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Ask Slashdot: PC-Based Oscilloscopes On a Microbudget?

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the not-yet-part-of-every-smartphone dept.

Education 172

New submitter fffdddooo (3692429) writes I know it's something that people used to ask every few years, but answers get old so quickly. I'm an electronics teacher, and I'm wondering if it's possible to find some oscilloscope (and why not spectrum analyser?) for recommending to my students, to be able to work at home. I'm thinking of something near $50-$70. Two or three years ago, I'm sure the answer was No, but nowadays? The same reader points out two options spotted on Amazon: one that's "very cheap but Khz" (it's also a kit that requires assembly), and another that aims to be capable of 20MHz, 2-channel operation. What's out there, he'd like to know, that's not junk?

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XOScope (2)

GerardAtJob (1245980) | about 8 months ago | (#47224623)

http://xoscope.sourceforge.net... [sourceforge.net]
Needs a or many sound card.

Have fun!

Re:XOScope (2)

GerardAtJob (1245980) | about 8 months ago | (#47224631)

You'll need "http://xoscope.sourceforge.net/hardware/hardware.html" and please note : The sound card will be filtered to somewhere around 20Hz-20kHz. Read a lot and have fun. This will probably not be enough for all your needs, but it's a good start.

or $2 unbuffered hardware (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 8 months ago | (#47225151)

If you're not too worried about the source having enough power to ruin anything, the hardware can consist of a resistor, a variable resistor (volume knob) and two wires. Just be sure to turn the knob all the way down to 1M ohm before connecting to an unknown source. Then slowly turn it up until you see a sufficient signal.

Re:XOScope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224639)

Sound card based so it can only go up to 44Khz, which is useless.

Re:XOScope (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 8 months ago | (#47224845)

perhaps to you even 20khz can be helpful to someone with out another option

Snooty AC (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225179)

And the AC Electronic Snobs are out in full force.

Re:XOScope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225649)

Can you specify why it is useless?

In my experience (EE) a lot of debugging can be done by just having a LED in the right place. Sometimes a multimeter is sufficient.
44kHz sounds like plenty for doing measurements on a power supply. I won't catch everything, but the 20MHz scope he is looking for won't find everything either.

Re:XOScope (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#47225857)

Didn't you mean "up to 22 kHz"? I mean, with Nyquist and all...

Re: XOScope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224719)

May be useful to you: get one supported by the excellent sigrok open source library!

Equivalent soundcard oscilloscope for Windows. (1)

the frizz (242326) | about 8 months ago | (#47225523)

If you are a windows user, Christian Zeitnitz offers a PC based Soundcard Oscilloscope [zeitnitz.de] free for non-commercial use. It also has a frequency spectrum waterfall diagram, x-y plots. Easy to install and run. Fun to speak into your microphone to test it out.

Only suitable audio speed signals like XOScope. I.e., 20-20000Hz from 44.1kHz sampling and 16-bit resolution. And without external hardware voltage dividers/protection the usual warnings about blowing up your soundcard if you feed in voltage outside of ±0.7V into it.

Re:XOScope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225563)

If you are doing this as a classroom exercise think about also installing a Fast Fourier Transform visualization tool like http://fft-spectra.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] . As in a PC based oscilloscope, your signal processing is mostly dependent on the Audio Card bandwidth. If you want more bandwidth than you can get with a cheep or used audio card, the better bet is to try to get an already built commercial solution.

DIY Oscilloscopes (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#47224629)

http://www.instructables.com/t... [instructables.com]

Take your pick.

Salae logic (2, Interesting)

nurd68 (235535) | about 8 months ago | (#47224633)

We've been using the Saleae Logic 16 - https://www.saleae.com/logic16 [saleae.com] at work.It goes from 2 channels at 100MHz up to 16 channels at 12.5MHz. We use them for debugging all the low speed stuff (serial ports, I2C, SD, etc.) - basically everything but the CPU memory interface.

Their upcoming "pro" version adds analog sampling, but it is not yet out.

Re:Salae logic (4, Informative)

Smerta (1855348) | about 8 months ago | (#47224781)

Yes, but "oscilloscope" != "logic analyzer". And the Logic 16 (I have one) is 5x the OP's stated price range.

I kinda feel like the OP asked where he could find a cheap, sporty little car, and you're telling him he should consider buying a fire truck.

