Cheapest Dual Trace Scope in the World?

October 29th, 2010

For you DIYers (that is Do-It-Yourself-ers) here is a really inexpensive dual trace digital oscilloscope.  I have not actually built this one myself but the reference for it seems pretty reliable and straightforward.  Here is the link to it:

And here is a picture of the schematic diagram:

Schematic Diagram for Low Cost USB Dual Trace Scope

Schematic Diagram

Keep in mind this is a USB scope.  It requires a pc with a USB  I/O port to connect.  It turns your PC into an oscilloscope.

The CPU used in this is recommended to be the Atmel Tiny45-20 or its equivalent Amtel ATTINY45-20 which is more well known in the Americas.  The Atmel Tiny45-20  is claimed to be available in European countries for around 5 EU.  I found the ATTINY unit at DigiKey for $2.29 in single quantities.  The remaining parts for it are mostly hardware items and a few resistors, capacitors and diodes.  So, the cost of constructing one of these units may be less than $20 USD.  Not bad, eh?

If someone builds one of these will you let me know and give us a report about how it performed for you?  That would be cool.

You can email me directly at:  cleggsan at ieee dot org.

The Rosemary Ainslie Circuit

October 5th, 2010

So, you ask, what is the Rosemary Ainslie Circuit and what does it have to do with the workings of oscilloscopes?  Quite alot, actually.  It turns out the digital storage oscilloscope is used as the main instrument to visualize the pulse, current and voltage patterns of this strange circuit.

The patent office no longer accepts applications that claim getting more power out than was put into a closed system.  The idea of perpetual motion machines has been around for a very long time and countless inventors have tried to introduce their idea to the world.  But, the Rosemary Ainslie idea is to think of her circuit as being an “open” system.

An open system allows for the possibility that additional energy may be coming from other sources outside the normal physics model.

She claims a possible ratio of 30.   Thirty times more energy out of a heat resistor than was put in by the supply battery.   Her circuits have been built and tested, so it is claimed, that achieve as high as 17 to 20.

That is the specially made wire wound resistor is placed in a circuit whereby the current from the battery is pulsed using a multi-vibrator circuit causing the energy in the wire wound resistor to create new energy from within during the inductive release of the switching cycles.

The idea is this device could bring low cost heat energy to the third world countries and change the model for world energy reduction strategies!  How’s that for a miracle?
A digital oscilloscope donated by Tektronix was sent to South Africa where Rosemary Ainslie has her laboratory.   It was used to observe and measure the pulse peaks and get a computation of the energy pulses from the battery and what is applied to the magic heat resistor.   Then, a caloric device of some kind is used to measure the heat rise of the resistor compared with the normal heat rise that would be caused from the normal ohms law value using DC voltage to the resistance.

She  claims that “zipons” are a new form of molecular energy particles that generate additional heat in the load resistor which draw the additional energy from within the material itself.   Somehow.   Somehow?

Well,  the whole thing is of great interest and experimenters around the world are building these Rosemary Ainslie Circuits and testing them on their own since the laboratory for making and testing is quite straight forward.

Here is my idea:   Digital oscilloscope manufacturers should design specially made oscilloscope instruments to measure and record the results of the testing of prototype systems.  It can be called the Ainslie Energy Tester.  Also, a temperature probe can be an accessory item for use in calibrating the temperature rise of the high output resistor.

You can google for  the Rosemary Ainslie Circuit and find a rich supply of commentary that will keep your mind agitated for hours.   Shades of the Tesla power tower and other “free energy generator” ideas that go around and around.

But, is this one for real?   Are the published and verified measurements and observations objectively duplicated?  Does the use of digital oscilloscopes provide correct and accurate measurements?  Or is the science off base?  You decide.

Rosemary Ainslie Circuit

The latest recommended Schematic

The latest recommended Schematic for the Rosemary Ainslie Circuit, by Glen Lettenmaier. The “R3″ 10 Ohm “LOAD Resistor” at the left represents the actual heating element. “Q1″ is the “IRFPG50″ MOSFET semiconductor.  From:

Vintage Oscilloscopes

October 5th, 2010

Ok, for you who are interested in the history and early development of the oscilloscope here is a collection of images of some of the earliest.   It is a fun few minutes to scan down through the photos of some of the classic products of old.  If you are a youngster in the electronics field you may not appreciate it nearly as much as those over the age of 50 (60 or 70?).

