Author Topic: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics  (Read 2137 times)

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Online james_s

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #50 on: October 09, 2019, 10:09:22 pm »
In most cases I would say that a low cost logic analyzer is superior to an oscilloscope for working with microcontrollers, sure it won't help you sort out signal integrity issues but I rarely find that to be an issue with the frequencies involved. What it will do is let you monitor numerous digital signals at once, which is what you need when you're trying to debug things like SPI.

A scope is certainly nice, and it's far more within reach to a hobbyist than ever before. Anyone who is serious about electronics should have one sooner or later but IMHO if funds are tight it's the sort of thing one can save up for and buy themselves when they get their first job. Otherwise you get what you can afford, if that's a tired 10MHz CRO with some wonky switches and one dead channel, hey it's better than nothing. Hence my advice of either spend <=$50 on a working analog scope, or keep saving and buy one of the relatively inexpensive modern DSOs. Or get lucky and take whatever someone is willing to give you for free and make the best of it.
 
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Offline rsjsouza

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #51 on: October 09, 2019, 10:18:58 pm »
In most cases I would say that a low cost logic analyzer is superior to an oscilloscope for working with microcontrollers, sure it won't help you sort out signal integrity issues but I rarely find that to be an issue with the frequencies involved. What it will do is let you monitor numerous digital signals at once, which is what you need when you're trying to debug things like SPI.
100%. A logic analyzer is a cheap ticket for digital debugging. :-+
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Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #52 on: October 09, 2019, 10:20:25 pm »
However, times have changed and not only electronics but also the tools and their relative prices eroded quite a lot. Any simple microcontroller kit has multi-MHz communications channels that are quite interesting to look through the eyes of a graphing tool such as the oscilloscope. That makes defining what goes on a beginner's toolbox a much harder task.

If looking at digital comms, then the best tools are printf() statements and a logic analyser.

If you don't know what you need, then it doesn't matter what you buy. Well, that's an exaggeration to make the point, but it indicates that the "what do I need?" question is probably the wrong question.

The right question would be "how do I work out what I need?".

One strategy would be to buy something that does everything - but that would probably be too complex for a beginner (and too expensive).

Another strategy would be to buy something cheap and simple, use it, determine where it is holding you back, and then you know what you need.

I prefer the latter.
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Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #53 on: October 10, 2019, 12:21:05 am »
In most cases I would say that a low cost logic analyzer is superior to an oscilloscope for working with microcontrollers, sure it won't help you sort out signal integrity issues but I rarely find that to be an issue with the frequencies involved. What it will do is let you monitor numerous digital signals at once, which is what you need when you're trying to debug things like SPI.

A scope is certainly nice, and it's far more within reach to a hobbyist than ever before. Anyone who is serious about electronics should have one sooner or later but IMHO if funds are tight it's the sort of thing one can save up for and buy themselves when they get their first job. Otherwise you get what you can afford, if that's a tired 10MHz CRO with some wonky switches and one dead channel, hey it's better than nothing. Hence my advice of either spend <=$50 on a working analog scope, or keep saving and buy one of the relatively inexpensive modern DSOs. Or get lucky and take whatever someone is willing to give you for free and make the best of it.

This is just the point I was going to make.
I have used a 'scope with one faulty channel various times at work, back in the day.
If one channel works, it is still a useful "single channel" oscilloscope.

I have even used (at home) a BWD single channel with faulty triggering to look at the pulses out of a car (Ford Falcon) "Engine Management Module".
OK, the signals didn't stay still but at least I could see them!

By the way, the problem was an intermittent connector at the input of the distributor (1988 model ).
Multiple mechanics couldn't find it, & kept swapping "the computer"! |O
 

Offline dunkemhigh

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #54 on: October 10, 2019, 03:15:26 pm »
Quote
a low cost logic analyzer is superior to an oscilloscope for working with microcontrollers

Oh boy, yes. Definitely used to be the case  :-+

Nowadays, not so much - there is little that appears outside the plastic so there's not much to hook onto. Almost any digital scope has serial debug built in and with four channels you can cover SPI, and if you don't mind looking at one direction at a time you can do it with two channels. Got a 96-chan HP job here which was invaluable the last time I used it (debugging new-build motherboard PCI), but that was near a decade ago and it hasn't been powered up since. A Logic8 sorts most stuff that has four or more related signals, and whilst that's expensive you can get clones for peanuts.

The scope, OTOH, I'd be lost without it. Often it is just quicker and sufficient to have a gander with the scope. As t'chap above notes, most comms (and other) issues get fixed via printf once the hardware signalling (that is, the analogue stuff) has been sorted.

