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Ask Slashdot: What's On Your Hardware Lab Bench?

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the aside-from-that-one-project-you'll-totally-finish-someday dept.

Hardware Hacking 215

50000BTU_barbecue writes "I made a comment a few days ago in a story basically saying the oscilloscope is dead. While that's a bit dramatic, I've found that over the last 20 years my oscilloscopes have been 'on' less and less. Instead, I use a combination of judicious voltage measurements, a logic analyzer and a decent understanding of the documentation of the gadget I'm working on. Stuff is just more and more digital and microcontroller-based, or just so cheap yet incredibly integrated that there's no point in trying to work on it. (I'm thinking RC toys for example. Undocumented and very cheap. Doesn't work? Buy another.) While I still do old-school electronics like circuit-level troubleshooting (on old test gear), that's not where the majority of hobbyists seem to be. Yet one thing I keep hearing is how people want an oscilloscope to work on hardware. I think it's just not that necessary anymore. What I use most are two regulated DC lab supplies, a frequency counter, a USB logic analyzer, a USB I2C/SPI master, and a USB-RS-232 dongle. That covers a lot of modern electronics. I have two oscilloscopes, a 100MHz two-channel stand-alone USB unit and a 1960s analog plug-in-based mainframe that is a '70s hacker dream scope. But I rarely use them anymore. What equipment do hardware folks out there use the most? And would you tell someone trying to get into electronics that they need a scope?"

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215 comments

thats silly (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477361)

need a pullup? a scope will show you
have fighting drivers? insufficient path to ground? noise on the rails?

if you're doing anything aside from poking at other peoples stuff thats cheap and
disposable, you need a scope

Re:thats silly (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45477491)

Indeed. If you do not need a scope, then you do not do any real electronics. For some debugging, there is no replacement. Especially for gaining understanding, nothing can replace it. And yes, mine is not on so often either, but for some things there is no replacement and I need it. Also, with a nice digital scope, you can document things by placing screen-shots on the web or into documents.

Re:thats silly (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 8 months ago | (#45477709)

If you do not need a scope, then you do not do any real electronics.

I would say that's just a bit over-broad. For most digital work these days, you really just need a logic analyzer.

Having said that, if you are doing just about anything but "pure" digital work, do do pretty much need a scope.

Re:thats silly (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45477755)

Well, yes. And you need to be pretty disciplined with buffer caps and clean power traces/leads to avoid problems where a scope is the only thing that allows you to debug them efficiently. But, yes, pure digital, wide within spec electronics can be done without any measurement equipment.

Re:thats silly (5, Informative)

wavedeform (561378) | about 8 months ago | (#45478119)

For most digital work these days, you really just need a logic analyzer.

Unless your logic analyzer can show you ringing or capacitance / inductance problems on the digital signal lines, this is not really true. "Digital" signals on a circuit board are analog after all, and are subject to a lot of the same gremlins that plague an all analog circuit. This sort of thing doesn't always matter in a digital circuit, but you need a good scope to find them when they cause problems.

Re:thats silly (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | about 8 months ago | (#45477717)

Did I code up my interrupt handler on my $2 microcontroller on a $20 dev board? Is it the right polarity? Is the rise time OK with the on-board driver or do I need a buffer IC? The list goes on.

I'll amplify.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477909)

Get it? Anyhow, I may be old school, but I am quite certain that the term Electronics covers analog and digital, not one or the other. If you only understand one half are you really doing Electronics at any significant level? Or are you simply hanging lego components together and mostly writing software?. You simply cannot do much useful analog things without a scope. Sure, digitize everything, but to get there you need to make sure your analog input circuitry is working as advertised or interface with the outside world. Nyquist anyone? And secondly you simply cannot escape the analog nature of reality as realized in analog electronics - even if you can do much of what you want digitally, are you mastering the very physical fundamentals of our universe - c, l, r, pi, e, omega, e vs. m fields, noise, Shannon, ad nauseum. I do not think so. Or are you becoming a technician instead of engineer. That said, I enjoy both sides, and one without the other is non-sequitur.

Re:thats silly (1, Troll)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | about 8 months ago | (#45477751)

The OP is basically saying "I trust the documentation and that's good enough for me in my job to solve a majority of the problems I see"

So what the OP is really saying is he doesn't do anything groundbreaking, and he's ok with accepting the status quo of performance offered in consumer devices. He sees no value in understanding fundamental concepts that everything is built upon because as far as he's concerned, IC technology has been perfected. If there is something going on that isn't documented, well it's probably best that he doesn't dig into it.

Or to state it from another perspective, OP just doesn't care anymore, he's sick of dealing with problems that shouldn't even be manifested at his level in the tech food chain, yet here is with a fucking oscilloscope trying to debug IR interference from a misaligned coil or something, or what may presumably be a hardware failure with some hidden DRM enforcement IC that can't legally be documented due to DCMA restrictions around Intelectual Property that is of national security interest.

Re:thats silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477859)

The last time I use a scope in earnest was probably close to 30 years ago (I mostly do software or simple digital stuff) when I was building an Apple II clone. Video didn't work. Tracing the signal showed me where it stopped. Seems the silk-screened D-shape for the transistors was backwards to the actual transistors (all 6 -- IIRC -- of them), and I'd thus soldered them all in backwards. Simple fix, but it would have taken forever to find otherwise.

That said, I have no intention of getting rid of my Tektronix any time soon.

Cheap or not, that's not the criteria ... (3, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 8 months ago | (#45477891)

... when I am interested to know how one thing works
 
... when I just want to diagnose the inner-working of a gadget
 
I do not care how cheap that thing is, I'll power up my scopes

I do not care how cheap that thing is --- if I have to know I just have to know

I won't do the "oh, it's so cheap I'll buy a new one when this one conks", oh no, that's not the way I operate.

When my curiosity calls, I have to satisfy it.

Insane (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477369)

Are you insane? I use an oscilloscope almost everyday, however I design embedded devices for radar systems.

A scope still has many uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477371)

A logic analyser makes lots of assumptions, like the voltage levels are right, the timing is OK, etc. How do you verify any of that without a scope?

Oscilloscope and DMM (2)

CaptainPhoton (398343) | about 8 months ago | (#45477387)

On my lab bench for 15 years:

Oscilloscope and Multimeter

Re:Oscilloscope and DMM (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45477505)

Add a good soldering iron, PSUs for at least two adjustable voltages and you can do almost anything.

