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'[OT] Buying a O-Scope'
1998\08\26@220643 by Timothy Deterly

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Hey everyone,
       I am, in the near future (a month or so), thinking about buying a
oscilloscope, and I was wondering what everyone thought I should get.
To tell you the truth I don't really know to much about them (very
little) but, I have seen them used many time in books and articles, and
they seem to be very useful.  I have had quite a few times where I am
debugging something that I have put together and thought that a o-scope
would be helpful in getting it to work.  In buying this the price is a
important factor (isn't always :), but I also don't want to "out grow"
it, because I am planing on majoring in electrical engineering (just
started college).  I have began looking around at different ones and was
wondering what people think of the ones that work off a computer, such
as the bitscope (http://www.bitscope.com).  Besides the obvious reasons
(portability, and the needing of a computer) what are the pros and cons
of the standard desktop scopes and the computer based ones?  What should
I suspect to pay for a decent one (just a ballpark is fine)?  What is
the difference between a digital storage one and a normal one?  Here is
a good question...what other question should I ask :)

Or does it sound like I am not ready for a scope?

Thanks a lot,
Timothy Deterly
spam_OUTtimdetTakeThisOuTspamsan.rr.com
ICQ#: 13236187

1998\08\26@222150 by Dennis Plunkett

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At 06:45 PM 26/08/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Hey everyone,

<Huge snip>

>Or does it sound like I am not ready for a scope?

Please don't think that I am being rude, but you last statement is correct.
A CRO is a large purchase (But handy). Use them first at college, see what
you do and don't like, what you do and don't need and how to use. Then buy,
knowing what to look for and what best suites your needs.


Dennis

1998\08\27@102625 by Reginald Neale

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TImothy asked:

>Hey everyone,
>        I am, in the near future (a month or so), thinking about buying a
>oscilloscope, and I was wondering what everyone thought I should get.

Given that you're in it for the long haul, take the time to shop around.
But it doesn't make sense to agonize over it either. Even if you could
afford a top-of-the-line scope right now, in a couple of years there would
be something better available.

IMHO the PC based scopes are interesting toys, but have too many
limitations for practical workbench use. The one attraction is that you get
digital functions cheap.

Digital is very, very handy for certain kinds of analysis. Most current new
models do both digital and analog.

I think you'd get the best value with a used scope. Tek and HP build solid
units that last a long time.  As other list members have pointed out, you
can often find bargains at hamfests and flea markets. Don't buy anything
without firing it up and exercising every function.

Catalogs from companies like Tucker and Test Equity have used scope prices
that you can use for comparison shopping.

Hope this is helpful. Good luck with your career.

Reg Neale

1998\08\27@102930 by lilel

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Timothy wrote:
> Hey everyone,
>         I am, in the near future (a month or so), thinking about
>         buying a
> oscilloscope,

PLAN A:
Get a cheap used military scope, made with vacuum tubes and weighing
in at 300 LBS.  They cost about $40. They last for years.  My best
one was made in 1965. Toss it in the trash or user it as a
boatanchor when you outgrow it.  I've got three of them.  (a total of
six traces!)  Your engineering school will provide you with decent
scopes, your boss will provide you with a decent scope, and if any of
them are decent folks they'll let you play in the lab after hours.

PLAN B:  Spend $1500 on a new dual trace scope.  Agonize on whether
you'll outgrow it, sell it at a loss when you do, and cuss it the
whole time you own it.  Cry because it will have no more
functionality than the $40 used scope you passed up.  Wail because it
only goes to 60 MHZ.  Groan when you can't look at more than two
measly traces.  Howl when you can't resolve a small glitch in a wide
signal.

PLAN C:  Get a nice HP mixed signal oscilliscope, at about $4000.
I've wanted one for years.  You won't outgrow it.  You'll will it to
your grandson.

