Oscilloscopes are available in many shapes and sizes. After figuring out how much bandwidth you need (or want), the next step is to choose the form factor. Do you go with the traditional bench style? When does it make sense to use a USB-based scope with your PC? And what about these newer tablets or battery-powered oscilloscopes? Learn the difference between them and see which one is best for you.

This episode was “sponsored” by Multicomp Pro. (I put sponsored in quotes because the brand name is owned by Newark which has the same owner as element14.)

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 concept had something to do with “serial,” but I am not sure what.

Anyway, my favorite James is the far left one. He has no idea where the camera is at.

Oh and this picture was done without a green screen. I took multiple shots of me standing in different spots and then composited them together.

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.

One of the best ways to learn how to use a new piece of test equipment is to use it. Sounds easy, right? The problem is, sometimes when you are in the middle of troubleshooting your circuit, figuring out what the knobs on your scope do is an immense frustration. Use these 6 oscilloscope measurements, and just an Arduino Uno, to learn how to use a new or unfamiliar digital scope.

This tutorial is not a step-by-step guide on how to make each of these measurements on a particular scope. Instead, it is a general explanation on how to setup the Arduino and a screenshot to help identify if you set up your scope correctly. I reference the R&S RTM3004. However, practically any two (or more) digital channel oscilloscope should work.

Between each measurement, I highly recommend using your scope’s default setup (or autoscale) before proceeding to the next one!

If you need a reason to be an Element 14 member, let me suggest their Road Test program. Companies partner with Element14 to get people to try out their gear. A couple of years ago I got a new microcontroller board. This week I received a new test instrument. Here’s my hands-on Picoscope 2204 review.

The scope is bus powered. With the BNCs and type-B USB connector, it is slightly larger than an external USB hard drive. There is not much weight to the device. It does not feel cheap, just lighter than I expected.

Getting the scope up and running is a breeze. Pico Tech included a CD (or DVD?) to install the software, but I could not find my drive to check it out. Software downloads from Pico Tech’s website work great. It looks like you can even download the software and use it in “Demo mode” if you are curious how it works–without purchasing anything.