USB Analogue Oscilloscope: Turn Your PC into a High-Performance Electronic Engineering Workstation

Jessica Foreman
August 23, 2018
2002 Views

Harnessing the processing power of a PC, a USB-based Oscilloscope provides dominant performance straight from your pocket and for a reasonably low cost.

PC based oscilloscopes are quickly replacing stacks of lab equipment by using the processing power, power supply and screen of computers to provide a high-performance oscilloscope in a small footprint. Besides saving costs and space, using USB-powered oscilloscope make sense because PCs are always available anywhere, there’s electronic equipment set to be tested.

Why Use a USB for PC scopes

Universal Serial Bus is not the only method to connect scopes to a PC. Initially, electrical engineers used unique PC cards like the Firewire card for connecting oscilloscope however, not all computers came with slots for such cards unlike the USB slot which has become a standard feature on virtually all computers and devices. Therefore, using USB scopes seem more logical makes it possible to use a scope on any computer-based device.

The other benefit is that engineers can do without heavy and expensive equipment. USB drives can be designed to give out the performance of different interfaces and variant functions.

Understanding the basics of PC USB scopes

A significant element of the computer oscilloscope is the USB link. With the ability to plug-in play, USB scopes offer convenience and adequate high-speed data link for efficient communication between the PC and USB scope.

USB oscilloscopes come with different features depending on the manufactures. However, there are common aspects shared in all PC scopes including:

Architecture & Functionality

All USB scopes are made to mimic the functionality of a standard digital oscilloscope albeit in a small footprint that can be plugged into a computer.

Whenever the electric signals are produced by the test subject, the USB analogue oscilloscope picks up the signals and amplifies them or adds a DC offset as needed thus ensuring that the signals are optimized according to the required range.

After this is done, the electric signals are passed through the analogue-to-digital converter for conversion into a better readable digital format. The sample logic circuitry controls the signal conversion then the final data is stored in a memory area known as the capture memory.

Essential features

USB oscilloscopes also come with crucial elements like;

Triggers – used to control the sampling process from start to finish

Internal controller – used for DC offset and controlling signal gain levels as well as the sample logic, trigger level, choosing trigger source, trigger polarity

Communicating with the PC

Pros and Cons of Using PC USB Scopes

Pros

–    Affordability

–    Ease of use

–    Larger screen

–    Compatibility with any PC

–    Portable

Cons

–    Performance – USB analogue oscilloscope has high performance but lags behind when compared with self-contained oscilloscopes

–    PC reliant – You must have a computer on standby to use the USB scopes

USB oscilloscopes are highly functional and convenient. These PC based scopes are a must have for all electronic engineers due to their portability and performance.

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