An O'Scope (5, Insightful)

mschiller (764721) | about 8 months ago | (#45477389)

If you're actually designing from scratch a new digital PCB, you can do without a lot of stuff but a 2GHz or faster O'scope is essential:

1) Debug of Switching Power Supplies [could get by with 100Mhz scope for this...]
2) Debug of high speed digital AC effects [line impendance, termination etc]
3) Verifying Setup / Hold of interface busses
4) Determining margin on variety of interfaces

Seriously. First tool a high speed scope... And Garmin International: 300MHz is for yesteryear, today most engineers need at least 1GHz to get by in digital design

2nd tool: a Good DMM
3rd tool: A thermal camera for when things go dreadfully wrong..

Other tools are gravy... [Though clearly a power supply is non-negotiable...]

Re:An O'Scope (1)

mschiller (764721) | about 8 months ago | (#45477419)

But then again I work on custom FPGA-based mixed signal boards and therefore have a lot of custom interfaces to debug... For a micro-controller based project running on Linear regulators?? Yeah you could probably get by with a Logic Analyzer, but that isn't going to cut it for more complicated stuff like my project at work or even the design of a Video card or the main board of your Laptop.

Re:An O'Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477513)

+1 on the power supply debug. Beginners learn a lot when they see their DC supply rail looking like a signal line.

Re:An O'Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477581)

"today most engineers need at least 1GHz to get by in digital design"

Can you back that up? I think you are lying. What percentage of digital design engineers do 1+ GHz stuff? I would say the majority work with micro controllers with signals in the 1-50 MHz range. Sure, a 1 GHz scope is wonderful but you most definitely don't need it.

Re:An O'Scope (3, Insightful)

det3 (3439093) | about 8 months ago | (#45477741)

The general guideline I've followed for scope bandwidth is to buy a scope that has 3x the bandwidth of the highest frequency signal you're measuring. This is to allow as much bandwidth as possible to see harmonics and other artifacts in a signal when you're measuring at the upper end of your range. So, is 1GHz necessary? For the home hobbyist and experimenter, I'd say not so much. If you need to measure over 333MHz, I'd consider it.

Re:An O'Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477869)

9x is a better rule of thumb. You don't want the scope's rise time getting in the way of measuring the signal under test.

Re:An O'Scope (1)

MadShark (50912) | about 8 months ago | (#45477835)

You may not be working with a signal that is in the 1 GHz range, but your rise/fall times may be in that range and if you want to verify that you meet timing requirements, you will need a higher speed scope.

Re:An O'Scope (0)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 8 months ago | (#45477845)

"today most engineers need at least 1GHz to get by in digital design"

Can you back that up? I think you are lying. What percentage of digital design engineers do 1+ GHz stuff? I would say the majority work with micro controllers with signals in the 1-50 MHz range. Sure, a 1 GHz scope is wonderful but you most definitely don't need it.

The number on the box is the sampling rate. As you may know Nyquist-Shannon says divide that by two to get the highest frequency you can capture, and that is if you're looking at a perfect sine.

If you're looking at a digital signal then one rule of thumb says divide by ten. So if you're playing around with 50 MHz digital signals you'll want a 500 MHz scope in order to see the ones and zeros in all (or some of) their noisy glory.

If your micro controller is sitting on a board that is known to work reliably and all you're doing is writing code for the micro then you don't really need an oscilloscope. A simple logic analyzer will do fine.

Re:An O'Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45478021)

What's the output rise/fall time of a rather mundane 74AUC04 hex inverter?
How do you plan to check the signal integrity on that?

Re:An O'Scope (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45477587)

It's very useful in many ways. Certainly for a lot of digital logic you can get away with one of the cheaper USB based mini scopes, but very often you need something a bit better when things aren't perfect and you need to see rise and fall of signals that aren't the ideal square (which none actually are). Ie, the signal is coming over a long cable which adds resistance and capacitance. But even those mini scopes are still real oscilloscopes in many ways and very useful for many normal activities; if you have no access whatsoever, or need to measure timings, that scope is essential.

In other words, I use oscilloscopes and I'm just a software guy!

Re:An O'Scope (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477763)

If you're actually designing from scratch a new digital PCB, you can do without a lot of stuff but a 2GHz or faster O'scope is essential:

And Garmin International: 300MHz is for yesteryear, today most engineers need at least 1GHz to get by in digital design

Agreed if you're doing low speed stuff. But a 1GHz scope won't even do what you need for e.g. SATA. Better go up a bit more. For example, at work I've been measuring a DDR3 bus trying to track down some issues - nothing short of ~3GHz would be sufficient for that. And next year we'll be working with some 10Gbps signals which means our minimum high speed scope requirement is going to be 25GHz => equivalent to buying a decent house in most of the country(1). Of course that's a work project and the post sounds like 'home' projects which won't need the state of the art. If you're looking at some basic GPIOs, or an I2C bus, the slower speed scope would be sufficient.

Also, pay atttention to the probes you buy. If you get low bandwidth probes, then you aren't using the full potential of the scope. For example using a 300MHz probe with a 1GHz scope means that you can see signals up to about 300MHz and that 800MHz memory bus will look like crap at best.

1) Debug of Switching Power Supplies [could get by with 100Mhz scope for this...]

Close enough for most boards although if you're on the very edge you might want 500MHz {The boards ability to decouple power can go a little past 100MHz so you need to be able to measure noise up to that point.} 1+GHz scopes aren't needed for measuring things like power when you can't control frequencies that high from your board.

Other tools are gravy... [Though clearly a power supply is non-negotiable...]

Don't forget a good soldering station and microscope. The soldering station is needed for power and tip interchangeability (big tips for big parts, tiny tips for tiny parts) and the microscope is needed to see what you're doing when you try to solder those tiny parts.

(1) Scope costs seem to be roughly $10k/GHz. And then you'll need probes to go with that at $7k+ each.

A Bunch ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477393)

What's on my workbench? A bunch of dead computers. The quality of name brand PC's has gone into the toilet. Commodity quality served up to the mass markets leaves very little quality to be found.

Re:A Bunch ... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 months ago | (#45477469)

What's on my workbench? A bunch of dead computers. The quality of name brand PC's has gone into the toilet. Commodity quality served up to the mass markets leaves very little quality to be found.

