An oscilloscope, previously called an oscillograph, and informally known as a scope, CRO (for cathode-ray oscilloscope), or DSO (for the more modern digital storage oscilloscope), is a type of electronic test instrument that allows observation of constantly varying signal voltages, usually as a two-dimensional graph of one or more electrical potential differences using the vertical or y‑axis, plotted as a function of time (horizontal or x‑axis). Many signals can be converted to voltages and displayed this way. Signals are often periodic and repeat constantly, so that multiple samples of a signal which is actually varying with time are displayed as a steady picture. Many oscilloscopes (storage oscilloscopes) can also capture non-repeating waveforms for a specified time, and show a steady display of the captured segment.

Oscilloscopes are commonly used to observe the exact wave shape of an electrical signal. Oscilloscopes are usually calibrated so that voltage and time can be read as well as possible by the eye. This allows the measurement of peak-to-peak voltage of a waveform, the frequency of periodic signals, the time between pulses, the time taken for a signal to rise to full amplitude (rise time), and relative timing of several related signals.

Oscilloscopes are used in the sciences, medicine, engineering, and telecommunications industry. General-purpose instruments are used for maintenance of electronic equipment and laboratory work. Special-purpose oscilloscopes may be used for such purposes as analyzing an automotive ignition system, or to display the waveform of the heartbeat as an electrocardiogram. Some computer sound software allows the sound being listened to be displayed on the screen as by an oscilloscope.

Before the advent of digital electronics oscilloscopes used cathode ray tubes as their display element (hence were commonly referred to as CROs) and linear amplifiers for signal processing. More advanced storage oscilloscopes used special storage CRTs to maintain a steady display of a single brief signal. CROs were later largely superseded by digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs) with thin panel displays, fast analog-to-digital converters and digital signal processors. DSOs without integrated displays (sometimes known as digitisers) are available at lower cost, and use a general-purpose digital computer to process and display waveforms.

Read more about Oscilloscope:  Other Features, Types and Models, History, Use As Props

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