Digital Oscilloscope – Understanding How It Works

By Steven Harrisson, February 24, 2015

Although there are two oscilloscope models on the market, analog and digital, it’s clear that the digital oscilloscope is better in every possible term. Since 1980s, the digital oscilloscopes are used for various applications. A digital oscilloscope is an electronic instrument which is generally used for measuring, testing or analyzing electrical signals from different electronic devices. It is a type of oscilloscope that provides digital readings. In other words, the engineers use a digital oscilloscope to diagnose whether an electronic equipment is working properly.


A basic digital oscilloscope is consisted of six elements: power supply, analog vertical input amplifier, analog-to-digital converter and a digital waveform memory, time base with a triggering drive, circuits for waveform reconstruction, and LCD or LED display screen. This oscilloscope is used for a variety of applications that include electronic equipment. As mentioned above, the most common application of the digital oscilloscope is checking whether a certain electronic device is working properly.

Digital oscilloscopes use analog-to-digital converters to convert the measured voltage into digital data. These devices collect waveforms as samples and when they have enough samples, the digital oscilloscopes display the readings on the screen. Compared to the analog oscilloscopes, these devices have higher data processing capabilities and are far more flexible.

When rapid viewing of varying signals is required in real-time, the analog oscilloscope may have an advantage. But for capturing or triggering events that occur only once, the digital oscilloscope is the right solution. It takes, measures and stores input signals, and once it identifies a triggering event, the digital oscilloscope presents the information on the display. Furthermore, the digital oscilloscopes are capable to process and to store waveform information for future use. Additionally, they can send this information to computers or other high-tech equipment for further analysis.

For physical measurements, the digital oscilloscope use a transducer, a device used for converting physical quantity into an electrical signal. It responds to certain stimulus (sound, light, heat, pressure or mechanical stress) by creating an electrical voltage. For example, the transportation engineers analyze the engine vibrations by using digital oscilloscope. The medical researchers use such electronic devices for measuring brain waves and for displaying the heartbeat waveform. It is evident that the digital oscilloscopes play an important role in the engineering, medicine, science, telecommunications, and many other industry fields.