What you need is a good ol' Sun SparcStation with an old release of Red Hat Linux installed on it. No end of fun. Really cool little computers, too and greased lightning with a tiny kernel. :)

Re:A Bunch ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45477821)

Oddly enough I put a SparcStation10 on my desk yesterday to run some legacy software that for some stupid abandonware licencing reason won't run on it's replacement. It complained that it had a clock skip of 418 days so it looks like I ran it in 2011 as well.

Re:A Bunch ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477629)

That's why I buy used workstations from large IT pools these days. My home PC is a IBM Intellistation M Pro 9229 - note pre-Lenovo-era! Did a few mods to make it run quiet - built like a tank. Buffered ECC ram is still a bit expensive, though...

One point of view does not an entire subject cover (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477399)

Your point of view is a trifle parochial.
Just because what you do does need a 'scope on a daily basis doesn't mean that plenty of other people don't need one.
It is still one of the most basic troubleshooting tools.

O

Yes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477401)

So, uhh, what's the problem here? If you don't need the oscilloscope, don't use it. Do you need some kind of approval from others?

Adapters. Lots of them. (5, Insightful)

some old guy (674482) | about 8 months ago | (#45477407)

Every conceivable adapter, gender-bender, splitter, and breakout box under the sun.

Guiding principle: For every connector form, there is an equal and opposite requirement.

Re:Adapters. Lots of them. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477459)

Add to this a huge collection of random bits.

This is my serious recommendation to anyone trying to get into electronics. Need a capacitor, buy 10. Need a resistor, buy them in sets or bulk. Buy extras of everything. It's so cheap, and just having parts to mess around with when you need them is huge.

Re:Adapters. Lots of them. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477651)

I do that, but I also strip boards out of old equipment and toss them in a bin. Then I can go hunting to look for some random part. Once I needed a high wattage resister in a within a certain range of ohms. I managed to find a couple and that's not something you'd stock up on.

Re:Adapters. Lots of them. (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 8 months ago | (#45477937)

Almost everything is smt these days, even home stuff, for me.

You can solder using a heat gun, and 2 sided pcbs are cheap these days in proto.

A 10k piece roll of 0402 resistors are ~$30; cut tape of any size is cheap from digikey, lol.

A scope is a required piece of equipment, from my viewpoint; I haven't used mine this month; maybe in july, but nothing else works when you need one.

Car audio amplifiers are one of the big things "friends" ask you to look at; showing them on the scope why it wasted their $1000 highly overrated subwoofer, and telling them how much it cost to fix, usually cures that problem. :)

Both my home scopes are analog; 1MHz and 350Mhz; Audio, and 480p video, lol.

Fixing new TVs is a board swapping operation; the component that fails is the one in the middle with the heatsink and no numbers...

500MHz is pretty much all you need for most analog work stuff; I have a Lecroy that goes to 11 tho, lol.

Re:Adapters. Lots of them. (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#45477567)

Every conceivable adapter, gender-bender, splitter, and breakout box under the sun.

Just get one of these [youtube.com]

hardware (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 8 months ago | (#45477411)

10" table saw
craftsman drill press
Makita battery charger
2 vise, 1 with soft jaws
3 levels
bottle opener

Re:hardware (4, Funny)

BronsCon (927697) | about 8 months ago | (#45477437)

Every one of those tools can be used as a bottle opener; the bottle opener is the least fun and effective of the lot.

Re:hardware (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45477497)

Bottle openers are unitaskers, and Alton Brown would be ashamed of you.

Re:hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477619)

Alton Brown is generally down on unitaskers, but even he uses some unitaskers.

I think the rule is: either a device must have multiple uses, or if it has a single use it must be a very important use, one you will actually use frequently enough to justify the unitasker.

For example, Alton Brown uses pepper grinders. He doesn't insist on getting out his coffee grinder that he uses as a spice grinder and using it to grind the pepper, followed by putting the pepper into one of his small "mise en place" bowls; he just grabs the grinder and gives it a few cranks.

Likewise I have never seen him use a "French press" for any other purpose than to make coffee, but he still recommended that as the ideal way to make coffee in his coffee episode.

But for making yogurt he figured out how to use some stuff he already had, rather than buying a yogurt maker gadget.

Re:hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477725)

You should see the episode where he made a pocket pussy from a warmed up cantaloupe.

Re:hardware (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45477743)

Alton Brown is generally down on unitaskers, but even he uses some unitaskers.

I think the rule is: either a device must have multiple uses, or if it has a single use it must be a very important use, one you will actually use frequently enough to justify the unitasker.

In Alton's 10th anniversary special, he used his fire extinguisher (which he famously mentioned was his kitchen's only unitasker) to make a fruit smoothie.

...but yeah, he's used a few unitaskers over the years.

I'll miss that show. Cooking for engineers, for sure.

Re:hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45478123)

Cooking for engineers indeed. A great show.

I think the only reason he stopped doing Good Eats was because he had already covered everything a normal chef would ever need to have him cover. Meat, dairy, veg, fruit, baking, frying, grilling, beverages... can't think of a thing he didn't cover.

And if he thinks of something he'll do a special sometime and fill in the gap.

P.S. I'm pretty sure he would use a corkscrew or other unitasker to get the cork out of a bottle of wine. He had more unitaskers than just a fire extinguisher. But what the heck, he was trying to be entertaining, and succeeded brilliantly. The whole "unitasker" schtick was just part of the show. "My only unitasker is my fire extinguisher" is funnier than "here is my list of unitaskers: corkscrew, pepper grinder, French press, ..."

Re:hardware (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 8 months ago | (#45477595)

I used a guard rail as a bottle opener once. It worked great, except that after taking a sip of Coke, I realized the neck of the bottle came off with the cap. About one inch broke clean off, leaving a flat surface.

Re:hardware (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45477611)

Oscilloscope is difficult to use as a bottle opener if you want it to keep working. Similarly I would not use an RF spectrum analyzer for this purpose. These really should come with built in metal tabs that can be used for opening beverages.

Re:hardware (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#45477907)

Convert that table saw to a ( metal ) lathe, and the drill to a mill and that's mine...

And don't forget the welder, grinder..

In Soviet USA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477429)

Using oscilloscopes sounds like invitation for security forces to storm your house and take you to Gitmo.
Welcome to Soviet USA 2013

ah so (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45477445)

you do use it, therefore it's dead.