PLAN D:  Get a PC plugin scope, for $100 to $500.  You'll find they
are nice for data acquisition, but skimp on high frequency
capability, tend to collect noise from the PC, you'll cry when you
hook a live ground signal into your PC and blow it to kingdom come,
and you'll be pleased when you can cut and paste a signal into Excel
and graph it.  You won't outgrow it, because you will always find a
need for it. (unless you fry it.)   But eventually you'll get a real
scope.

PLAN E:  Build a data acquisition card based on a PIC.  (I'm not
kidding).  Catch-22: you'll need a scope to complete it.


> Or does it sound like I am not ready for a scope?

If you are on this list, you are ready for a scope.



-- Lawrence Lile

    "The ideal design has zero parts"  -
           (attributed to Harold Hallikainen)

Download AutoCad blocks for electrical drafting at:
http://home1.gte.net/llile/index.htm

1998\08\27@103443 by Chris Cole

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I have been more than pleased with my tektronix TDS-210 scope.  It is a
digital scope.  The 210 is a 2-channel scope that does up to 60MHz at a
1Giga-sample/sec rate. The 220 does 100 MHz.  For PIC projects, this scope
is perfect.  Cost is $1000, I was able to fint it for $775 used.  Best of
all - it is VERY portable!  it has the same face dimensions as any
ordinary scope, but it is only 4" deep!

I'm glad I own this scope.

       -Chris
        .....coleKILLspamspam@spam@coledd.com

1998\08\27@104440 by Roland Andrag

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Hello everyone!

<snip>

> >Or does it sound like I am not ready for a scope?
>
> Please don't think that I am being rude, but you last statement is correct.
> A CRO is a large purchase (But handy). Use them first at college, see what
> you do and don't like, what you do and don't need and how to use. Then buy,
> knowing what to look for and what best suites your needs.

I beg to differ!! If you can afford a mid-range scope, buy it, by all
means! It will aid your understanding of basic electronic concepts
unbelievably (eg. what happens when I increase the resistance in this
high pass RC filter?; is my low pass filter time constant right to
get smooth out my PWM waveform etc.).  Although I work without my
'scope most of the time, every now and then I feel blind without it
(am I loading the output of this opamp too much?? - can't see using
my multimeter, plug in the scope). It helps tremendously in getting a
'feel' for electronics.

What to go for: I am a bit apprehensive about the PC based ones,
since most of them are fairly slow.  I would recomment going for a
mid-range analogue 'scope, although I can't name any brands (can
anyone else help?).

I you want a cheeper option, you could make a PIC project out of it -
I have seen a number of designs interfacing the PIC16C71 to the PC
via the parallel port - have a look around.  It may be the solution
until you have a better idea of what you want.

Cheers
 Roland

1998\08\27@104845 by Ajmal Shami

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I am ready for Plan A.
Where can I find this 40$ oscilloscope.
Please advise.
Regards
Ajmal




---Lawrence Lile <lilelspamKILLspamTOASTMASTER.COM> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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1998\08\27@105300 by Joe McCauley

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Does anyone have firm US prices for the TDS220 + comms module? If they are
really as cheap as
this I'd be interested. Does anyone have a web address for tektronix
dealers in the US?

Joe



At 10:26 27/08/98 -0400, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

1998\08\27@110109 by Sean Breheny

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At 09:19 AM 8/27/98 +0000, you wrote:
>

[SNIP]

>PLAN E:  Build a data acquisition card based on a PIC.  (I'm not
>kidding).  Catch-22: you'll need a scope to complete it.

I DEFINATELY agree with that Catch 22! In fact, my current PIC-based DSO
project was the major motivation for me to get my Tek 7704A scope. I
consistently found myself being unable to test how my input buffer would
perform at high frequency AC. I'm hoping I will be able to evaluate it
properly with this used analog scope.

>
>
>> Or does it sound like I am not ready for a scope?
>
>If you are on this list, you are ready for a scope.

I also agree here. It is so hard to figure out what's going on in an AC
circuit without one!

