Red Pitaya Blog
What is an oscilloscope?
Electrical signals are everywhere – from our smartphones to our hearts, we live in a world in which being able to measure such signals can tell us a lot about how things work. To measure these signals, which come in various shapes, waveforms and sizes, we use an oscilloscope.
An oscilloscope is a device for the observation and measurement of electrical signals, enabling us to extract all the information these signals carry. For example, the voltage level of your battery can tell you how much time you have left on TikTok, and the shape of your heartbeat signal has information about the health state of your heart.
To measure the voltage of a device we simply connect the oscilloscope probes parallel to it so a small amount of electrically charged particles flows through the positive wire to the oscilloscope input. On the oscilloscope input there is an analogue to digital converter which samples the voltage level of the signal in constant time steps. The shorter the time steps are, the higher the sampling frequency of the oscilloscope. The sampling frequency of an oscilloscope determines the speed of the signals we can measure with it.
The data of voltage over time is displayed on the screen, with time on the X-axis and voltage on the Y-axis. We can also adjust the oscilloscope to show repetitive signals as a persistent waveform on the screen. We can then analyze various properties of the waveform, like amplitude, frequency, rise time, time interval, and distortion, among others.
How is Red Pitaya different from typical oscilloscopes?
Most oscilloscopes look very different to a Red Pitaya.
Unlike most oscilloscopes, Red Pitaya has a web user interface, which means that all the physical buttons and screen are moved to your PC, phone or tablet. This enables you to simplify your setup by using Red Pitaya only for signal acquisition and your PC or other device for the rest. A setup with Red Pitaya also enables you to take measurements remotely or in spaces where a typical oscilloscope would be too large.