I declare the Superbowl dead becasue I don't watch it anymore.

Re:ah so (1)

QuasiEvil (74356) | about 8 months ago | (#45477573)

Much like I really wish they'd play a World Series sometime during my lifetime. But in my world, it's only a World Series if the Cubs are in it. Otherwise it's like it doesn't even exist.

At least a dozen unfinished projects (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 months ago | (#45477451)

I feel pretty good about that.

Much better than I ever could if I had no unfinished projects or any to start.

The beauty of a pile of parts and doo-dads scattered among various boxes is you always have something you can do if you have nothing else to do.

And there's always room for one more.

Logic Analyzers sit unsued for us. (1)

gtwrek (208688) | about 8 months ago | (#45477471)

We still use scopes quite a lot, and I don't see that changing. Logic analyzers however - they sit gathering dust. With more embedded devices offering similar functions, then LA's just been replaced in our house. FPGAs have "scope" tools (which are really LA's with more limited depth). Better trace functions on debuggers. All these work fine for "digital" type problems. Outside this debug - you're firmly in in analog land, and a good scope is a must.

Re:Logic Analyzers sit unsued for us. (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 8 months ago | (#45478093)

LAs have become too much.

Often I want a lot of channels, but to capture diagnostic data specifically formatted for output to a diagnostic port on the chip. So I don't need a $100K Agilent mainframe LA setup. I just need a synchronous FIFO that can be triggered that a PC can read.

Since such things are not really out there, you just hack it together with an FPGA. So it's product+FPGA dev board+a few wires+a usb PC connection.

The DFX circuitry is all on chip. You just want to get at it.

stuff (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | about 8 months ago | (#45477477)

red bull cans, junk circuit boards, random projects, DMM, soldering iron, 100+ recycled or repaired tools. I would really like a scope to be able to take things a few steps further. I'll take yours if it's no use to you anymore.

Brother PT65 label maker (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about 8 months ago | (#45477481)

One of the best designed devices I have ever used. It is simple to use, ergonomic, doesn't waste tape (like the new ones) and just plain works.

It grants this wonderful ability to be organized and to know what is what and that is what keeps the rest of my lab working. Without a good label maker your lab is chaos abd unusable, something I have seen time and again for years.

Re:Brother PT65 label maker (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 8 months ago | (#45477533)

Yup!

I've found the absolute keys to keeping everything organized are:
- everything has a place
- that place is labeled
- that place is easy to get to (soon as you have boxes with other boxes on top, it becomes a hassle to put things back where they belong and the mess begins to grow).

I've practically got a whole wall covered in those little mini-drawer organizer dealies for all my odd bits and pieces. Keeps everything tidy.

Re:Brother PT65 label maker (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 8 months ago | (#45477737)

It grants this wonderful ability to be organized and to know what is what and that is what keeps the rest of my lab working.

I prefer self-organizing chaos. I use hashed buckets . . . Least Recently Used stuff sinks to the bottom of the buckets. Stuff I need a lot floats on top. Plus, I have a concept of RAID . . . since I can never find stuff, I have at least two of everything.

And when I really need to dig deep . . . it's like Christmas! I find all kinds of stuff that I never knew I had or used! Wow, I should try out that PCMCIA Token Ring card, or that USBVGA adapter cable!

essential (1)

hebertrich (472331) | about 8 months ago | (#45477499)

Essential a super good voltmeter , 2 signal generators , a dusl input scope , a frequency counter and a lesser voltmeter , but still 4 digits.
I will pass along that i have a small secondary scope for audio work. It's called a DSO 201 , it's the sixe of a small player , has a decent probe . Goes to 1 mhz. The kit fits in a shirt pocket : note that if you have one check the upgrade to the 4.22 series firmware , it works a lot better. So for audio it all fits in my small case with the computer that is very convenient. For larger or more complex work , the good old textronix is still the one tool i go back to .I do mostly Audio/Visual and RF work. That's why i got two generators , one rf the other is audio. Good tools do good work. Never hesitate to put the money on a good tool , that applies to good testing equipment. The well constructed and calibrated instruments rule our benches.Calibrate often and keep em in good shape. Replace the leads often as they dry and crack and may become a danger after a number of years. Follow the first rule : use caution whenever you play in electronic/electric equipment . Safety First !

My desktop (5, Informative)

taniwha (70410) | about 8 months ago | (#45477507)

On my office work bench:

Binocular microscope
soldering station
solder
flxes
large magnifying glass with light ring
project boxes full of SMD parts
tweezers
side cutters (dikes in the US)
scrap wire

storage scope/logic analyzer
power supply

In the other room:

cheap chinese reflow oven
cheap chinese stencil jig
(and if I can finally persuade my wife) cheap chinese pick and place ,machine

At this point I have to point out that almost all my best tools these days are cheap and from China, mostly bought off of aliexpress at prices maybe 10% of what I used to spend buying from the US - stuff I'd never ever have considered buying for myself 2-3 years ago. In this case being cheap and from China doesn't mean low quality or non-functional, quite the opposite.

Optical vs Digital Microscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477697)

I also have a binocular microscope, and I'm wondering if a digital version would be an improvement, i.e., a modern macro digital camera with zoom on a stand coupled to a computer/screen. My optical binoc scope is an Olympus inspection scope that goes up to 400x, which I picked it up at an auction of a Silicon Valley hw company that cratered. Any thoughts on moving to the a digital solution for a microscope?

Scope (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 8 months ago | (#45477515)

And would you tell someone trying to get into electronics that they need a scope?"

For anything intended for wireless use or that processes analog signals, yes, absolutely. But for a lot of things, it's just digital; you don't need a scope for that. You need what you have already. So it all comes down to what you want to build.

Re:Scope (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#45477601)

Actually, although it isn't essential, I'd recommend getting a good scope if you can afford one. You can learn a lot by watching the signals.

Re:Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477703)

I'm relatively new to electronics and after about a year of building guitar FX (all analog so far) I'm just starting to realise I need an oscilloscope if I want to move on to modulation FX. I'll definitely need one if I can find the time to start on analog synths

It depends on what I'm working on... (1)

MasseKid (1294554) | about 8 months ago | (#45477541)

Seriously, it depends on what I'm working on. There are items I wouldn't even bother trying to trouble shoot without a VNA and there are items I don't need more than a multimeter. I wouldn't say the oscilloscope is dead, it's use case has simply changed.