Thanks to the compiler of this aspect of history and for making it fascinating to view. Here is just one example from the URL referenced.

The Supreme Scope Model 546

Vintage Scope

Uses a 3″ 906 CRT for display. Typical of early Supreme equipment, this is housed in a dovetailed, quartersawn oak cabinet and a highly nickel plated chassis shown below. This early version dates from around 1938.

Analyzing Engine Problems with Digital Oscilloscope

October 5th, 2010

All owners of an automobile are likely to encounter at one time or another problems with the engine.  A common problem is the loss of power, rough idle, missing spark or some variation of these issues.  It behoove one to keep the engine running at its top performance for economy and environmental reasons.   An engine running out of tune can have a significant drop in fuel usage and performance.

The modern automobile typically has built into its electrical and electronic engine control system a diagnostic tool which records the faults and records the incidents by codes read out by a special code reader.   Once the codes are known it is highly desirable to have available a multi-channel digital oscilloscope to take a look at the firing of the cylinders and the ignition to the fuel injectors.   What a concept.   Watching these in operation can often lead to learning the exact cause of the engine problem.  It is a blessing, also, to have as many channel inputs on the digital oscilloscope as there are cylinders in the engine!  This way all the firing sequences can be observed in real time.  If one cylinder is weak or not getting fired it is easily picked out.

To illustrate this application of how an oscilloscope is highly useful in the diagnostic process I want to refer you to the actual  history of a stubborn case where the engine runs roughly and has no power to bring the car to full speed.   The engine would not rev up above 1600 RPM.    If you have ever worked around the automobile shop the example we are about to see is perhaps a common symptom.

The complete history and explanations of this case are found at the following URL:

I wish to thank the author and the author and the automotive engineers for preparing the page.  It is well written and illustrated amply with screen shots from the 4-channel automotive digital oscilloscope that was used in the work on the vehicle under test.

You may learn much about how to diagnose engine failures from this actual, real-life example.   Follow it through step by step to see the logic and analytic thinking that was used in chasing down the gremlin!

TiePie Engineering, the author of the above referenced case study,  has several other examples centered around various automobile makes and models that are equally educational and of great interest which I recommend for you in your oscilloscope studies and self-educational efforts.

See their home page at:

How to Choose and Purchase a Digital Oscilloscope

September 28th, 2010

How many of you who have been reading my comments have purchased or are in the process of purchasing a digital scope?  Or any scope for that matter?

A new one or a used one?

And what category are you needing?   DSO – storage scope?  Two or 4 channel?  Other kind?   Let me know some of the procedures you are going through to make the selection or what are the criteria that must be met in order to proceed.

Who makes the decision on what and which one? How many approval hoops must you jump through in order to release the purchase order?  What are the internal organizational mandates or policies that must be dealt with?

When I was an engineer the decision was simple:   If the task at hand in designing the circuit (I was a circuit designer) required the instrument in order to do the design work or certify the measurement then go ahead.    Purchasing department checked against budget and issued the  PO.   What about you?

Is there a dollar limit that differentiates the purchasing level?

Are there other departments that could share in the use of the instrument and would that be satisfactory to your needs?  Or, do you use it constantly in your work station?

Anyone brave enough to reply in part or in depth gets a star on the forehead!

Hasta LaVista

Oscilloscope Probe

September 21st, 2010

Oscilloscope Probe

There really are many good references on oscilloscope probe.  Rather than give you my own lecture on them I am merely going to list some web pages that have, in my opinion, some good and useful information on oscilloscope probe in general.   Keep in mind the kinds of web sites come and go but these I have selected seem to be from sources that will be steady and thus stay around for along time.

YouTube videos on Oscilloscope Probe

Article on Oscilloscope Probe at

Lots of reading in these pages but also much useful information on oscilloscope probe.  Happy reading.

Market Size for Digital Oscilloscopes

September 21st, 2010

It is quite difficult to find out how big the market is for oscilloscopes. This is because 1) there are so many kinds and types of measuring instruments that view their output on a screen of some kind, 2) because there are so many models coming onto the market constantly due not only to new designs but advancing technologies, 3) due to new technologies and products in other areas that require new ways of testing and measuring.

There are a few professional market research reports that give some information – based on the researchers idea of what the product range is and the table of manufacturers.  These studies usually cost in the range of $3000 to $8000  and can be much more if you want to commission a research firm to do a custom study.

