MAKE Presents: The Oscilloscope

MAKE Presents: The Oscilloscope

Oscilloscopes are surprisingly easy to use once you’re familiar with a few basic controls. They’re extremely useful for testing and can provide newcomers with a whole new way to view the world of electronics & electricity – plus they look impressively cool/awesome while in use!

I was lucky enough to score my own ‘scope during my early days of exploring electronics – and being a primarily ‘visual learner’, using the device was a bit like strapping on a jetpack of understanding/learning/discovery. So if you’ve ever been intimidated by the amount of knobs & switches on an oscilloscope … well don’t be. Find yourself a cheap used model to experiment with (they do show up @ tagsales and such), locate the basic controls I use in the above vid, and start investigating.

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1 Comment

  1. Analog oscs are pretty, and they are also pretty cheap. I got my HP1200A for about $100 on eBay (vs thousands of $ for a digital osc). My motivation: a website called Creative Synth had an article about phase and (I think) pressing vinyl LPs. If your music has phase issues then = bad LPs because the needle, in theory, can’t track a groove that is shaped like an hourglass. Anyway, You feed one channel into lead A and the other channel into B and look at the slope of A vs B. Well, I never published an LP, but I sure have had fun with my HP oscilloscope. Nic Collins’s book on handmade music has recipes for simple oscillators, and I’ve had fun connecting them to the 1200A.

    Also, I took some used cautery cables with banana plugs and made custom cables to connect my mixer to the oscilloscope. Then I tried playing a test LP (with various test tones to fine tune the cartridge and arm) but the test LP was so warped that interpreting the waveforms is just about useless. You just have to do that stuff by ear. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, since my seven year old son and his friend pushed in the tweeter domes on my Dynaudios.

    Digital oscs may be more portable, and much more useful, but they are so danged expensive, and from the sound of it, rather unreliable.

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