All you really need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477551)

WD40 and Masking Tape. Add a sledge hammer if you feel like mixing things up a bit.

Yes we have scopes (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#45477553)

Multiple scopes: cheap ones for general purpose, fast (>3GHz (20gs/s) single shot) for looking at high speed electronics (would like a 10GHz singl eshot but $$).
RF synthesizers, spectrum analyzers, signal source analyzer, RF power meter, picosecond impulse genrator,
Power supplies DVMs, precision voltmeters, TDRs, temperature measurement, accelerometers,
Transient digitizers, with A-D / D-A and instrument control for automated testing
Fiber power meters, polarization controllers, detectors, transmitters
A large number of RF mixers, adapters, amplifiers, etc.
And most importantly - duct tape, cable ties, vice grips and cutters - to hold things together or take them apart.....

I have a lab that does femtosecond timing systems for the accelerator / X-ray laser at SLAC, so we have a wide variety of cool stuff. Some is old, some new if we can't get by with the old stuff.

Re:Yes we have scopes (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 8 months ago | (#45477683)

And an intern.

Re:Yes we have scopes (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#45477771)

Often 2 interns, sometimes 3. We make them use an RF spectrum analyzer that dates from the Cretaceous to teach them character. (and because our "good" spectrum analyzer still dates from the Pliocene and is usually busy). Despite our best efforts at abuse, the last set of interns managed to measure timing noise down to a few femtoseconds.

What's on my bench (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477555)

I set up a lab bench 12 years ago for a small company that does a few board designs, prototyping, evaluating and fixing the other staff's junk! We still use it today.

- ESD protection mat and strap
- Panavice
- Tek oscilloscope, 4-channel storage: Very useful for RS-232, power supplies, LED drivers, etc.
- Frequency generator/counter
- Programmable bench power supplies, digital w/ RS-232 port: Useful for anything, PC-controlled for automated testing
- Dual digital bench power supply: Useful for anything, but don't like the knobs because too easy to wreck your voltage setting
- Portable DMM with RS-232 output: Good for voltage, current, temperature, frequency, capacitance, what have you.
- Lab PC with lots of serial, USB ports and digital I/O
- PIC programmer
- EEPROM programmer
- Rework station with soldering iron, hot air and de-soldering
- Stereo microscope
- Magnifying lamp
- Lots of jigs, adapters, cables, converters
- Breadboards

Just from memory, can't remember the model numbers anymore!

My bench inventory (4, Interesting)

QuasiEvil (74356) | about 8 months ago | (#45477559)

Right behind a decent handheld DMM, a scope is about the second piece of bench gear I recommend to anyone. Old used digital scopes are so darn cheap anymore (my TDS340A that I've had for 18 years can now be had for $250-400 on eBay), and they really help you visualize what's going on in the circuit. I'd give up just about every other piece of real lab gear I own to keep my scope, because the rest is either for specific past projects, or is just nicer to work with, but could be substituted with lesser quality gear. There's no substitute for a decent scope in my opinion, but I do a lot of pure analog or serial stuff where being able to capture and stare at a waveform can go a long way towards finding a problem. Plus, all that digital eventually gets down to the real world, where ugly analog problems eventually rear their head again (slew rate, parasitics, transmission line uglies, etc.)

I'd bet I have my scope fired up 80% of the time that I'm not strictly working on firmware, and probably 20-30% of the time that I'm just working on code.

My main bench gear:
  - Tektronix TDS340A scope
  - HP 33401 bench DMM
  - A couple various portable DMMs - one Fluke 87V, a couple cheapo Chinese, and a couple super cheapo Harbor Freight
  - Saleae Logic16 logic analyzer (awesome tool, by the way...)
  - Four old Lambda LLS lab power supplies
  - Old HP 3310B function generator
  - For soldering, a Hakko 936 iron, modified toaster oven for reflowing, and a hot air rework station
  - a pile of other strippers, crimpers, pliers, screwdrivers, tweezers, magnifiers, and assorted hand tools including my favorite Xcelite MS-545-J cutters
  - USBtinyISP for programming AVRs, Picstart 2 for programming PICs
  - Mendelmax 3d printer for printing out parts and prototypes
  - And a pile of other stuff to make the work more pleasant - my dev PC, a beer fridge, a TV, a Blu-ray player, a mythtv frontend box, a laser printer, bins of electrical and mechanical parts, datasheets I use frequently, etc.

I like all of the stuff, and wouldn't trade any of it, though I keep thinking about one of those new Agilent DSOX2024 scopes. I probably won't, though - my old Tek does well enough, and it has a great deal of sentimental value for all the years and projects we've done together. The only thing I'd really like is waveform capture on something that wasn't a 3.5" floppy...

Scope usage (3, Insightful)

pjrc (134994) | about 8 months ago | (#45477565)

I'm the author of Teensyduino, software for an Arduino compatible board.

I sometimes use my Agilent scope when developing or porting Arduino libraries. Sometimes I just want to check the relative timing of stuff, so I'll set a pin high or low at some point in the code, then capture with the scope to see if the code is taking a long time. Often it's surprising how fast, or how slow certain code can be, and pretty often it's relatively easy to discover and fix performance problems. You can do quite a lot by normal software debugging processes, but pretty much all those approaches involve running the code much slower. When you're debugging real-time code, like libraries that synthesize waveforms by bit-bashing or tricks with timers or DMA channels, there's really no substitute for a good scope.

But admittedly, this is a pretty narrow fringe. Most people probably don't do this sort of low-level coding.

Re:Scope usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477945)

Yeah, but if you _do_ need to say, diagnose a live, full speed peripheral interface (SPI, I2S, interrupt issues)... no other tool will do. Maybe that's just a few times a year, but you can't do it with a DVM.

I use a GWInstek GDS-2104A mixed signal scope... half the depth and weight of my "classic" Trio CRO, understands UART and SPI transactions, does FFTs, has a DVM, you can put labels on the traces etc etc. These new "software controlled" scopes are wonderful, and while not perfect, awesome for the price.

You only need two (1)

readacc (3401189) | about 8 months ago | (#45477575)

There are only two pieces of hardware you really need on a bench:

* Multimeter (doesn't have to be too expensive)
* Soldering iron (with solder of course, and probably a stand/sponge)

Of course you should probably also have additional bits and bobs as required, but with these two things you can accomplish a heck of a lot of repairs and diagnostics at the very least.