{Quote hidden}

+--------------------------------+
| Sean Breheny                   |
| Amateur Radio Callsign: KA3YXM |
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1998\08\27@110304 by Craig Lee

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The nice thing I found about it is that you can capture and analyze your I2C
signals.  It's saved countless hours of troubleshooting already.


{Original Message removed}

1998\08\27@155422 by andre

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Chris:
you might want to check this before using it

http://www.tek.com/Measurement/programs/tds200-recall/index.html

Andre Abelian


Chris Cole wrote:

{Quote hidden}

1998\08\28@023344 by Mike Keitz

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You can do a lot more with *any* oscilloscope than you can with *no*
oscilloscope.  Therefore if you are at all interested in electronics and
already have a volt-ohm-milliammeter, the next thing to look for is an
oscilloscope.  Being in college you should have some access to nice lab
units (but don't count on it as an undergraduate).  Eventually you'll
want your own.

At this stage, you probably shouldn't buy anything new unless you are
absolutely made of money.  There is nice new stuff in the $2500 and up
range.  Buy some low-end new scope and you will probably regret it.

So that leaves used.  Remember the price varies a lot based on the
opinion of the seller and the buyer.  Don't pay a high price unless
you're sure the unit is in perfect condition.

First we have the "educational" models by Heathkit and also part of some
correspondence school programs.  These are typically single trace and
less than 5 MHz bandwidth.  I went through two of these and did a lot.
Remember any scope is better than no scope.  But, the really old ones
with tubes aren't worth fooling with.  Try to find a solid-state one with
triggered sweep.  Don't pay more than $25 or so.  New instruments in this
class are still made, they cost about $150.

Next you can step up to the name brand: Tektronix.  There really is only
one brand in the used scope market, though HP comes close.  For the under
$50 range, you should be able to get into a 1950's vintage Tek 500 series
like Laurence Lile mentioned.  These units have decent performance but
are huge and heavy.  The horizontal and vertical circuits are seperate
modules that plug in through the front.  Be sure it has useful general
purpose plug-ins, not specialized ones, otherwise you'll be shopping for
those too.  A lot of people collect these instruments, but eventually
their backs give out from moving them repeatedly and they unload them at
a giveaway price, or simply give them away.

If you have $500 or so, you can buy what anyone would consider a nice
analog scope, one of the 1970's "portable" Tektronix.  I'm not an expert
in the model numbers and all but someone else could recommend one.
There are also dealers of these who sell checked out ones with some
guarantee, though of course the price is higher.  A good working one of
these will take you far, though if you can put up with the size of the
$50 one it will probably do all you need too.  You may not want to spend
this much at first though.

Finally (before looking at new ones) you have late-model used ones.  If
you really want something digital this may be practical.  The dealers
have slick catalogs which summarize the features of each model and give
you some idea of the price.  But keep looking at hamfests and such and
you may find a bargain.


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1998\08\28@071552 by Pavel Korensky

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At 12:18 27.8.1998 -0400, you wrote:
>You can do a lot more with *any* oscilloscope than you can with *no*
>oscilloscope.  Therefore if you are at all interested in electronics and
>already have a volt-ohm-milliammeter, the next thing to look for is an
>oscilloscope.  Being in college you should have some access to nice lab
>units (but don't count on it as an undergraduate).  Eventually you'll
>want your own.
>

Hmm, maybe one should buy the oscilloscope first and than the multimeter.
At least, I am using scope much more frequently than multimeter. :-))

BTW, remember when I asked month or so ago in this forum about digital
oscilloscopes ? I tried several of them and I just bought HP 54645A
MegaZoom. It is a fantastic toy. When I will test the unit more deeply, I
will write something about this scope to the forum.

