How to Use an Oscilloscope (Basics 101)

how to use an oscilloscope

Before jumping right to the information about how to use an oscilloscope, it is important to understand how oscilloscopes work. So, let’s start with the basics.

How Do Oscilloscopes Work?

It is an instrument that serves to observe, analyze and record, in the form of graphs, electrical signals, which change over time.

Through his/her screen and other devices connected to it, the expert visualizes the electrical signals as coordinates, in which the horizontal axis (X) records the times and the vertical axis (Y) the voltages. The image produced is called an oscillogram.

This device is frequently used in signal electronics, next to a spectrum analyzer, which allows you to observe the frequency and size of an electromagnetic wave.

Other devices that complement it are the multimeter, the power supply and the function generator or arbitrary.


What Are Oscilloscopes Used For?

In the professional and domestic fields, an oscilloscope is useful for directly checking the period and voltage of a signal and, indirectly, the frequency of a signal.

  • You can also, for example, establish which part of the signal is AC and which one is DC.
  • It is also essential for locating faults in electrical circuits.
  • It is also useful to measure the phase between two signals and detect the noise of the signal and how it varies over time.

It is also a very versatile and necessary device for electronics technicians, as well as doctors. Together with an appropriate transducer, which converts physical quantities into electrical signals, the doctor can measure blood pressure and heart rate.

But with the transducer it also provides us with the sound power and the magnitude of vibrations in a car, among many other measurements.

We have talked about the uses of an oscilloscope in one of our previous articles so feel free to check it out for more detailed information.

How To Use An Oscilloscope

Basically, it is about connecting the electrical circuit that you want to examine to the input terminals of the device, then you turn it on and adjust a scale on the device according to the input signal.

If we take into account that the scale is the amount of time (horizontal line of the screen) that the electrical signal takes to complete the cycle, at least one millisecond of information will be required. And it is that a signal of 1,000 Hz (1 kHz) is repeated 1,000 times per second.

Another parameter to choose is the range according to the input signal, understood as the maximum and minimum voltage that the device can display, the range for a signal that transforms between +1 and -1 volts should be at least 1 volt.

A third parameter that must be adjusted is the threshold. Since the oscilloscopes require a signal greater than the value of their threshold to start data capture, for a 1 volt signal, the threshold can be set in the 1 to 1/2 volt channel.

In this step you will see on the screen a simple voltage signal. Similar to the displacement of a sine wave, the point in the device goes down and up. On the one hand, the minimum and maximum heights of the wave (signal) indicate the voltage range and, on the other, the amount of time required for the signal to be repeated constitutes the frequency.

In short, oscilloscopes are useful for detecting faults in electrical circuits and identifying whether it is alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). They play an essential role in the detection of possible unevenness of the signal of a circuit.