Re:Salae logic (2, Insightful)

mean pun (717227) | about 8 months ago | (#47224843)

Since the OP asked in parentheses for spectrum analyser suggestions, he seems to be interested in cheap measurement instruments in general. I don't think a logic analyser is too far off topic.

Re:Salae logic (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#47225171)

Oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers are for examining analog signals. Logic analyzers are only useful for digital signals. They're in two different domains. You can't use a logic analyzer to debug a power supply design.

Re:Salae logic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224911)

Click on the 'products' link. https://www.saleae.com/cart

They have 4 new products coming from $99 to $499.

The Logic 8 has 8 digital/analog inputs.

Re:Salae logic (2)

nurd68 (235535) | about 8 months ago | (#47224993)

Sorry, I wasn't clear - the logic 4 DOES add the analog functionality and thus qualifies as an o-scope. It is out of his price range, but he might inquire as to bulk or student discounts. They might knock some $$ off that $100...

Re:Salae logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224791)

Not an o'scope. Nice try though. Also, $300 != "microbudget".

Re:Salae logic (1)

ttucker (2884057) | about 8 months ago | (#47225643)

Not an o'scope. Nice try though. Also, $300 != "microbudget".

For an oscilloscope, $300 is more like a nanobudget, or even picobudget.

Re:Salae logic (2)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 8 months ago | (#47226169)

For an oscilloscope, $300 is more like a nanobudget, or even picobudget.

True, though you can often pick up a good old solid Analogue CRO on Ebay for that price and honestly those old girls will still do the job marvelously for 99% of use cases.

Salae logic (3, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | about 8 months ago | (#47224825)

When recommending test equipment, I tell them the same thing that I tell those needing a PC and ask for recommendations. I ask what are your requirements, and what are your wishlist.

Start with the essentials. Do you need Microsoft Office, why? Do you need to keep in a budget? If so how much and why? Can you spend extra for extras? If you can get the extra from an alternate for less, would it meet your requirements?

The PC scope. Define your requirements. Budget is item one listed. This severly limits your options. Is above audio REQUIRED? If not some simple audio interfaces can be used. On Linux there is an oscope program that works great with a sound card. Back to requirements, are you taking absolute voltage measurements? Do you require DC coupling? If so this is not an option that meets your requirements.

If working in audio frequencies, there are some excellent free spectrum analizers for free in Linux and not sure what is the options in Windows or Mac. For Linear Frequency and Log amplitude the JAAA program in most linux repositories whorks great. For Log frequency and Log amplitude, the companion JAPA program works great. I use it to ring monitors for band/PA. Audacity does a great job creating waveforms. I use it to create frequency sweeps for sound setup with the JAPA program. The sweep generation is a little obscure. Under Generate tab, it is the Chirp function. Set start frequency, end frequency, start amplitude and end amplitude, liner or log sweep, and duration of the "Chirp" to generate your signal.

For those with a good soundcard or external audio interface the generated sound is direct digital so any noise is not in the recording, but in the analog stream after the digital. Be sure to set the project frequency high, such as 96KHZ, in Audacity to prevent ailising in the upper frequencies. This is a better signal source than any CD recorded sweep due to the higher sample frequency than 44.1K of CD.

To recap, due to budget, shop for what is free or low cost. Your interface to the outside world will be your expense. There are low cost or no cost software that can enable better capture hardware. The above while nice did not meet the stated budget requirement. Retails for $299. So is the wishlist able to justify the higher cost?

Re:Salae logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226259)

Soundcards make terrible scope inputs, the AA filters make the bandwidth above about 12-18kHz useless, the highpass filters make anything below 50Hz useless. You can sometimes bypass the highpass filters when they are external, but the AA is built in. The AA also makes Super-Nyquist sampling impossible. Oh and you would need to add instrumentation amplifiers for differential measurement, voltage dividers for multi ranging and protection circuits.

Now, if you took some cheap USB audio interface, and attached a compatible SAH ADC, then you don't get the AA, apodisation and spectral biasing problems of an ADC designed for audio, and you can do super-nyquist sampling to push your spectrum analysis way above audio frequencies (with external filters).

Re:Salae logic (1)

DrMcCoy (941651) | about 8 months ago | (#47225341)

You can get Chinese knock-offs of the Saleae Logic or the USBee for $10, at DealeXtreme for example. They run fine with sigrok, and even with the original Saleae software if they report the correct USB Product/Vendor ID pair. They might not do the higher sampling rates, though.

