As one of the most used test equipment, modern oscilloscopes have evolved to provide more capabilities and features that allow engineers and designers to save precious time in designing and debugging processes.
Oscilloscope manufacturers nowadays have integrated this famous device with time saving technologies such as large displays, fast update rates, function generators, mixed signal and other applications to optimize its performance.
One of the first things that one would notice in an oscilloscope is the crispness and size of its display. An invaluable feature in an oscilloscope, a large display allows users to easily view the waveform and any measurement or analysis that the user may be performing. This effectively eliminates the need to hide menus to view the waveform and then unhide them again to view the measurements.
“Ignorance is bliss” is an old adage that may be acceptable in some things, but never in situations when an infrequent glitch is keeping the design from working. A fast update rate can greatly help oscilloscope users save time and headaches.
Update rate is the speed in which an oscilloscope can trigger, process captured data, display it and then trigger it again. The period in between trigger is also referred to as “dead time”. The shorter the dead time is, or the faster the update rate, the more chances the oscilloscope can view infrequent events.
An engineer’s lab features various common pieces of equipment such as an oscilloscope and a function generator. The function generator may not be often found in the lab as it may have been borrowed by a colleague or there is no extra space for it. Fortunately, some modern oscilloscopes nowadays include a built-in function generator, allowing engineers and educators who are building a new teaching lab, to effectively save time, money and space.
Meanwhile, some engineers may be faced with the pressing need of having additional channels in their oscilloscope, or a few logic analyzer channels but can not afford to buy a full logic analyzer.
Oscilloscope manufacturers have found a solution for these problems by coming up with a mixed signal oscilloscope (MSO), which seamlessly combines traditional analog channels with digital channels and feature powerful triggering capabilities. Offering the ability to trigger on over four channels to isolate writes from reads, a mixed signal oscilloscope is especially helpful in debugging a DDR interface.
Basically a viewing tool, oscilloscopes have also now evolved to become a more application specific tool. With decode and CAN trigger option, oscilloscopes can now decode the CAN bus to deliver not only physical layer information but also protocol level information. This is a significant time saver as against counting 0s and 1s and trying to decode the bus alone.
Other time saving applications featured in some modern oscilloscopes include mask testing and segmented memory. Mask testing application transforms the oscilloscope to a pass/fail tester, while segmented memory allows oscilloscope users to digitize information of interest.