USB Oscilloscope now and in the past

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USB Oscilloscope is digital oscilloscope connected to computer via USB cable. Although this definition is pretty straight forward it has some background. Let’s start at the beginning.

USB oscilloscope
Fig.1: USB oscilloscope


Oscilloscope is a type of electronic test instrument that allows observation of constantly varying signal voltage and representing it as two-dimensional plot of signal(s) as a function of time.


Oscilloscopes in the past

.First oscilloscopes used cathode ray tubes to display such plots and linear amplifiers for signal processing and because of that they were big, heavy and expensive.

Oscilloscopes are used in the science, medicine, engineering and telecommunications industry. They are widely used for maintenance of electronic equipment and laboratory work. Modern oscilloscopes offer advanced functions useful in automotive industry, digital signal analysis, protocol decoding etc.

You can read more about oscilloscopes here..

Analog oscilloscope
Fig. 2: Analog oscilloscope


Analog oscilloscopes were followed by development of digital storage oscilloscopes (DSO) which store the signal digitaly and uses onboard computer to process and store acquisited data in contrast with analog oscilloscope without such advanced features. Plots can be manipulated after data acquisition and displayed on LCD display. Although they can be as big as analog oscilloscopes they are much lighter and portable.

Digital storage oscilloscope
Fig. 3: Digital storage oscilloscope


USB oscilloscope today

By that time personal computers were developing and improving really fast. On the other hand, high performance microcontrollers became accessible for the reasonable price for the wide range of users.

Those microcontrollers were powerful enough to collect large amount of data with really high sampling rate. This led to the idea of re-inventing oscilloscope like never before and result was digital oscilloscope with off-board computer for displaying and processing data.

.Digital oscilloscope is external device with connectors for probes and hardware with microcontroller which takes care for data acquisition and connectivity (such as USB, FireWire or Ethernet) with personal computer.

There is no display, as this role is now assigned to personal computer. USB oscilloscope is digital oscilloscope which is collecting data and sending it to personal computer via USB. Personal computers equipped with proper software takes responsibility to process and display collected data. Processing and displaying data is done in software (such as PoScope) which is really flexible and handy as developers can add new features as software upgrades. .

PoLabs PoScopeMega1 is accompanied with PoScope4 software for personal computer.

Fig. 4: USB oscilloscope PoScopeMega1
Oscilloscope software
Fig. 5: PC software to process and display collected data

Together they form an excellent measurement environment. Below are some examples of usage:

Measuring with USB oscilloscope

USB oscilloscope desktop

Debugging with USB oscilloscope


Advantages of using PoScopeMega1

Big advantage of using PoScopeMega1 is definitely great portability because it’s small (pocket size) and light-weight. There is no need for any external power supply while is power over USB cable. Because of the size and great design it draws less than 60mA of current which is really useful when using it with notebooks, tablets or anywhere else where power source is limited. Those factors affects also production price which is much lower comparing to classic oscilloscopes. As mentioned before it’s accompanied with powerful multithreaded PC software PoScope4. 


USB oscilloscope used with notebook
Fig. 9: Portable USB oscilloscope PoScopeMega1 and PoScope4 used with notebook.


Computers offer great connectivity and usage of USB oscilloscope with it is really simple. We right decision we can turn our computer in powerful measurement device used for serious engineering work or only for hobby projects. Decision is yours.

We upgraded some features and performance of Mega1 and released Mega50 version. Check it out in our store – USB oscilloscope Mega50 and also check out other blogs.

Please check also our latest blogs and products:

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