Digital Oscilloscopes

Written by Patty Yu
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Analog oscilloscopes take readings of waveforms and display them in real time. In contrast, digital oscilloscopes convert measured voltage from an analog measurement into digital information. The digital oscilloscope reads the waveform and acquires a series of samples, which are stored until there are enough to describe the waveform. The shape of the waveform is reassembled and displayed on the screen.

Conventional Digital Oscilloscopes

The conventional digital oscilloscope is the digital storage oscilloscope (DSO). Unlike analog oscilloscopes, DSO utilizes a raster screen instead of a luminous phosphor screen. A DSO can capture transients, which are events that may happen only once in a voltage signal. By storing samples of a waveform as binary values, the information can be archived, printed, and processed after the signal disappears.

DSOs are able to permanently store signals for designers to extensively process the waveforms. However, these oscilloscopes are unable to display graphs in real time like analog oscilloscopes do, and are therefore unable to express levels of intensity in a live voltage signal. They are, however, extremely helpful for collecting and displaying data for entire waveforms.

Modern digital oscilloscopes make waveform measurements even easier to obtain with various functions and screen-based menus. The DSO is ideal for single-shot, multi-channel applications performed at a low repetition rate. Digital designers today must often examine several signals simultaneously, making digital oscilloscopes critical tools.


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