If they don't report the correct USB IDs, you can reprogram the USB EEPROM with the Cypress EZ-USB FX2LP tool. The Linux version is a bit buggy though (converts hex data to 0-terminated char* before sending to the device and therefore can't write data with 0x00 in it), so I wrote my own little tool: https://github.com/DrMcCoy/FX2LPTool

Of course, that's "only" a logical analyzer, no oscilloscope.

Digital logic analyzers, too! (2)

Megane (129182) | about 8 months ago | (#47224647)

As long as we're talking about cheap PC-based oscilloscopes, let's talk about the other important kind of cheap PC-based test equipment, the digital logic analyzer, such as this one. [mcuoneclipse.com]

Not everybody needs one of those old HP/Agilent behemoths (you know, the ones that ran Windows 2000), and in my experience they can be a pain in the ass to use, too. (Not to mention how damn heavy and huge their are.)

Re:Digital logic analyzers, too! (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 8 months ago | (#47224967)

It's maybe not that cheap, but I use an Intronix LogicPort 34-channel logic analyzer [pctestinstruments.com] for professional development. And I do so even though I have a Tek MSO5204 that I could use instead; the Intronix software is really good! It looks like they are $389 now.

Re:Digital logic analyzers, too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225067)

Not everybody needs one of those old HP/Agilent behemoths (you know, the ones that ran Windows 2000), and in my experience they can be a pain in the ass to use, too. (Not to mention how damn heavy and huge their are.)

They don't?? You can pry my 50+ lb HP 16500C out of my cold dead fingers, that is if the shelf its on doesn't collapse first!

Re:Digital logic analyzers, too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225953)

Open hardware, open software, 60MHz, $30, what more can you ask?


Re:Digital logic analyzers, too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226155)

The problem with most of the cheap and even not so cheap logic analyzers is the lack of memory.

xminilab-portable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224655)

I own one of these. It will run you about $120 dollars not exactly making your price point but there are some cheaper options this guy makes. Check out: http://www.gabotronics.com/oscilloscopes

It's all junk (-1, Flamebait)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 8 months ago | (#47224661)

Because China and Walmart, and an American society which values feelings over truth.

You were born 30 years too late.

Re:It's all junk (3, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | about 8 months ago | (#47224737)

what the fuck does the lack of a quality $50 oscilloscope have to do with "truth"?

you're right in a round-about way; "China and Walmart" got everyone used to paying almost nothing for a bunch of shiny shit, so when you actually have to pay $$ for something useful or quality it feels like an outrage for no directly-relevant reason.

Craigslist (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224677)

My local Craigslist has 9 oscilloscopes listed between $50 and $150.

Re:Craigslist (2, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#47225049)

How many of those will turn out to have a penis?

scope (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224687)

Try the analog discovery from diligent(????)

Its 99$ for students, 2 channel 14 bit, 100 mhz sample speed, front end is less than this, 100 mhz 2 channel waveform generator and 16 channel digital stuff.

The buffers are 8k or less, but it seems to work okay...

BitScope? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224689)

If you are willing to bump your price range to around $150 (or $250 for the more advnaced) you could use http://www.bitscope.com/ [bitscope.com] BitScope.

Check out their store http://my.bitscope.com/store/ [bitscope.com]

Two options (3, Informative)

SanjuroE (131728) | about 8 months ago | (#47224695)

Both are a bit above your price range. But the PicoScope 2200 [picotech.com] is a nice entry level scope. Alternatively some assembly required with OpenADC [newae.com] .

budget scope (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224707)

bitscope --- get one!

xminilab (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224721)

That a pretty tough price range but the xminilab kit from atmel is a neat little setup.
but the analog bandwidth is only 200k if your willing to spend as much as 150 you can get the xminilab-b with Up to 2mhz plus signal generator and spectrum analyzer

Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224747)

Teach them Mandarin, Portuguese or Russian, that's far more important than flooding the market with even more "electronics" people who'll never find jobs in the West.

No one cares about specific waveforms anymore, at least not waveforms accessible to the average hobbyist's scope.

Get a logic analyzer. Learn software.

You wanna "see" waveforms? Who cares? It's all digital these days. Get LTspice and simulate all the waveforms you want.

Re:Why? (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 8 months ago | (#47224947)

Nobody needs to learn to drive any more. We can teleconference everywhere. If you need your body to be somewhere, just rent a taxi! It's all virtual these days.

Re:Why? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#47225135)

Nothing is purely digital when it comes to actual hardware, it's just really fast analog.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226147)

You think this distinction is relevant to 99.9% of what the OP wants to do? Or what most people want to do?