In my opinion/experience, anyway :)
 
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Offline dunkemhigh

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #55 on: October 10, 2019, 03:18:22 pm »
Quote
The scope, OTOH, I'd be lost without it

And, in fact, thinking about this... say the office burned down and I need some tools, no insurance, etc. Offer me a 1054Z or Logic16 and I wouldn't hesitate to snatch the scope with your arm still attached. The LA would come after a meter, soldering kit, hand tools, etc.
 

Offline Gyro

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #56 on: October 10, 2019, 06:38:40 pm »
Sparky480, also make sure he has a multimeter and soldering iron first and the interest to make purchasing any oscilloscope worthwhile. If he is programming or doing any electronics design or education even if it's on his own, an oscilloscope will be a serious boost especially if he is considering it a career in electronics/robotics etc. As they say, you can't invest enough in your children.

It's just that some people buy them and they gather dust, only you will be able to gauge his seriousness or ability. But even absorbing the manual and learning about all the features is worth a few hundred bucks in my opinion.

I bought him a Hakko station about 2 years ago. In regards to multimeters, he has 3 - 1 Fluke and 2 little cheapies Aneng. He also has a cheap hot air station but he hasn't done too much SMD.

Ok, that gives us an understanding of what equipment your son already has. The next question is what has he actually done with them? What projects has he built?

The worry is that many beginners buy a scope (too) early and find that they have no signals to look at because they haven't built anything where it would be useful. They often seem irresistibly drawn to trying to scope the mains, sometimes with catastrophic results (particularly dangerous for a 14 year old).

It will also give a better idea of what type/level of scope would be most appropriate at this stage.

Has the OP left the building?  :-\
Chris

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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #57 on: October 10, 2019, 06:40:10 pm »
Tek did this with their TDS3000 scopes, features that were originally options became standard features in later firmware. It's standard practice with this sort of thing as a design becomes older and has to compete with newer offerings on the market. The popular Rigol scopes have been around for quite a while now, it's natural that they'd need to bump things up a notch to keep it viable as long as possible.

I still think a lot of people are losing sight of the fact that this is someone asking about a scope for their 14 year old kid. When I was 14 I felt extremely fortunate to have an ancient Tek 531A that I got from a neighbor. It was a beast and had a few issues but I still learned a lot and got a lot of use out of it. I don't even remember if it had delayed sweep or not, if it did I never used it. The 465B that I got later has it but even then I very rarely use it. A beginner looking for something cheap doesn't need a lot of fancy features, they'll figure out what they need later.
The computers we use every day were beyond supercomputer territory when some of us were younger. No one would dare suggesting that young folks should use a Pentium II.
 

Online james_s

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #58 on: October 11, 2019, 05:55:43 am »
The computers we use every day were beyond supercomputer territory when some of us were younger. No one would dare suggesting that young folks should use a Pentium II.

If a decent modern computer was $1,000 and the person could only afford a Pentium II then I would, I mean why not? Millions of kids (and adults) are using Raspberry Pis for things, the early versions of which are similar to a PII. I still use lots of computers much older and less powerful than that, they're just as powerful as they ever were and if you don't need to surf the web it doesn't really matter. I can type up a document on my SE/30 that looks just as good as one typed up on a modern machine. I can play a game on my Amiga or IIe that's just as fun as it was when I was a kid. The first computer I owned was a cast off 10 year old PC/XT and I learned a tremendous amount by struggling along with that. The hardware was simple enough to understand in depth and interface to directly.

Kind of a lame analogy anyway though since an oscilloscope is not a PC and scopes have not changed anywhere near much as computers. A 60 year old scope of sufficient bandwidth will display the same signal a brand new one will. Maybe a better comparison is something like a telescope, sure if you spend $1k you'll get a much better experience then if you spend $100 or even less, but some of the cheap ones are usable and certainly better than nothing. Ultimately you get by with what you can afford or otherwise get your hands on. Then armed with some experience and a better understanding of your actual needs you upgrade to better tools as budget allows.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #59 on: October 11, 2019, 07:00:28 am »
A Raspberry Pi is obviously nothing like a Pentium II. You already mention one massive difference and that's internet connectivity and associated support. The world has changed and therefore the tools have too. Oscilloscopes aren't much different and too have changed a lot. DSOs are the name of the game now and CROs have been relegated to the background. I'd rather have a Beetle than walk across a continent but I'd really rather have a modern car.
 

Offline borjam

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #60 on: October 11, 2019, 07:14:28 am »
If considering an oscilloscope I would definitely recommend a modern, budget DSO. Religious wars aside, check Rigol's DS1000Z and Siglent SDS1000X-E series.

