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Ask Slashdot: PC-Based Oscilloscopes On a Microbudget? 172

Posted by timothy
from the not-yet-part-of-every-smartphone dept.
New submitter fffdddooo (3692429) writes I know it's something that people used to ask every few years, but answers get old so quickly. I'm an electronics teacher, and I'm wondering if it's possible to find some oscilloscope (and why not spectrum analyser?) for recommending to my students, to be able to work at home. I'm thinking of something near $50-$70. Two or three years ago, I'm sure the answer was No, but nowadays? The same reader points out two options spotted on Amazon: one that's "very cheap but Khz" (it's also a kit that requires assembly), and another that aims to be capable of 20MHz, 2-channel operation. What's out there, he'd like to know, that's not junk?
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Ask Slashdot: PC-Based Oscilloscopes On a Microbudget?

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  • Pocket scopes! (Score:5, Informative)

    by EMG at MU (1194965) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:47PM (#47224637)
  • Craigslist (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:53PM (#47224677)

    My local Craigslist has 9 oscilloscopes listed between $50 and $150.

  • scope (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:55PM (#47224687)

    Try the analog discovery from diligent(????)

    Its 99$ for students, 2 channel 14 bit, 100 mhz sample speed, front end is less than this, 100 mhz 2 channel waveform generator and 16 channel digital stuff.

    The buffers are 8k or less, but it seems to work okay...

  • Two options (Score:3, Informative)

    by SanjuroE (131728) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:55PM (#47224695)

    Both are a bit above your price range. But the PicoScope 2200 [picotech.com] is a nice entry level scope. Alternatively some assembly required with OpenADC [newae.com].

  • Re:Salae logic (Score:5, Informative)

    by Smerta (1855348) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @04:06PM (#47224781)

    Yes, but "oscilloscope" != "logic analyzer". And the Logic 16 (I have one) is 5x the OP's stated price range.

    I kinda feel like the OP asked where he could find a cheap, sporty little car, and you're telling him he should consider buying a fire truck.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Thursday June 12, 2014 @04:09PM (#47224799) Journal

    This is something I was actually in the market for at one point and had researched as thoroughly as I could a few years back. The bad news as I discovered it was that anything that's cheap is junk, and anything that's not junk is not cheap. Although this was, as I said, a few years ago now, and it's possible that other alternatives have arisen since then.

    One of the best things I found at the time which was modestly inexpensive was some hardware that plugged into an iPad or iPhone. The one that I found was a device called iMSO, and it has a bandwidth in the neighborhood of a few Mhz, which isn't too shabby for an analog oscilloscope that cost under $300.

  • by janoc (699997) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @04:31PM (#47224941)

    If you are an electronics teacher, you should know better. The PC-based scopes and the various "DSO Nano" clones are universally crap and none fits into your budget anyway.

    Your students would be vastly better served by buying a used analog scope, those could be obtained on eBay and similar places for a song these days. A used Tektronix or Hameg scope will beat the pants off of any PC-based toy and, more importantly, the student will actually learn and understand how the instrument works and what is being measured, because there are no "magic buttons" to push.

    If the student has a bit larger budget, then the Rigol DS1052E or the newer DS1074Z is a really hard to beat value. There are also Siglents or Attens for the budget conscious, but both brands tend to suffer from poor manufacturing quality and the price is not really much lower than the Rigols.

    Forget spectrum analyzer - there is no decent one for less than $1000 on the market. Digital scopes can do FFT, that helps in a pinch, otherwise the student can always record the data from something like the Rigols above and do a proper spectrum analysis on the PC, e.g. using Matlab or some other tool.

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @04:47PM (#47225035) Journal
    50-70$ will give your students a good if not excellent used analog scope such as suggested from numerous members in here

    Other than eBay, less obvious sources for getting a scope on the cheap would be your local HAM (radio amateur) club, there is always one in your city, look them up (they're really friendly and love new faces). Another way to get some cheap scopes, is to visit the various electronics repairshops, service dept. etc. Ask nicely, perhaps bring a free pizza to the overworked technicians, and who knows? Maybe you'll end up with a Scope for the price of a decent pizza slice. (I KID YOU NOT, I've heard friends of mine who have done this, and even gotten a free Spectrum Analyzer, albeit old...but working).

    Yet another source is the various tech-schools out there, they have old surplus equipment too, one of my friends also got a serious stash of scopes from them, perfectly legal. You could even look up military surplus sales, they often sell truckloads of much better stuff, some people make a killing buying pallets of Scopes, analyzers, bench multimeters, solder stations and much more from the military auctions, and re-sell them for seriously high prices on eBay.

    A few things you may want to know about old scopes though, is that they are FRAGILE. Scopes around 20mhz are useful for low-end digital experiments and standard old audio & CCTV repair and experimentation (enough to teach you!) A 100 mhz scope throws you into the digital era, you don't need much more than that. When you find one (beggars can't be choosers, but if you pay a little...) then you may want to check that all the knobs are okay (yes, you can lube them yourself, but check for broken plastic bits, if it breaks - stay away), Good strong CRT (no hefty burn-ins or weak display), also look for the famous LOST TRACE (this means loose parts inside, again...stay away unless you know what you're doing).

    A couple of good scope probes can be as expensive as the instrument itself, you may actually want to purchase those from China, they're okay...and cheap. Test leads are the only thing I recommend people to purchase new, because they take the most beating.
  • Re:XOScope (Score:4, Informative)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @07:04PM (#47225857)
    Didn't you mean "up to 22 kHz"? I mean, with Nyquist and all...

What this country needs is a good five cent microcomputer.

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