All you should know about an oscilloscope

Have you ever found yourself troubleshooting a circuit, needing more information than a simple multimeter can provide? If you need to uncover information like frequency, noise, amplitude, or any other characteristic that might change over time, you need an oscilloscope!


What is an Oscilloscope?
An oscilloscope is a laboratory instrument commonly used to display and analyze the waveform of electronic signals. In effect, the device draws a graph of the instantaneous signal voltage as a function of time.
A typical oscilloscope can display alternating current (AC) or pulsating direct current (DC) waveforms having a frequency as low as approximately 1 hertz (Hz) or as high as several megahertz (MHz). High-end oscilloscopes can display signals having frequencies up to several hundred gigahertz (GHz). The display is broken up into so-called horizontal divisions (hor div) and vertical divisions (vert div). Time is displayed from left to right on the horizontal scale. Instantaneous voltage appears on the vertical scale, with positive values going upward and negative values going downward.

Types of Oscilloscope

Mixed-signal Oscilloscope
A mixed-signal oscilloscope (or MSO) has two kinds of inputs, a small number of analog channels (typically two or four), and a larger number of digital channels(typically sixteen). It provides the ability to accurately time-correlate analog and digital channels, thus offering a distinct advantage over a separate oscilloscope and logic analyser. Typically, digital channels may be grouped and displayed as a bus with each bus value displayed at the bottom of the display in hex or binary. On most MSOs, the trigger can be set across both analog and digital channels.

Hand-held Oscilloscope
Handheld oscilloscopes are useful for many test and field service applications. Today, a hand held oscilloscope is usually a digital sampling oscilloscope, using a liquid crystal display.
Many hand-held and bench oscilloscopes have the ground reference voltage common to all input channels. If more than one measurement channel is used at the same time, all the input signals must have the same voltage reference, and the shared default reference is the “earth”. If there is no differential preamplifier or external signal isolator, this traditional desktop oscilloscope is not suitable for floating measurements.

Computer-based Oscilloscope
Some digital oscilloscope rely on a PC platform for display and control of the instrument. This can be in the form of a standalone oscilloscope with internal PC platform (PC mainboard), or as external oscilloscope which connects through USB or LAN to a separate PC or laptop.

Analog Oscilloscope
Trace storage is an extra feature available on some analog scopes; they used direct-view storage CRTs. Storage allows a trace pattern that normally would decay in a fraction of a second to remain on the screen for several minutes or longer. An electrical circuit can then be deliberately activated to store and erase the trace on the screen.

modern oscilloscopes electronically replicate the action of the CRT using a liquid crystal display (liquid crystal display) similar to those found on notebook computers and can be purchased at

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