DSOs are useful for many purposes. If your son is going to experiment with microcontrollers and/or embedded systems, an oscilloscope can be incredibly helpful. Countless projects have been completed without access to one (in the past oscilloscopes were outrageously expensive!) but an oscilloscope makes troubleshooting much more convenient and, more important in my opinion, looking at the actual signals involved can help gain better insight on what's going on, which means it's good for learning.

CROs are obsolete. I know many people love them because especially the latest, sophisticated models, were outstanding engineering achievements and indeed their creators deserve awe and respect. But the world has moved on and nowadays an electronics hobbyist is more likely to work with digital interfaces.

 

Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #61 on: October 11, 2019, 07:45:36 am »
CROs are obsolete. I know many people love them because especially the latest, sophisticated models, were outstanding engineering achievements and indeed their creators deserve awe and respect. But the world has moved on and nowadays an electronics hobbyist is more likely to work with digital interfaces.

I don't know why you refer to "CROs", since the display technology is irrelevant. I have DSOs that use a CRO to display the waveform and settings. What matters is whether the front end is analogue or digitising.

I don't know what you might mean by "more likely to work with digital interfaces", but any such concept is unimportant. You are looking at waveforms!

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #62 on: October 11, 2019, 07:51:08 am »
Ultimately you get by with what you can afford or otherwise get your hands on. Then armed with some experience and a better understanding of your actual needs you upgrade to better tools as budget allows.

Precisely. That attitude is commercially very valuable.

Simple observation about pushing the engineering limits. If you are creating the world's fastest oscilloscope, what scope do you go and buy to test it?

I've run into that kind of question throughout my career, and working out how to answer it has been great fun and very remunerative :)
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online tautech

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #63 on: October 11, 2019, 08:32:29 am »
If considering an oscilloscope I would definitely recommend a modern, budget DSO. Religious wars aside, ...........

CROs are obsolete. ........
Unbeknownst to you you've just rekindled 2 religious wars, brand vs brand and CRO vs DSO !

CRO's are where I started and I wouldn't dream of turning back the clock and as you well know borjam with your embracement of modern tools they can do so much more.

Hell, even for the novices right of passage of building their first PSU how can they check for power ON overshoot with a CRO ? CRO Single shot mode ?  ::)

Dad the sparky keeps an eye on discussions here as he had a look yesterday and despite his comments about scopes being outside his field of knowledge you can bet your boots he'll be involved with his son getting up to speed on what scopes have to offer the novice. What he lacks in scope knowledge he will already know about basic waveforms whereas the son mostly won't. They'll make a good pair adventuring into electronics with him tempering the lads enthusiasm and adding his caution and wiser grey matter while the lads inquisitive mind will that drag them both along together.
A not to be missed father son bonding time that I had with my youngest too.
Hell that was 15+ yrs back as he was 30 yesterday !  :o  :wtf:
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Online james_s

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #64 on: October 11, 2019, 06:08:30 pm »
Hell, even for the novices right of passage of building their first PSU how can they check for power ON overshoot with a CRO ? CRO Single shot mode ?  ::)

Again that's certainly a "nice to have", but I built a lot of power supplies without having a scope capable of measuring the power on overshoot, that didn't stop me from building power supplies and it wouldn't stop me today. I have a rather nice scope because today I can afford it, as well as I'm not bothered by gambling on older equipment and possibly having to repair it. If I only had $100 to work with though I would not simply throw up my hands and give up on the hobby, I would find tools to get me by, use what I could get to the best of my abilities and keep saving up for something better. That's all I've been suggesting doing here.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #65 on: October 11, 2019, 11:55:59 pm »
I don't know why you refer to "CROs", since the display technology is irrelevant. I have DSOs that use a CRO to display the waveform and settings. What matters is whether the front end is analogue or digitising.

I don't know what you might mean by "more likely to work with digital interfaces", but any such concept is unimportant. You are looking at waveforms!

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
A modern glass cockpit is fully digital which in many regards is very similar to a DSO. That the GUI is derived from or borrows from earlier schemes doesn't change much, it just shows that it's a superset of what was and display the same data in various ways.
 

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #66 on: October 11, 2019, 11:58:45 pm »
If considering an oscilloscope I would definitely recommend a modern, budget DSO. Religious wars aside, ...........

CROs are obsolete. ........
Unbeknownst to you you've just rekindled 2 religious wars, brand vs brand and CRO vs DSO !

CRO's are where I started and I wouldn't dream of turning back the clock and as you well know borjam with your embracement of modern tools they can do so much more.