You gonna bust out the 100GHz sampling scope to look at a 555 because you want to measure neutrinos?

You're nuts.

A scope is vast overkill for most hobby-level electronics today. We are on the shoulders of giants, why are you worried about shoes?

Re:Why? (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#47225241)

Better yet, forget all that stuff and teach them to arrange clothing at a store like Abercrombie or to make a coffee at Starbuck's, because that's where all the jobs in the future will be: retail.

For Android sensors: (1)

mean pun (717227) | about 8 months ago | (#47224761)

Not exactly what was asked for, since it only plots the output of Android device sensors, but the price is peanuts: SensorScope: https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

What's your curriculum going to be like? (1)

Zeorge (1954266) | about 8 months ago | (#47224767)

I ask as if you can get away with a sound card based O-Scope that's a cheap way, and, you can also find software for spectrum analyzer use as well. Quite possibly, repurpose old PC hardware laying around the school, any laptop will do and would do nicely.

This could be combined with a auto shop for car audio stuff so now you have a blending of science with a hobby/fascination that is very common to high school students.

I've not seen anything good for under about $300 (4, Informative)

mark-t (151149) | about 8 months ago | (#47224799)

This is something I was actually in the market for at one point and had researched as thoroughly as I could a few years back. The bad news as I discovered it was that anything that's cheap is junk, and anything that's not junk is not cheap. Although this was, as I said, a few years ago now, and it's possible that other alternatives have arisen since then.

One of the best things I found at the time which was modestly inexpensive was some hardware that plugged into an iPad or iPhone. The one that I found was a device called iMSO, and it has a bandwidth in the neighborhood of a few Mhz, which isn't too shabby for an analog oscilloscope that cost under $300.

Re:I've not seen anything good for under about $30 (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 8 months ago | (#47224815)

*Edit - typo.... (damn, I noticed it as soon as I hit "submit") The iMSO cost *around* $300, not less...

OWON makes a line (VDS) that looks decent (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224811)

They have ethernet and USB - amazon.com [amazon.com]
Also, ask these questions on eevblog forums. Slashdot is not great at hardware.
small review/discussion [eevblog.com]

ie., over half of the nitwits posting so far are recommending logic analyzers. Please stop. There are also cheap JTAG programming solutions, power supplies, etc. Don't start recommending wrenches when someone asks you for a screwdriver.

What about multifunction devices? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224813)

National Instruments recently released their myRIO devices for education. http://sine.ni.com/nips/cds/view/p/lang/en/nid/211694 . They include 10 analog inputs (up to 500 ks/s aggregate), 6 analog outputs, and 40 digital IO. The myRIO's can also be used for FPGA programming, LabVIEW programming, etc... Also see http://www.ni.com/white-paper/14621/en/ .

Analog Discovery by Digilent Inc. (5, Interesting)

agupta_25 (468946) | about 8 months ago | (#47224823)

I have been using the Analog Discovery for an embedded systems class I recently completed. The regular price is $239 but the student edition is only $99. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, but powerful enough to replace a stack of lab equipment. It is driven by the free WaveForms software and lets you build and test analog and digital circuits in virtually any environment, in or out of the lab. Here is the link:

http://www.digilentinc.com/Pro... [digilentinc.com]

2-Channel Oscilloscope
2-Channel Waveform Generator
16-Channel Logic Analyzer
16-Channel Digital Pattern Generator
±5VDC Power Supplies
Spectrum Analyzer
Network Analyzer
Digital I/O
Now supported by MATLAB / MATLAB student edition.

What are you aiming for? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#47224829)

Be aware that you plan to use a sound card in a way it was never intended to be used. So if you hope for anything beyond 10 MHz, you are probably out of luck. And at that range, you already get "real" oscilloscopes for about 100 bucks.

Some assembly required: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224833)

Hantek 6022BE (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 8 months ago | (#47224865)

I have a Hantek 6022BE and I'm please with it, but my needs were modest, just show a few waveforms to the kids at school

Perhaps Bitscope can help with some Pi (2)

davonshire (94424) | about 8 months ago | (#47224869)


This seemed like something that while passed your price has oodles of potential for all kinds of teaching uses.

Ebay (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 8 months ago | (#47224887)

Look at Ebay, in some cases you may be lucky to find what you are looking for there. Don't hesitate to look at items from Agilent or Rhode&Schwartz.