I have inquired of a couple of firms that have published oscilloscope reports in hopes they would allow me to include their “executive summary” or a condensation of it in my blog but they have not been willing to do so.  Sorry,  we will have to wait for another time to get some market data.  But, be assured dear friends, the market is big and getting bigger.

Let me just mention one such report that seems to be a very comprehensive survey of the market.   This one shows a price of $3,950.00 for a one user license.  It was published in 2008 thus it is already a little obsolete as much has happened in the intervening two years.  Here is an extract of the “report summary”  that is used in their sale literature.  It is quite a comprehensive listing of the many oscilloscope makers.  Here it is:

“The report provides separate comprehensive analytics for the US, Canada. Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Rest of World. Annual forecasts are provided for each region for the period of 2001 through 2015. The report profiles 90 companies including many key and niche players worldwide such as Agilent Technologies, Test and Measurement, Semiconductor Products, Chemical Analysis, Healthcare Solutions, Allison Technology Corporation, Amplicon Liveline Limited, B&K Precision Corporation, Elan Digital Systems Ltd., Elenco Electronics, Inc., ETC S.R.O., EZ Digital Co. Ltd., Fluke Corporation, Geotest-Marvin Test Systems, Inc., Global Specialties, Good Will Instrument Co. Ltd., Instek America Corporation, Hameg Instruments GmbH, Iwatsu Test Instruments Corporation, Kikusui Electronics Corporation, LDS Test and Measurement LLC, Leader Instruments Corp., LeCroy Corporation, Link Instruments, Inc., Metrix Electronics Limited, National Instruments Corporation, Pico Technology, Protek Test and Measurement, Syscomp Electronic Design Limited, Team Solutions, Inc., Teklab OY, Tektronix, Inc., Tenma Test Equipment, Test Products International, Inc., Thurlby Thandar Instruments Ltd., Texio Corporation, Tiepie Engineering, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, and ZTEC Instruments, Inc. ”

It has been my experience, having in the past conducted such studies and purchased others studies that much can be learned by merely reading the table of contents of the report!  So as not to bore you, dear reader, too much  I am, rather than post the complete TOC herein, I am going to provide you with the URL where you can read it.  It is a nice listing of manufacturers, trends, new technology and the actual makes and models that are included in the report.   Here is the URL where you can get the description and place an order for it:

If any of my readers have market information to share or comments about the nature and growth of this market either on a country basis or global basis please come forward!

Oscilloscopes for Dummies

September 14th, 2010

It’s astounding how much information can be found on the WWW (or the Internet) regarding oscilloscope uses and technical applications.  Thanks to within seconds one can find a very large quantity of such articles, writings and even videos. But, on that fascinated me the most was the list of URLs as a result of googling (or binging) the simple phrase:  oscilloscopes for dummies.

The resulting list is long and interesting.  We leave it as a challenge for you, dear reader, to sort out in your own mind who these various authors are, what the motivation is to post under the subject heading of “dummies” and how useful the collected information may actually be.

It is clear that the “dummies” books written for just about any subject are very popular and many have learned from reading and studying them for quick insight into subject matter new to the reader.   However, I have some doubts about the viability of a “dummies” book for learning about the science of instrumentation and in particular about oscilloscopes!

I write an experts column where any subject of the land may write in and ask questions on any subject relating to electronics and electrical engineering. Often a question comes in requesting something like this:  ”Can you explain to me in simple language how to read a schematic so I can fix my _______ ?”  You fill in the blank.  The symbols used in schematic drawings represent an enormous amount of education and studies necessary to understand the whole meaning and purpose of the circuit topology.   The oscilloscope and especially a digital oscilloscope is much the same.  The user must know what the I/O connections are and how they are to be used.  The input impedance and reactive characteristics, the maximum input levels before overloading,  the display sweep frequency settings, etc. are necessary to master if one is to achieve reliable, repeatable and objective measurements.  For example, I can never get accustomed to using a digital dc voltmeter because I am wanting to observe the needle movement as a circuit is energized such  that it  gives some idea of the time constants of the circuit – which is not so easy to observe with a digital meter.

How far can a “dummy ” reader go with that level of education?  That is the question.  Any comments?

Digital Oscilloscopes are a Hot Item!