Oscilloscopes, Absolutely. (1)

quintessentialk (926161) | about 8 months ago | (#45477597)

It really depends on the project, but where I work (doing system integration) we use oscilloscopes pretty heavily as 'general purpose troubleshooting tools'. Perhaps significantly, we aren't building boards (we have another department to do that) but interfacing those boards with various sensors, motors, equipement from other vendors, and so forth. For example, we use oscilliscopes to help characterize motor/sensor control loops, to quantify noise of all types (in sensors, in power supplies, etc.), to troubleshoot electrical interface problems, and so forth. Especially for the control loop work, I can't imagine being without an oscilloscope.

Face it, you're wrong. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477599)

It's great that you personally live in your on/off digital world and don't need an oscilloscope but for the rest of us it's a very important tool. I argue that you don't need any other hobbyist level measurement equipment if you have a decent oscilloscope, it can measure AC and DC voltage, frequency and even do FFTs. Connect up a small sense resistor and amplifier and you can even measure AC current. While lacking as a logic analyzer I find the data clocking (bit banging) traces far more important that the logical value of the data being sent. Plus most of the hobbyist protocols only need a few wires for serial communication anyways. Here are somethings you'll won't be able to debug easily without a scope: LED drivers, switching power supplies, PWM circuits, switch bounce, ADCs and DACs.The oscilloscope will forever be an important tool. I would love to not have a physical oscilloscope box on my bench, replace it with a PC interface or a ipad accessory but the scope function itself will never be dead.

I have 3 'scopes in the home lab at the moment.. (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 8 months ago | (#45477621)

From newest to oldest:

Rigol DS1052E--A "cheap and cheerful" Chinese import 50 MHz 2 channel DSO. A good general hobby scope, easily upgradeable to 100MHz bandwidth with a simple reflash of the firmware. Has a sizable following in the hardware hacker community because of the high "bang for the buck" factor.

Tektronix 7623: A 3-slot mainframe with 75 MHz bandwidth An 1969 vintage analog storage scope, which accepts various interchangeable plug in units to give a huge range of features. Actually has an on-screen display for V/div and Time/div, which was bleeding edge stuff at the time it was introduced.

Tektronix 453: A 1963 vintage portable field service scope (designed for servicing IBM mainframes). Dual channel, 50 MHz. Built to take constant abuse and just keep working. Still a VERY usable scope for general purposes, and has the sharpest brightest trace of any scope I have ever used.

A 'scope is useful when it is. (1)

enter to exit (1049190) | about 8 months ago | (#45477633)

As i'm on a students budget, if i can build something i will:

> a used 20Mhz Oscilloscope
>a +/- 15V 1A Power supply i built with lm335s
>A signal generator i build with an XR2206 (going to replace with a bunch of op amps)
> A few multimeters of varying quality
> A few arduino clones (works great) and a generic PIC programmer (it's cheap and shit).
> enough antennas on my roof to make the neighbours complain. I'm looking to build a transceiver soon.
> A raspberry pi and a bunch of sensors.

I don't feel particularly limited with any of that stuff. I'll eventually replace it with proper certified test gear as i reach their limits.

As for how often i'm using the oscilloscope: When i need to use it, i use it. It's useful when it is useful, if i don't always use it it doesn't mean it's not worth having.

Strangely enough a logic analyser is one of the few bits of gear I've never wanted..

Re:A 'scope is useful when it is. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45477999)

Your approach is a tad wrong. You won't ever know if you need to use it - how would you? You're not an oracle. What you do is you use it first, and only then you have proof that everything is peachy. My bet is that you have very poor idea as to how your circuits really perform. Just because it "works" doesn't mean it's anywhere near being properly engineered. Just look at transition times on modern micro controllers and on the discrete logic chips that you're using. If your scope won't let you see those transition times, it means you have no idea what effect all those transitions have on your circuit as a whole. For all I know your power supply is sagging every time a GPIO pin is switching, and your circuit works just because you got lucky, but it's much closer to not-working. There's a lot of analog design know-how that's needed to properly design "digital-only" electronics.

It took me 15 years to be at a point where I claim I know a bit, and I still consider myself quite dumb when it comes to analog. Well, at least I've got a multi-kW piece of power electronics to pass emissions on the first try, with a whole bunch of cables attached to it - that's kinda hard. It only happened because I was quite conservative in everything, and paid attention to a whole lot of details that don't matter at all in whether "it works". Now of course emissions and susceptibility often go hand-in-hand, so if your circuits ring all over the place, it may also mean that they'll pick up things you don't want them to pick up once someone places a cellphone nearby :)

Yes, I know that if you're on a tight budget, you simply have no option of getting more advanced test gear. If you're in the U.S., I suggest you keep good eye on eBay for used brand-name equipment. Sometimes you can get absolutely exceptional deals. A lot of older analog-style test gear is quite repairable, with free (or very affordable) service manuals available. There's a few exceptional all-transistor, no-custom-IC Tektronix and HP oscilloscopes out there, that go at least to 100MHz. They'd be still considered a baseline kind of an instrument. If you've got room for it, something is to be said for Tek 7603 mainframe. There are mailing lists / discussion groups for every brand of test gear out there, often with folks who used to design the very instruments you now get on the cheap.

oscilloscope (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#45477639)

I still use my oscilloscope, signal generator with trigger, variable power supply quite a bit. I guess it really depends on what you're building. If it's anything to do with audio there's no escaping the need for an oscilloscope.

People who discount O-scopes..... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45477663)

....Dont really know anything about electronics. I suggest getting into analog and learning the other 60% of electronics. It's actually not hard when you figure it out. (Hint: use math) and you blow the minds of kids learning it when you can blink an LED with 3 discreete parts instead of needing to program an arduino or picaxe.

