Source Measurement Units, or SMUs, combine an accurate power supply, high-power electronic load, and precise digital voltmeter into a signal unit. They are a four-quadrant source. That means they can provide power to a circuit or consume it. With an SMU you can characterize semiconductor devices (like Diodes), monitor the power consumption of a circuit, or simulate a battery. In this video, see the difference between an SMU and a Power Supply. This episode was…

Okay, technically, this circuit *does* use Op-Amps. However, the ones shown here are integrated into an ATmega128DB microcontroller from Microchip. The DIP package breaks out two operational amplifiers that are controllable entirely by software. Even better, you can program them like they are an Arduino!

Everything with a microcontroller has serial buses in it. Busses like UART, I2C, and SPI are very popular choices. When you have a problem with a sensor that uses one or the bus itself, you can use an oscilloscope or logic analyzer to “decode” the traffic. These decoders convert the 1s and 0s into readable HEX or ASCII characters. I am not sure how I thought of the “multiple” James idea for the thumbnail. The…

The 555 is a very popular chip, and for good reason. It is such a versatile timer. Learn about 555 measurements like how to measure the voltage divider inside the chip and what is going on with the signals in an astable multivibrator (clock) circuit. The key to a 555 circuit is connecting the threshold and trigger pins together. But, until you see the schematic and waveforms it may not be obvious why.

The first time I saw the VirtualBench from NI, I was amazed by its shear size—or lack of size.  At the time, the unit I had access to an uncalibrated pre-release unit at the Austin TechShop.  So I didn’t think it was fair to do a full review.  Fast forward to today.  Now that I’ve spent a week working with the VirtualBench I have some comments and thoughts.  What follows is a review of this “All-In-One Instrument” that runs $1999 USD.