Otherwise go for the reasonably priced items at sites like Conrad [conrad-electronic.co.uk] .

Wrong tool for the job, IMO (4, Informative)

janoc (699997) | about 8 months ago | (#47224941)

If you are an electronics teacher, you should know better. The PC-based scopes and the various "DSO Nano" clones are universally crap and none fits into your budget anyway.

Your students would be vastly better served by buying a used analog scope, those could be obtained on eBay and similar places for a song these days. A used Tektronix or Hameg scope will beat the pants off of any PC-based toy and, more importantly, the student will actually learn and understand how the instrument works and what is being measured, because there are no "magic buttons" to push.

If the student has a bit larger budget, then the Rigol DS1052E or the newer DS1074Z is a really hard to beat value. There are also Siglents or Attens for the budget conscious, but both brands tend to suffer from poor manufacturing quality and the price is not really much lower than the Rigols.

Forget spectrum analyzer - there is no decent one for less than $1000 on the market. Digital scopes can do FFT, that helps in a pinch, otherwise the student can always record the data from something like the Rigols above and do a proper spectrum analysis on the PC, e.g. using Matlab or some other tool.

Re:Wrong tool for the job, IMO (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 8 months ago | (#47225215)

If the student has a bit larger budget, then the Rigol DS1052E or the newer DS1074Z is a really hard to beat value.

Be careful here. I've seen these at hamfests being sold by dealers, and the small print is that when you "buy" the scope that does all these wonderful things for $1499 (or whatever price) you're getting a six month license for the software that does all those wonderful things. One morning not too long after you buy your magic device you will turn it on to do something important and it will tell you that your demo license has expired and you need to send more money to Rigol.

I think that kind of marketing is dishonest and despicable. When someone says "your price for what you are seeing is X", then that's what you should get for X, not a demo system that's going to stop working unless you pay a bundle more.

Re:Wrong tool for the job, IMO (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 8 months ago | (#47225415)

Be careful here. I've seen these at hamfests being sold by dealers, and the small print is that when you "buy" the scope that does all these wonderful things for $1499 (or whatever price) you're getting a six month license for the software that does all those wonderful things. One morning not too long after you buy your magic device you will turn it on to do something important and it will tell you that your demo license has expired and you need to send more money to Rigol.

Well, the modern day scope is software-upgradable, so you buy what you need and can demo other stuff for 30 days or so (not 6 months).

The upshot is you'll get a scope that'll function as a scope with the specs you bought - like a Rigol 1052E is a 50MHz scope (upgradable to 100MHz I think) with 2 channels. Fancy features like decoders, enhanced triggers, etc., are upgrade items.

Though, I think the Rigol is really only around $500 now - it's original price point is now inhabited by the low end scopes of Agilent and others that give you way more functionality.

And if you wonder what Rigol is, Agilent's low end scopes, before introducing the 2000 series, were OEM'd versions of the Rigol 1052.

But yeah, for that budget, surplus analog scopes with 20+MHz bandwidth from the likes of Tektronix and such can be had for $50. Far better to learn with, less PC fiddling required (I can bet any PC scope you buy, most of the weekend would be consumed with just getting the thing working) and if one needs to stop work, the analog scopes remember their settings when transported.

Re:Wrong tool for the job, IMO (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 8 months ago | (#47225539)

Well, the modern day scope is software-upgradable, so you buy what you need

No, I buy the product as it is shown to me. Saying I only "buy what I need" is like buying a Ferrari and then three months later it will no longer go faster than 30MPH because I "didn't need" all that extra speed for the city driving I was doing.

When a salesman shows me all the great stuff his product will do and tells me the price, I assume, correctly, that when I buy that product at that price it will do all the great stuff he showed me.

The upshot is you'll get a scope that'll function as a scope with the specs you bought

For three months. And then it won't.

Re:Wrong tool for the job, IMO (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225311)

No, the students would be better served with either

1) A time machine to travel to about 1960-1975 so they can get jobs in North America.

2) A reality-based teacher who will show them the actual job offerings out there for people in electronics.

Re:Wrong tool for the budget (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 8 months ago | (#47225585)

A used Tektronix or Hameg scope will beat the pants off of any PC-based toy

Looking on eBay, a s/h HAMEG will start at 5 times the budget specified in the original question. Even more once shipping charges are added. So while you may be correct: that a "proper" 'scope will beat one of the PC scopes, your solution fails due to completely missing the price constraints.

