LeCroy osciloscopios

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How to Use an Oscilloscope

Even though digital readouts are commonplace, there are still some areas where you need a graphical display to make sense of data. That's where an oscilloscope comes in, displaying data in easily understood waveforms so you can see what's going on.

What is an Oscilloscope?

At first glance, a LeCroy WaveRunner looks like a small television with grid lines on the screen. As with most electronic equipment, they can divide into two different types; analog and digital. Both can measure the same data, but they sample and handle it in different fashions.

  • Digital: Digital WaveRunners capture discrete binary signals and then display them on a screen. They can work with any kind of data at sample rates of several hundred MHz or even higher. They can also store data in onboard memory to play back later, making them really useful as signal analyzers and to capture single events. The WaveRunner uses a 2.5 GHz Intel processor to manipulate and store data.
  • Analog: An analog oscilloscope uses signal current to deflect an electron beam so you can view the wave function in real time. The biggest advantage of analog systems is that they have an effectively continuous sample rate, making them often the first choice for analysis of data as it changes over time. They work for instantaneous measurements, but generally lack a recording function.

What Can an Oscilloscope Measure?

Oscilloscopes like the WaveRunner can measure almost any signal and plot it on a graph. Many feature GHz sampling rates so you can track and detect changes in the waveform faster than the human eye can see. By carefully observing the screen on a WaveRunner you can monitor the following factors:

  • Voltage Range: The height of the wave on your WaveRunner screen shows you the variability of the signal under analysis. You can see the normal range at a glance, making it very useful for medical applications. Oscilloscopes can measure and display sine waves, square waves, sawtooth waves, and triangle waves.
  • Rate of Change: One thing numeric displays do very poorly is show rate of change. The graphical display on a WaveRunner provides data in an easily understood high definition format so you can not only see if it's changing but also watch how fast it changes. This kind of measurement is an essential tool for anyone doing serious data analysis.

Using an Oscilloscope

All LeCroy oscilloscopes can work in high frequency ranges as well as low. Most digital models feature probes that operate anywhere between 20 MHz and 200 MHz with some going up into the GHz bandwidth range. The WaveRunner generally samples analog data at an effective rate of 500 MHz. The higher the MHz rate, the more samples you are taking in a given period of time and the more definition you have at your disposal. At the same time, more samples means more memory, so you have a shorter view window available for your analyzer. 

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