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Recommendations for Introductions to Oscilloscopes

A very popular, free introduction to oscilloscopes is the XYZs of Oscilloscopes primer by Tektronix. No knowledge of mathematics or electronics is necessary to understand it (of course, looking at the signals on a screen without knowing what the circuit does is not much fun, so in this case you might be interested in some resources on Practical Analog Electronics ). In addition to a 4 page glossary it also contains a multiple choice test so that you can test whether you have understood everything.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you start measurements in electric or electronic circuits, you should familiarize yourself with the basic safety measures. A very good introduction is in the free e-book by Kuphaldt chapter Electrical Safety. I strongly recommend that you study it very carefully before you connect your oscilloscope to a circuit.

XYZ of Oscilloscopes discusses digital scopes. If you are more interested in analog scopes, the Oscilloscope Applications Guidebook by BK Precision is a better choice.

Perhaps even better than a written tutorial is to watch a video that shows you how to use an oscilloscope. Here are some good Analog Oscilloscope Video Tutorials.

The Socratic Electronics Project contains some more in-depth questions, about Basic oscilloscope operation and the more advanced Oscilloscope trigger controls. Before you have look at it you should already have a basic understanding of oscilloscopes.

If you plan to purchase a scope, but you have not much experience yet and you are not sure what you need, AN1490 Ten Things to Consider When Selecting Your Next Oscilloscope by Agilent will give you some good advice.

Dave Jones (EEVBlog) has created some good Oscilloscope Videos. Very interesting are the reviews, but there are also tutorials and oscilloscope "teardowns". The EEVblog is not only about oscilloscopes, but also about other electronics measurement equipment like multimeters. I highly recommend to take a look at it if you plan to buy new equipment.

Even people who are new to electronics understand pretty soon what a valuable tool an oscilloscope is, that they have to choose it carefully, and that they have to spend some time to learn how to use it. But many newbies are not aware of the importance of probes. However, even the best scope cannot help you if the signal you want to measure has already been ruined by an inadequate probe (or because you do not know how to use the probe correctly). You can find an easy introduction to probes in AN1603 Eight Hints for Better Scope Probing, by Agilent.

Another very good and popular introduction to probes is ABCs of Probes by Tektronix. It is more advanced and comprehensive than the note by Agilent.

You can find some advanced information on oscilloscopes and probes in the free ANALOG SEEKrets by Leslie Green, sections 15.3 and 15.4. Please note the safety advice Green gives on page 268 (against dangerous practices to enable floating measurements), also see the bottom of page 260.

The application note AN47 High Speed Amplifier Techniques by Jim Williams contains, among other things, some very good advice for selecting the best probes for your oscilloscope and how to use them correctly. The whole app note is very interesting, but if you are only interested in probes and oscilloscopes you should focus on pages 8-10, 16-24, 69-81 and 93-97.

Appendix C (page 30) of AN70 A Monolithic Switching Regulator With 100 Microvolt Output Noise by Jim Williams contains an interesting discussion of advanced probing techniques that are useful if you have to measure small wideband signals.

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