And if you want to provision equipment for a whole class of students, finding s/h gear piecemeal on the internet is not a practical solution, since it doesn't scale beyond one or two "lucky" buyers.

Student Priced probe (1)

wgaryhas (872268) | about 8 months ago | (#47224945)

Digilent's Analog Discovery [digilentinc.com] is a good option if you can get the $99 student pricing.

2 Channels scope, 100 Msps, 2 channel function generator, 16 digital logic channels, 2 external triggers.

Software comes with a sdk.

Analog Discovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47224961)

As usual, there are cheaper gadgets you can buy if you are a student. Let me do some slashvertisement here. It is a little bit outside the budget, but it does something more than just oscilloscope:
* Two channel oscilloscope, up to 5MHz bandwidth
* Two channel arbitrary function generator
* Stereo audio amplifier
* 16 channel digital logic analyzer, up to 100Msample/sec
* 16 channel pattern generator
Etc etc

DSO Nano (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 8 months ago | (#47224971)

The series of Seeed oscilloscopes [seeedstudio.com] are a bit clunky, but otherwise reasonable.

Buy a second-hand Oscilloscope instead. (4, Informative)

MindPrison (864299) | about 8 months ago | (#47225035)

50-70$ will give your students a good if not excellent used analog scope such as suggested from numerous members in here

Other than eBay, less obvious sources for getting a scope on the cheap would be your local HAM (radio amateur) club, there is always one in your city, look them up (they're really friendly and love new faces). Another way to get some cheap scopes, is to visit the various electronics repairshops, service dept. etc. Ask nicely, perhaps bring a free pizza to the overworked technicians, and who knows? Maybe you'll end up with a Scope for the price of a decent pizza slice. (I KID YOU NOT, I've heard friends of mine who have done this, and even gotten a free Spectrum Analyzer, albeit old...but working).

Yet another source is the various tech-schools out there, they have old surplus equipment too, one of my friends also got a serious stash of scopes from them, perfectly legal. You could even look up military surplus sales, they often sell truckloads of much better stuff, some people make a killing buying pallets of Scopes, analyzers, bench multimeters, solder stations and much more from the military auctions, and re-sell them for seriously high prices on eBay.

A few things you may want to know about old scopes though, is that they are FRAGILE. Scopes around 20mhz are useful for low-end digital experiments and standard old audio & CCTV repair and experimentation (enough to teach you!) A 100 mhz scope throws you into the digital era, you don't need much more than that. When you find one (beggars can't be choosers, but if you pay a little...) then you may want to check that all the knobs are okay (yes, you can lube them yourself, but check for broken plastic bits, if it breaks - stay away), Good strong CRT (no hefty burn-ins or weak display), also look for the famous LOST TRACE (this means loose parts inside, again...stay away unless you know what you're doing).

A couple of good scope probes can be as expensive as the instrument itself, you may actually want to purchase those from China, they're okay...and cheap. Test leads are the only thing I recommend people to purchase new, because they take the most beating.

Embedded Artists Labtool (1)

aa1ww (3692481) | about 8 months ago | (#47225043)

Tim / fffdddooo (3692429), Not unlike the Digilent Analog Discovery product (2 channels, 5MHz analog BW), the Embedded Artists Labtool offers 2 channels @ 6MHz analog BW and a AWS generator. The cost is $139USD or $99EU. The URL is: http://www.embeddedartists.com... [embeddedartists.com] and it's available from distributors like Mouser.com I think Digilent is ahead with delivered courseware. I'm a community college professor at stcc.edu and I'm looking at the same ideas. One of the milestones for our beginner student is getting the whole time-domain mentality across to them (think ... DuMont Oscillagraph :-) ). Despite my dinosaur upbringing with big Tek 515's and 535's, I think our students could use these PC-peripheral style instruments with no loss of meaning. In actual practice I think we could accomplish our goals with a 200KHz 'scope just as well. As I'm sure you're already aware, most frequency domain discussion nowadays can be effected using FFT software + a digital sampling oscilloscope. Obviously any truly RF stuff is going to require something beyond these low-cost instruments but, for around the same price as a textbook, they can have a scope and signal generator as a takeaway. Best Wishes, Coop

Re:Embedded Artists Labtool (1)

aa1ww (3692481) | about 8 months ago | (#47225075)

Forgot to mention ..... With digital sampling scopes: (1) be they standalone units or PC peripherals, the student get a way to document their screenshots; and (2) they can catch a useful range of single-shot events.