I rarely use my scope..but (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about 8 months ago | (#45477677)

When I need it, there is no substitute

One of my favorite tricks when working on digital/analog hybrid circuits is to use the microprocessor to set an output pin, then use the signal to trigger a scope

I have debugged lots of tricky interrupt driven realtime stuff with this approach

But yeah, it gets turned on about once every two months

Oscilloscopes (1)

Foundling (1856832) | about 8 months ago | (#45477687)

I was an electronics major in high school, and served four years in the Navy before getting a job as a tech at ColorTyme TV rentals. For most of those four years, I was upset that I didn't have an oscilloscope and thought I was missing a limb. ColorTyme had a 'scope for me on my bench, the same model the school had, so I was right at home. The thing is, for the eighteen months I worked there, I barely ever used it. That was in 1989-1990, so I'd assume that they are less needed now. I have a (free) Knight Kit scope from the 1950's now. I used it very little for loudspeaker building and troubleshooting an amplifier over the past ten years, but other than that it gets fired up once a year as a Halloween decoration; I did the "Mad Scientist" gig in 2011 and 2012. I find it hard to justify $3,000 for a new scope meter knowing that it would sit in the garage unused most of the time.

Re:Oscilloscopes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477923)

I used to have a "5MC" (that's five mega-cycles) Knigh labs kit scope. Does yours have the awesome deep blue CRT? If I didn't get a Tek 2465 I would have built all new innards for that scope just to keep tha blue CRT.

A logic analyzer doesn't count? (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | about 8 months ago | (#45477689)

If you have a device that performs most of the same functions as a scope for digital systems, and you mostly work on digital systems, then no, you probably don't need a scope. But a scope is sufficient for most tasks, easy to acquire, and has more educational value. If you ever want to try anything analog, even if it's just scoping a power outlet, you'll need one.

I recommend an auto-ranging multimeter, a three-output power supply, and a super-cheap scope to start with. For embedded systems, don't forget that you can also use software debugging techniques.

Other useful hardware: a good soldering iron (for moving beyond breadboards), fine-tip tweezers (for surface-mount work), and a clean desk, preferably with shelves for your equipment.

Lots of stuff. (1)

man_ls (248470) | about 8 months ago | (#45477711)

I don't do high-speed digital logic or anything like that; I primarily work on antique and vintage electronics, stereo hi-fi gear, microcontrollers and ham radio transmitters and receivers.

I have an inexpensive Rigol 100MHz scope, and an HP 16500B mainframe loaded with six more 100MHz scope channels + a pair of 250MHz channels; then I have a synthesized signal generator good up to 20MHz, a Leader FM Stereo Synthesized Signal Generator, an HP precision audio oscillator, an old AM RF generator from the early '50s, a handful of multimeters, and a very nice soldering iron, de-soldering iron, and a fume extraction system.

In all honesty, this is way overkill for what I work on...but part of the fun of having a good day job and a profitable hobby is being able to buy expensive toys that make everything just that much easier and more fun to work on.

optical data-/telecom engineers need scopes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477713)

hi

anybody designing/developing the hardware side of the 10-100 Gb/s (and beyond) optical communications making your internet and cloud work needs a scope to figure out what is going on at the physical layer. sampling scopes for guys working with 1s and 0s, real-time scopes for the higher order modulation formats starting deployment for long haul 100G and beyond e.g. QPSK.

Tektronix 545 Scope (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#45477733)

Keeps my shop warm during the winter.

I use the scope as a logic analyzer (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | about 8 months ago | (#45477757)

Sure it doesn't do what a good logic analyzer does, but it's fast. Current project: trying to get an Ohaus digital scale's RS232 output talking via an FTDI serial-to-usb to my computer. Scope-to-computer works great. Computer-to-scope doesn't work at all. Hook up probes to the TX and RX lines and I can immediately see that something's going from minicom to the Ohaus, and the voltage is roughly what I'd expect. On RS232 that's a serious question, and one that most of the usb logic analyzers I've worked with don't address: is the voltage high enough to trigger something that may be expecting 12 volts?
And I'd like to see what it's actually sending. Hit the trigger button and type something in, and there it is on the screen. Save it, type in something else, overlay them. Hey, the FTDI is stripping off the terminal linefeed! That's good to know, given that the Ohaus absolutely requires CR,LF.
That took me about thirty seconds with a scope. It'd take me longer to start up the USB logic analyzer program and get it set up.

Depends on what you are doing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477769)

For RF work:

Spectrum analyzer
Signal generators
frequency counter

For analog work:

Oscilloscope
Multimeter
Function generator

Digital work:

Oscilloscope
Multimeter
Logic probe / pulser / curent tracer
Logic comparitor
Logic analyzer

On my bench, yep an oscilloscope. (2)

fwc (168330) | about 8 months ago | (#45477801)

I design and sell products which generally have a microcontroller at the center. And almost everything is in the digital realm.

Because of the work I do I have a collection of test gear I've accumulated over the years. The things which get the most use? The variable DC power supplies, the multimeters, and yes, the oscilloscope.

The oscilloscope occupies the spot right above where the target sits most of the time. I find it to be very useful to troubleshoot digital realm issues, including things which one would seem to think a logic analyzer would be perfect for. If I'm having a hard time getting two things to talk, say over an I2C bus, I reach for the scope first, since I can see whether or not the lines are toggling as expected. And if they're at the right voltages, and so on. I can also tell if the clock edges are correct and similar. This accounts for like 99% of the problems I run into that I need an external test instrument for.

Yes, I do have various logic analyzers. Two USB ones, a big one I'm about to sell on ebay, and a few more specialized ones (serial protocol analyzer, USB protocol analyzer). Most of the time they sit in their cases on the shelf.

-forrest

Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477813)

Like you I've used my scope less and less, however recently I've had occasion to use it for a few diffierent ways. It's a great educational tool for introducing kids interested in electronics. Telling them about digital and analog circuits and wave forms are OK but showing it to them is really the cat's meow.

Also recently I was helping a young chap understand what PCM was and it didn't really take until I showed him on a scope what it looked like. For maintenance it's less necessary than it was, but I wouldn't get rid of it too soon.

My workbench (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 8 months ago | (#45477817)

What's on my workbench?

1) A PC running VNC
2) A datacenter full of servers loaded with chip design tools
3) A 6 billion dollar fabrication plant.

From a purely hobbyist point of view (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45477863)

When I started dabbling with microcontrollers the first thing I had to get was a decent PSU. I didn't have the money to buy a decent one so it was my first build.
Next I bought a good DMM; China made ones tend to break quite often. A third hand with magnifier is quite valuable together with a good soldering iron.
A logic analyser can be useful but the oscilloscope is invaluable. I bought mine second hand.
But the hardware I use the most are solderless breadboards and of course alligator clips: every single one of my projects use them while I'm prototyping.

