Thursday, January 15, 2009

An oscilloscope is a type of electronic test equipment that allows signal voltages to be viewed, usually as a two-dimensional graph plotted as a function of time or of some other voltage. The oscilloscope is one of the most versatile and widely-used electronic instruments. An oscilloscope can measure the frequency, show distortion, and show the relative timing of two related signals. Oscilloscopes are used in the sciences, medicine, engineering, telecommunications, and industry. General-purpose instruments are used for maintenance of electronic equipment and laboratory work. Special-purpose oscilloscopes may be used for such purposes as adjusting an automotive ignition system, or to display the waveform of the heartbeat.

The oscilloscope is basically a graph-displaying device - it draws a graph of an electrical signal. In most applications the graph shows how signals change over time: the vertical axis represents voltage and the horizontal axis represents time. The intensity or brightness of the display is sometimes called the Z axis. This simple graph can tell you many things about a signal.