Best regards

PavelK

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1998\08\28@093845 by lilel

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> I am ready for Plan A.
> Where can I find this 40$ oscilloscope.
> Please advise.
> Regards
> Ajmal
>


Well, my rule of acquiring toys and tools is, there is
an inverse relationship between the amount of time you spend looking
for something used and the price you can find.  I bought one scope at
a flea market for $10.  The guy had no idea what it was, and I bought
it before I fired it up, so I had no idea if it worked.  That's a
fair price for a real risk.  I bought another at an electronics
surplus house.  They had several nice new digital scopes for way more
money than I had, and one old junker under a table.  They asked $80,
I offered $40, and they bit.  It literally takes two guys to lift it.
NOT portable.   There is some handwriting on it that says
"Navy Surplus - Original cost - $3000"  Our tax dollars at work.

The third one I bought at an auction.  There were two scopes, I
bought the cheaper one for about $65.

If you are the US, look for auctions or surplus houses in areas with
a lot of electronics industry like California, Atlanta, Seattle.  If
you live in a Cow Town like me, you'll look a long time.

Keep in mind, to find these things I passed up a hundred scopes at
$500 to $1500.  If you are willing to set your sights higher on cost
you open up a lot more possibilities.  and your serach will take
considerably less time.  I am, however, an incurable cheapskate.

-- Lawrence Lile

    "The ideal design has zero parts"  -
           (attributed to Harold Hallikainen)

Download AutoCad blocks for electrical drafting at:
http://home1.gte.net/llile/index.htm

1998\08\28@134202 by Dwayne Reid

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{Quote hidden}

Hi there, Timothy.

**WARNING**  Heavily biased opinion follows!

I think that a scope is the 3rd most valuable (1= good soldering iron, 2=
good multimeter) and 2nd most used item (1= soldering iron) in my shop.  If
you plan to pursue electronics, you definitely need a scope.

Since you are just starting, don't spend a lot of money.  Your best bet is
to buy a used analog scope from somewhere.  Where, you might ask?  Try ham
swap meets in your area, talk to electronics shops to see if they have any
old scopes they don't use anymore, look in the ads in the back of
Electronics Now or Popular Electronics.  A 20 MHz dual trace scope will do
most of what you need to do.  Make usre that it has triggered sweep and
selectable AC/DC coupling on the vertical inputs (some really old scopes
can't measure DC).  You are looking at a couple of hundred bucks or so.
Dream machine, if you can find and afford it, is a Tektronix 465 (any flavor).

I own a couple of older analog units and recently purchased my first digital
scope (THS720P).  I prefer an analog scope for most of my troubleshooting.
The scope probe is the first thing I pick up - I use the scope to make most
of the voltage measurements in the circuit under test.  I grab a multimeter
only if I have to measure resistance, current, or have to measure or set a
precision voltage.

I bought my first scope when I was 12 or 13 - an old Heathkit single trace
unit that was AC coupled and only good for a few hundred KHz.  Its long gone
now but the techniques that I learned back then have served me til now.

Look around and see what you can find.  When you find something that you can
afford, ask the list for opinions on that model.  TRY BEFORE YOU BUY, if you
are buying something local.

Good luck!

dwayne


Dwayne Reid   <@spam@dwaynerKILLspamspamplanet.eon.net>
Trinity Electronics Systems Ltd    Edmonton, AB, CANADA
(403) 489-3199 voice     (403) 487-6397 fax

1998\08\28@163828 by William Chops Westfield

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   Being in college you should have some access to nice lab
   units (but don't count on it as an undergraduate).

In my "theoretical" EE program (UPenn BSEE'81), we had a year worth of labs
that involved (indeed, were centered around) using an oscilliscope.  So we
learned basic functions on one type of scope - expecting to use enough
varieties to learn which obscure bells and whistles you prefer "for ever" is
not realistic IMHO.  Those were the the "sweep generator to xxxpass filter
to scope" sorts of things - there were also logic classes w labs (assemble
chips into bigger things) and integrated electronic classes w labs (mostly
analyze chips at the transistor level, "but hey, we just got some
microprocessor evaluation boards - let's do something with them) that did
not involve the use of a scope (I suppose they COULD have, but not by
default.)  Now, there were plenty of other scopes around, and someone with
the motivation and time could learn a lot more.  But probably NOT as part of
the curriculum.

BillW

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