Scope is dead? Ha ha ha. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 8 months ago | (#45477925)

If you're serious about your work, you need a scope that gets down to device parasitics. If you're putting together a tiny little app-circuit-based switching power supply that's uses 0402 and 0603 passives with their puny parasitic inductances and capacitances, you better be able to see those effects or else. I'd say that for modern mixed-signal work you need at least 1GHz bandwidth, 10GHz sampling rate oscilloscope (or an analog equivalent, but there's like two to choose from). Anything active that's not bog slow and is sold in tiny surface mount packages (say transistors in ~1mm square packages) can very happily ring at hundreds of MHz. Your 100MHz oscilloscope will very happily lie to you telling "all's peachy boss". I mean, some geniuses back in the day made nice 100MHz+ oscillators in their capacitor-decoupled transistor-using reset circuits. This still happens today, except that your oscillating tank is all made from device parasitics, and quite high-Q.

I keep a couple Tektronix 7000-series oscilloscopes and assorted plugins and probes up and running just because they let me see what's really going on.

Ribs (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 8 months ago | (#45477979)

If your name is 50000BTU_barbecue, the answer better be "ribs".

My lab (2)

Omega Hacker (6676) | about 8 months ago | (#45478037)

First of all what I'm doing: I'm designing industrial embedded hardware, using funky data busses and high-resolution ADC's. I do all the hardware design, layout, prototype fabrication, and *all* firmware and host-side software. I'm pretty much a one-stop shop for this project (and the only engineer on it...). The hardware is all "slow" stuff at this point, with the fastest clock being the 32MHz driving the 8-bit microcontrollers scattered throughout the system.

Panorama of my office [omegacs.net]

First off I've got my computer in the "middle", nothing special except the monitor's on an arm to free up desk space. A second monitor to the right is used for debugging consoles etc. (and WoW). Several USB hubs are scattered around (some mounted) for use by both tools and the product under development.

To my left up on a shelf I have a (rented...) Agilent MSO-X 3014A scope, 4-channels plus 16 digital, unfortunately only the 100MHz version. I have a second-hand cheapy 5MHz signal generator next to that for occasional use (impedance checking etc). A simple Protek 3006B power supply (Fry's?) handles everything I can't run off USB 5V or from an LDO.

A Saleae Logic and Logic16 do quite a bit of work for me, and there's the occasional use of a BusPirate. An AVR-ISP MkII handles direct programming of the microcontrollers when possible, while the vast majority of my programming and test jigs are built around my own STK500v2 implementation multiplexed with serial debug.

To my immediate left is the main project space, while to my right is space for whatever projects crop up and don't have to have direct access to the scope.

In the window against the desk would be one or both cats.

To the far left is my soldering environment, which includes a regular temp-controlled soldering iron as well as an Aoyue Int968 hot-air soldering station (with its own soldering iron). A $25 toaster oven is used for reflowing most simple boards. Bins of loose parts cover the shelving above.

Behind me is a desk that holds a "proper" reflow oven, albeit the cheapo $300 unit from eBay, as well as a rework station of the kind used for XBox repairs (some of my boards have a *lot* of thermal mass that hot air alone can't handle). Reels upon reels of SMT parts are piled under the desk...

Lighting is provided by 2x 60/meter LED strips that side-fire to each side along the camera-window axis, plus an overhead Ikea quint-MR12 set over the main workspace when needed.

I guess I missed the memo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45478055)

Curiously enough, not one scope is on my bench, however, on the shelves above the bench, or on the other side of the room...

Tektronix 7854
Tektronix 7623
Tektronix 561B
Tektronix 564
Tektronix 211

And a lonely B&K 1472C.

I guess I missed the previous memo that mentioned the scope was dying...

Tool List (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45478079)

2 Scopes One Analog and one Digital (Troubleshooting as well as testing Mixed signal circuits)
1 Current sensor (for use with the scopes) for SMPS design & troubleshooting)
2 Digital Counter/Frequency Counters. For debugging timing issues
1. LCR meter for measuring caps and inductors (Finding failed caps mostly or checking to see if caps are in spec)
several multimeters (these things seem to get collected over time)
1 Precision 10 Mhz Oscillator (rubidium) For calibration or use with other measuring devices (Scope/Freq Counter) for precision timing measurements
Lots of power supplies with fixed outputs from DC 3.3V to large 48V (1,5KW). One adjustable PS for adjustable voltage or constant current.
Programmable Load
Not yet on the bench yet (to be ordered!)
Digital Spectrum analyzer with tracking generator
Digital Arbitrary Frequency Generator
Precision multimeter

Machine tools:
Manual Vertical Mill (to machine out enclosures as well as other parts)
Lots and lots of tooling for the Vertical mill (End mills, Rotary tables, Super-spacers, Vises, measuring tools, Jigs)
TIG Inverter for Welding Alum, Stainless and Steel
Plasma Cutter
Air Compressor
PCB Cutter for cutting Panelized PCBs
Lots of rotary tools (Cordless Drills, Buffing wheels, Sanders, etc)
Not yet part of machine tools (to be ordered):
Manual Engine lathe
Vertical CNC mill ( a commercial VMC, not a small desktop CNC)
A Quality metal working band saw

my bench, in decreasing order of usefulness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45478115)

DMM - absolutely a must.

A Saleae logic16 usb logic analyzer. The best $300 I ever spent.
It will sample up to 100 Mhz (with 3 channels), the protocol analyzers that come in the (free) software work well and help diagnose issues with serial comm, CAN bus, I2C and SPI. There are others on the market, but this one seems to be a good blend of features and 'it just works'. I have extra ribbon leads and take the hooks off and plug them directly into 0.1" center headers.

An oscilloscope.

Metcal soldering station with a variety of tips for dealing with surface mount. This plus an old fashioned wire-wrap tool (you can fasten wires to headers without having to solder and remove them easily).

A cheap convection oven from goodwill for reflow (use with DMM/ thermocouple) - works surprisingly well total cost: $8.

I haven't had much need for a signal generator. I've either faked one with an unused timer channel (PWM + RC filter) or DAC channel if it is available.

One word: Analog (2)

confused one (671304) | about 8 months ago | (#45478163)

As an electrical engineer, I have to say, some things are best done in the analog domain. A good oscilloscope is a must for checking low level sensor signals, amplifiers and filter performance.
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  • ecode

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<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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