude
- horizontal control for time/based display setting
- a trigger which controls each time-based “sweep”
- a scope probe
The screen can display vertical wave amplitude and horizontal time-based signal output. Screens were originally all CRT but there is now an increase in LCD displays, particularly for hand-held models. We stock a huge range of hand-held devices made by Extech and Fluke.
What Type of Oscilloscope Do I Need?
Depending on the signal analysis taking place, it’s important to use the correct type of scope probe, since there are many different types, some for high voltage, some for low voltage and some that are more sensitive than others or more sensitive to particular signals.
Oscilloscopes have been used for quite some time to troubleshoot malfunctioning electronic systems and equipment. Because it can graphically represent a signal it can tells us that an electrical circuit is oscillating whereas a voltmeter would only be able to tell us that there is an unexpected voltage. In all types of electronic equipment, including devices such as a car ignition system, an oscilloscope can be used to probe each stage of the system for expected signal shapes.
Newly designed electrical circuitry, particularly digital circuitry can malfunction due to electrical noise, harmful voltage levels or simple design errors. Modern digital storage scopes are great devices for the analysis of this kind of circuitry error, particularly because they allow you to see signals at different points in the circuit.
Oscilloscopes are often used with a function generator, an additional piece of electronic equipment that generates electrical waveforms and signals which can, for example, be introduced into a circuit as a deliberate signal error to compare against existing system signal output.