Recently in either a private message or a post here on Simpli, user Skoggsgurra commented to me that the PicoScope (www.picotech.com) is a very good low-cost alternative to a Tectronix oscilloscope for the general user. I’ve been playing with 555 timers at home and have been hampered by not having access to a good scope to see what my circuit is doing.
So, I looked online and found them for sale at newark.com amongst other sellers. Spent about $140 on the model 2204, which made it to the house about 1.5 weeks later. For what I spent, I got a little box that connects on one side to a usb port on my laptop. The other side has three bnc connectors, to which the included probes attach. The 2204 has 8-bit resolution up to 10 MHz, which is more than enough for what I typically deal with (though Pico sells much faster devices too, and with more channels, for more money). So, even if all it did was trace voltages at that frequency and below, it is several hundred dollars cheaper than no-frills Tek scopes of my youth.
But wait, there’s more. To make the scope work, you download the software that talks to the little box, and displays readings. They are on version 6 of that software now. In that software is a plethora of features and functions that would cost a few kilobucks to get on old school o-scopes. My little box can do the normal trace and measure functions of good digital scopes, but also does FFT (frequency analysis), has a 3rd port that is a programmable signal output for testing, the data can be saved as a screen shot, or dumped to a data file to manipulate in Excel, the scope can be triggered in a variety of ways, can do a bunch of math functions that I barely grasp, can be programmed to do stuff that isn’t already directly programmed to a function…and users can upload requests to the programmers at Pico to have new features added to the code. The downloads are free, and you can play with the interface using a dummy scope if you want to check it out (which I did before buying). Best $140 I’ve ever spent.
So, thanks Gunnar!