The oscilloscope is an essential tool if you plan to design or repair electronic equipment. It lets you “see” electrical signals.
Energy, vibrating particles, and other invisible forces are everywhere in our physical universe. Sensors can convert these forces into electrical signals that you can observe and study with an oscilloscope. Oscilloscopes let you “see” events that occur in a split second.
The generic term for a pattern that repeats over time is a wave – sound waves, brain waves, ocean waves, and voltage waves are all repeating patterns. An oscilloscope measures voltage waves. One cycle of a wave is the portion of the wave that repeats. A wave- form is a graphic representation of a wave. A voltage waveform shows time on the horizontal axis and voltage on the vertical axis.
Waveform shapes tell you a great deal about a signal. Any time you see a change in the height of the wave- form, you know the voltage has changed. Any time there’s a flat horizontal line, you know that there’s no change for that length of time. Straight diagonal lines mean a linear change – rise or fall of voltage at a steady rate. Sharp angles on a waveform mean sudden change.