Re:Embedded Artists Labtool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225115)

I took screenshots of a CRT when I was in school 20 years ago. It's not rocket science. Sure, at the time I was the only one in the entire school with a scope and an Amiga with DigiView..

Also, don't call them sampling scopes, they're just digital. A "sampling" scope is an entire other beast completely.

Product Review (1)

bigwheel (2238516) | about 8 months ago | (#47225101)

Here's a product review of a handful of small, inexpensive oscilloscopes. http://www.jameco.com/Jameco/w... [jameco.com] They look kind of handy compared to my ancient HP.

Rugged Oscilloscopes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225111)

Anyone know of any good rugged oscilloscopes for e.g. use out in the field? Meeting area classification a bonus.

Look for national lab salvage / surpluss (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#47225113)

A number of labs like SLAC have a salvage department that collects old, but sometimes still functional equipment. If you are associated with an educational institution you might be able to get some of this stuff for free. It will be old but probably fine for some types or student experiments .

$199 Labnation Smartscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47225117)

Smartscope [lab-nation.com] , US$ 199, open source USB oscilloscope / logic analyzer / arbitrary waveform generator (and optionally Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA dev kit) was recently kickstarted [kickstarter.com] , it is expected to ship by August 1st. Supports Linux, Windows XP/7/8 (PC version), Mac OS, Android & (jailbroken) iOS.

Anyway, also buy a cheap 2nd hand analog oscilloscope (under $50 [youtube.com] ), you will learn a lot from that.

Sys Comp Design - Cirguit Gear (1)

icknay (96963) | about 8 months ago | (#47225165)

Check out the circuit-gear units. The new "mini" is just $99 http://www.syscompdesign.com/C... [syscompdesign.com] I have the previous generation unit. I've enjoyed it for just hacking around, and it's great for demos, since the computer it's hooked up to can be projected. The GUI software for it is open-source, so that's neat.

What bandwidth do you need? (1)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#47225247)

The price of scopes goes up rapidly with bandwidth. 20MHz is cheap. 100MHz is more expensive. 1GHz and up is very expensive. Tektronix sells a 33GHz scope starting at $30K. That's the first question you have to ask. For kids doing Arduino-level elecronics, 20MHz is fine. None of the I/O goes faster than that. (If you want to look at Ethernet or digital video signals, you need far more bandwith, more than you can afford. Fortunately, today that stuff mostly works.

(Back in the 1990s, I was trying to build a LIDAR unit for a robot. The parts aren't expensive. The problem is that, when it didn't work right, I needed a high-bandwidth scope I didn't have to find out why.)

Re:What bandwidth do you need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226089)

Kids doing arduino stuff don't need a scope. What for?

Re:What bandwidth do you need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226101)

and THAT's what sampling scopes are for ^_^

underclock to use low bandwidth scope on high freq (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 8 months ago | (#47225251)

I wanted to scope a signal that required about 1Mhz of resolution, but do it for $2 using a sound card that only goes to 20Khz. The $2 solution was a much slower crystal for the circuit under test.

XMEGA Xprotolab (1)

danceswithtrees (968154) | about 8 months ago | (#47225263)

Somewhat surprised no one has mentioned Xprotolab yet.

http://www.gabotronics.com/dev... [gabotronics.com]

8 channel logic analyzer at 2MSPS (3.3V)
2 channel analog at 2MSPS, 200kHz analog bandwidth, -14 to +20V inputs
Small OLED display
1.6" x 1"
As an extra bonus prize, arbitrary waveform generator!!

Never tried one personally-- tempted but I think my Tek would get jealous.

sigrok (1)

swissunix (3692473) | about 8 months ago | (#47225269)

Be sure to get one supported by the excellent opensource sigrok library

DSO Nano (1)

chihowa (366380) | about 8 months ago | (#47225299)

The DSO Nano from Seeed Studio [seeedstudio.com] almost fits that bill. The specs aren't amazing, but at $89 with its own screen it's useful for education or light tasks. I keep one in my bag for emergency troubleshooting in the field.

They have a more capable version [seeedstudio.com] , too, for anyone who's interested.

RTL-SDR spectrum analyzer (2)

Mr2cents (323101) | about 8 months ago | (#47225349)

Instead of a spectrum analyzer, you can use an RTL-SDR dongle as described here [hansvi.be] . Sure it has a lot of limitations, but it only costs you 10$, and with the scanner software you can get a very wide bandwidth.