September 6th, 2010

I did a look, today, at Craigslist in the USA to see how many digital oscilloscopes are for sale.  On the first page of the list there were 6 found but of those 6 the first 4 were already sold!  That points to a good market for used scopes.  Of course, if you scan now, or tomorrow, or any other day, you will surely find different results.  I have checked the sales of scopes from time to time over the past few months and found similar results.

It is actually a good market.  How do I know?   Well, as an old college professor it was my job during the days that I was responsible for managing the electronics laboratory to find reasonably priced lab equipment, especially for those specialized items that we would generally only purchase one or two items.   We often turned to used equipment.   Even today if you google around you can find colleges and universities that are looking to purchase various electronic testing equipment.  This is an obvious way of reducing the budget expense for the engineering college.

Is it a good thing to do?  Why not?  Most of those who would use these hand-me-downs are not so concerned with absolute accuracy or that the item had been certified.   Especially, in the school laboratory the  purpose is mostly for teaching the principles of electronic theory and practice.  Functionality is the most important.  When a digital oscilloscope sells new for $5,000.00 and can be purchased used – and maybe two or three years old – for $1,000.00 it makes for a good deal.  If the need is in the PhD program of a university where research grants are being worked on it may be a different story, but for the undergraduate and trade school lab, or for that matter a home hobby lab, used test equipment will do just fine.

So, you might ask, what model or type is the most commonly found on the used market? It is difficult to tell as it changes from day to day.  But on today’s list (early September 2010) there were Tektronix, Agilent and LeCroy scopes.  If you search for any oscilloscope rather than just digital oscilloscopes, you get different but very interesting results.  Today, for example, a vintage Heathkit model and square wave generator came up.   The exact model numbers were not listed but they appeared to be the vacuum tube models from about the 1965 era.  There were many others to choose from and it appears the market is just as bellicose for vintage and older scopes as it is for the latest digital versions.

I once knew an employee of the company I worked for who quit his job and became a full-time trader of used instruments.   When a large lab cleaned out old equipment and put them up for auction he would buy the entire lot and put them on a selling flyer and distribute it to his clients around the world.  I remember a Tektronix transistor checker that was very expensive when new that he offered for sale under $1,000.00.   We bought it!  It was just like new!

See you on Craigslist.

Vintage Heathkit Oscilloscope

The Instrumentation and Measurements Magazine

August 30th, 2010

Did you know there was an I&M Magazine?  It is published quarterly (or thereabouts!) by the IEEE Society for Instrumentation and Measurements (known as IM).   This group of experts are concerned about the measurements technology and how to advance the field of interest for the betterment of accuracy and applications in the field.

The IM Society can be found at:

And the online magazine can be reached at:

The front page of the August 2010 issue looks like this:

Front Page of August 2010 IMM

This issue of the IMM had a few articles that caught my eye.  The first one was a new product announcement:  ”Logic Protocol Analyzer Test Solution for PCI Express 3.0″.   The review outlines  the new Tektronix TLA7SA16 and TLA7SA08 Logic Protocol Analyzer modules, bus support software, and probes which  combine to give those PCIe 3.0 developers an exclusive and time-correlated view of system behavior, starting with protocol analysis and working down to the physical layer to debug the root cause of elusive problems.   This analyzer capitalizes on  “… Tektronix PCIe 3.0 test solution builds on Tektronix’ previous generation PCIe protocol and
logic analysis offerings. It also expands on previously announced offerings for PCIe 3.0 electrical test and validation including Serial Data Link Analysis (SDLA) Software for the  DPO/DSA/MSO70000 Series oscilloscopes.   As you know, our main interest in this blog is the use and development of digital oscilloscopes.

The second thing which caught my eye while reading the magazine was a sampling oscilloscope review titled “Upgraded 12-Ghz Sampling Oscilloscope” which outlined the details of the improvements made to the new PicoScope 9201A PC Sampling Oscilloscope.    This oscilloscope has two 12GHz inputs that enable it to measure and record event for a wide number of communications protocol standards including Ethernet, Fibre Optics and several of the ANSI  T1 standards.

This  magazine is published by the IM Society for its members but may I suggest that you take a look at it and maybe put it on your favorites list of your browser.  Further,  I think the society would warmly receive your interest in becoming a member of the society.  Refer to my previous mention on this blog of the many technical committees and activities of this fun society.  Thank you!