Technology drives more than just the technological fields. In every industry, there are those devices that make further advancement possible. To put it simply, an oscilloscope satisfies that need in a small handful of industries.
Although oscilloscopes are neither glamorous nor widely used in general, there are a few select industries that require heavy use of these devices. This article will help give you a better understanding of oscilloscope technology and the effects of this technology on the industries in which it is most widely used.
Defining an Oscilloscope
At its most basic, an oscilloscope is simply a device used to measure the voltage of a circuit. In fact, when they were first invented, that’s pretty much all that they were capable of doing.
Although various forms of oscilloscopes can be dated to the first patent to use the title, which was applied for in the early 1890s, most historians agree that the beginning of the oscilloscope’s history began with the invention of the cathode-ray oscilloscope in 1897.
That device was designed solely to light up a screen whenever energy was passed through a cathode-ray tube (also known as a CRT). After nearly 13 decades, CRTs have become antiquated and obsolete; however, oscilloscopes are very much still in use in industries and economies all over the world.
Functions of a Modern Oscilloscope
Today’s oscilloscopes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with many no longer coming in any form of physical device. Rather, many of today’s modernized oscilloscopes are entirely digital. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from completing the functions for which they’re designed.
In the words of Mark Gordon, CEO of Circuit Specialists, “The difference between today’s oscilloscopes and those of the 1800s is about the same as the difference between today’s smartphones and that of Alexander Graham Bell.”
Recent designs show devices capable of monitoring any of a circuit’s operating properties, harmonics, and power analysis, among other things, all while achieving the original goal of analyzing a circuit’s voltage.
Three Industries that Use Oscilloscopes
Now that you know what an oscilloscope is, you might be starting to see how they might be useful. Of course, this sort of technology isn’t of much importance to very many industries. However, in the industries in which oscilloscopes are used, these devices are indispensable.
The field of electrical engineering is perhaps the most obvious application of oscilloscopes in the professional world. The reason why is so intuitive that is almost self-explanatory: In order for engineers to create new devices, they have to be able to study and examine the electronic functions of their projects.
One major difficulty of modern engineering projects is the trouble of manipulating high-frequency energy without allowing the technology’s passive components to entirely “break the code” of the tech.
As engineering fields such as robotics and artificial intelligence continue to grow, oscilloscopes are likely to become even more important to electrical engineers than they already are.
When it comes to research, the lines are a little less cut and dry. Certain researchers, such as psychologists or neuro-biologists, might have little if any use for an oscilloscope. However, for particle physicists and researchers in the field of atomtronics, oscilloscopes can be of invaluable importance.
Through the use of an oscilloscope, researchers can not only track very tiny particles but also examine their electrical signatures while simultaneously monitoring their voltage and line-power harmonics. Considering that quantum mechanics deals almost exclusively with the mechanical properties of very small particles, the importance of oscilloscopes in that field is quite clear.
Believe it or not, even ordinary people use oscilloscopes. With all of this talk about invention and particle physics, it’s easy to believe that oscilloscopes are a device for the academic elite; however, between the hobbyists and the TV repairman, an oscilloscope has quite likely been in your home at one point or another.
A general rule of thumb is that, if a given task requires examining the “health” of an electronic circuit, then that task requires an oscilloscope. Seeing as how there are virtually no substitutes for oscilloscopes, much in the same way that there are no substitutes for cell phones, the odds of encountering one in the toolbox of any electronic technician are quite high.
As a quick recap, oscilloscopes are a form of technology invented more than a hundred years ago with the goal in mind of creating a visual method of examining the voltage of an electronic circuit and are still extensively in use today in a small handful of industries.
Despite the ever-changing nature of the oscilloscope design and all the variations thereof, it doesn’t seem like this major driver of technological practices is going to be going away any time soon.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.