The best advice is not by me but by (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 8 months ago | (#47225355)

Dave from eevblog he does a lot of reviews of this type of hardware

http://www.eevblog.com/2010/05... [eevblog.com]

or check this search to see a lot of reviews of specific ones old and new
https://www.youtube.com/user/E... [youtube.com]

no i'm not affiliated with EEVblog its not click bait its just the best reference material i know to help this in his decision

buy a used analog one they're often cheap or free

DPScope (1)

heypete (60671) | about 8 months ago | (#47225511)

I have a DPScope [pdamusician.com] and rather like it.

It's not a super advanced scope, and doesn't compare to standalone scopes like the Rigol DS1052E, but for someone on a budget who has fairly basic needs, it's worth a shot. It was developed by a guy who was annoyed at the drawbacks of other PC-based oscilloscopes and their software.

I use mine for testing homebuilt electronics, and it does well for that. I wouldn't use it for anything significantly more than that sort of stuff, though.

Baudline (1)

Docasman (870959) | about 8 months ago | (#47225577)

From their website:
"Baudline is a time-frequency browser designed for scientific visualization of the spectral domain. Signal analysis is performed by Fourier, correlation, and raster transforms that create colorful spectrograms with vibrant detail. Conduct test and measurement experiments with the built in function generator, or play back audio files with a multitude of effects and filters. The baudline signal analyzer combines fast digital signal processing, versatile high speed displays, and continuous capture tools for hunting down and studying elusive signal characteristics."

I have used it also as an oscilloscope (waveform wiindow). Runs on linux and osx.

Official website [baudline.com] .

University surplus (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 8 months ago | (#47225581)

Research universities have tons of old junk that they would love to get rid of for very little cost.

FPGA Scope (1)

bjs555 (889176) | about 8 months ago | (#47225591)

Here's a 100 mega samples per sec digital scope that can be built for $92.70. It's based on a floating point gate array.
http://www.fpga4fun.com/Hands-... [fpga4fun.com]

The parts for it can be purchased here.
http://www.knjn.com/ [knjn.com]

Re:FPGA Scope (1)

bjs555 (889176) | about 8 months ago | (#47225671)

Oops ... meant to say field programmable gate array.

MSO-19 Mixed Signal Oscilloscope (2)

tkrmnz (3692523) | about 8 months ago | (#47225627)

I know this might be out of your budget but have you looked at the MSO-19? http://linkinstruments.com/mso... [linkinstruments.com] I designed this as the training tool for my high school FIRST Tech Challenge team the Landroids. They used it to develop various custom Arduino & AtTiny based sensor array for their award winning robots http://youtu.be/zRwOx2D7WCw [youtu.be] . I packed enough features in the scope so the students can tackle FPGA based projects when the need arises. It was selected by NASA as the only oscilloscope on the ISS. And the best part is that it is designed and manufactured in NJ/PA to demonstrate that affordable manufacturing can still exist in the USA.

lol (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#47225661)

There's this new thing called "Ebay"
http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html... [ebay.com]

In all seriousness though, for what you are looking for they are about $70
I went with a used bench-top model myself because the analog display looks cool and I don't really need all the features. I'm just a hobbyist and not in need of what your students will be doing.

USBee or 2nd hand Tektronix (1)

pev (2186) | about 8 months ago | (#47226005)

Ive a lot of time for the usbee - analog and logic analysis and basic decoding of serial protocols too. I also love the fact it can do long term signal capture / recording too. Yes you can buy chinese knock offs but really, have some decency and support small companies making Cool Shit.

For my own money i have an old cathode tek and an old lcd 60mhz tekscope that i bought on fleabay thats damn handy. Also keep an eye out for cheap old fluke scopemeters too...

CT Scope (1)

tcheleao (171167) | about 8 months ago | (#47226119)

Emerson Electric provide CT Scope for free. For years. Just register to download it.
Good Luck.

Bitscope (1)

recharged95 (782975) | about 8 months ago | (#47226175)

They have a new product for under 150.
http://www.bitscope.com/produc... [bitscope.com]

But I've been very happy with my Bitscope 10 + assortment of probes (if you can spring for that). Does everything, s/w is a bit 00's (features), but rock solid and has an API for writing your own software. If you can spring the extra 150, you can just get a real scope+analyzer vs high latency toy. Have used them on both Windows and Linux, no issues.

PCD Scope from PICAXE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#47226293)

I haven't tried this yet but it sounds promising for low level debugging.


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