An oscilloscope (also known as a scope, CRO, DSO or, an O-scope) is a type of electronic test instrument that allows observation of constantly varying signal voltages, usually as a two-dimensional graph of one or more electrical potential differences using the vertical or 'Y' axis, plotted as a function of time, (horizontal or 'x' axis). Although an oscilloscope displays voltage on its vertical axis, any other quantity that can be converted to a voltage can be displayed as well. In most instances, oscilloscopes show events that repeat with either no change, or change slowly. Oscilloscopes are commonly used to observe the exact wave shape of an electrical signal. In addition to the amplitude of the signal, an oscilloscope can show distortion, the time between two events (such as pulse width, period, or rise time) and relative timing of two related signals. Oscilloscopes are used in the sciences, medicine, engineering, and telecommunications industry. General-purpose instruments are used for maintenance of electronic equipment and laboratory work. Special-purpose oscilloscopes may be used for such purposes as analyzing an automotive ignition system, or to display the waveform of the heartbeat as an electrocardiogram. Originally all oscilloscopes used cathode ray tubes as their display element and linear amplifiers for signal processing, (commonly referred to as CROs) however, modern oscilloscopes have LCD or LED screens, fast analog-to-digital converters and digital signal processors. Although not as commonplace, some oscilloscopes used storage CRTs to display single events for a limited time. Oscilloscope peripheral modules for general purpose laptop or desktop personal computers use the computer's display, allowing them to be used as test instruments.
Display and general external appearance
The basic oscilloscope, as shown in the illustration, is typically divided into four sections: the display, vertical controls, horizontal controls and trigger controls. The display is usually a CRT or LCD panel which is laid out with both horizontal and vertical reference lines referred to as the graticule. In addition to the screen, most display sections are equipped with three basic controls, a focus knob, an intensity knob and a beam finder button. The vertical section controls the amplitude of the displayed signal. This section carries a Volts-per-Division (Volts/Div) selector knob, an AC/DC/Ground selector switch and the vertical (primary) input for the instrument. Additionally, this section is typically equipped with the vertical beam position knob. The horizontal section controls the time base or “sweep” of the instrument. The primary control is the Seconds-per-Division (Sec/Div) selector switch. Also included is a horizontal input for plotting dual X-Y axis signals. The horizontal beam position knob is generally located in this section. The trigger section controls the start event of the sweep. The trigger can be set to automatically restart after each sweep or it can be configured to respond to an internal or external event. The principal controls of this section will be the source and coupling selector switches. An external trigger input (EXT Input) and level adjustment will also be included. In addition to the basic instrument, most oscilloscopes are supplied with a probe as shown. The probe will connect to any input on the instrument and typically has a resistor of ten times the oscilloscope's input impedance. This results in a .1 (-10X) attenuation factor, but helps to isolate the capacitive load presented by the probe cable from the signal being measured. Some probes have a switch allowing the operator to bypass the resistor when appropriate
Size and portability
Most modern oscilloscopes are lightweight, portable instruments that are compact enough to be easily carried by a single person. In addition to the portable units, the market offers a number of miniature battery-powered instruments for...