Hell, even for the novices right of passage of building their first PSU how can they check for power ON overshoot with a CRO ? CRO Single shot mode ?  ::)
Hardly a "killer" application!
I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have had to do this over the years, but if I had to, there is a "workaround" which worked OK when DSOs were "but a glint in the eye" of some crazy design Engineer.

Set the CRO for a very low free running speed, turn up the intensity, dim the room, operate the PSU "On" switch, watch the overshoot---done!

OK, it doesn't give you a nice permanent record, unless you have a "CRO camera" (If you did, you could leave out "dim the room")
Polaroid film is probably "unobtainium" these days, but with a decent digital camera, you can probably "bodge" something up.

Of course, I would probably just use the 7613's analog storage function these days, which would make taking a pic easier.
Quote
Dad the sparky keeps an eye on discussions here as he had a look yesterday and despite his comments about scopes being outside his field of knowledge you can bet your boots he'll be involved with his son getting up to speed on what scopes have to offer the novice. What he lacks in scope knowledge he will already know about basic waveforms whereas the son mostly won't. They'll make a good pair adventuring into electronics with him tempering the lads enthusiasm and adding his caution and wiser grey matlter while the lads inquisitive mind will that drag them both along together.
A not to be missed father son bonding time that I had with my youngest too.
Hell that was 15+ yrs back as he was 30 yesterday !  :o  :wtf:
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #67 on: October 12, 2019, 12:06:06 am »
I have been looking for a simple oscilloscope for my 14 year old's birthday coming next week. I realize that I could never get anything in time but would at least say it is on its way. Originally, he was looking on ebay for these $50 oscilloscopes.

What brands should I be looking for and how much should I pay?
Do what my father did: get something decent. Spending money to allow your kid to learn something is never wasted. GW Instek GDS-1054B, Micsig TO1074 or Siglent SDS1104X-E are good choices. IIRC the price ranges from about US $350 to $750. The Rigol DS1054Z (although popular) is very outdated and technically inferior to the other options.

By all means don't get an old analog scope. I'd given my left nut if I would have gotten one of the DSOs I listed when I was 14.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 12:14:22 am by nctnico »
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Online james_s

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #68 on: October 12, 2019, 01:29:27 am »
"Something decent" is not within the stated budget so it's not really a valid option. It doesn't matter how much better something is if a person doesn't have the budget to afford it. This is not someone looking for a tool they need in order to earn a living, this is an educational toy for a kid. A sensible person doesn't overextend themselves to buy a non-essential toy.
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #69 on: October 12, 2019, 09:40:43 am »
I don't know why you refer to "CROs", since the display technology is irrelevant. I have DSOs that use a CRO to display the waveform and settings. What matters is whether the front end is analogue or digitising.

I don't know what you might mean by "more likely to work with digital interfaces", but any such concept is unimportant. You are looking at waveforms!

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
A modern glass cockpit is fully digital which in many regards is very similar to a DSO. That the GUI is derived from or borrows from earlier schemes doesn't change much, it just shows that it's a superset of what was and display the same data in various ways.

Maybe I didn't make the point clearly enough.

The point is about what the pilot sees, the display, not about how the information is collected and processed.

Consider the picture below. I guarantee any pilot will be principally interested in:
  • the location and angle of the boundary between the blue and brown sections
  • the angle of the light blue line
plus, equally importantly, how they are changing.

If they are relaxed and have the luxury of tweaking things, they may pay attention to the digits.

« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 09:44:11 am by tggzzz »
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online nctnico

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #70 on: October 12, 2019, 10:04:37 am »
"Something decent" is not within the stated budget so it's not really a valid option. It doesn't matter how much better something is if a person doesn't have the budget to afford it. This is not someone looking for a tool they need in order to earn a living, this is an educational toy for a kid. A sensible person doesn't overextend themselves to buy a non-essential toy.
Well the OP has expressed the budget isn't fixed and saving for longer period is an option. His son could also opt to ask money for his birthday from everyone and that may lead to enough money to get a decent piece of equipment. That is how my kids usually save up for something expensive. However getting a piece of test equipment is not yet-another-stupid-game so as a parent I'd really see what I can do. Tinkering with electronics at home definitely gives his son a head start when looking for a job in electronics (or most technical jobs). It simply is a good investment.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 10:08:14 am by nctnico »
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #71 on: October 12, 2019, 10:05:40 am »
Maybe I didn't make the point clearly enough.

The point is about what the pilot sees, the display, not about how the information is collected and processed.

Consider the picture below. I guarantee any pilot will be principally interested in:
  • the location and angle of the boundary between the blue and brown sections
  • the angle of the light blue line
plus, equally importantly, how they are changing.

If they are relaxed and have the luxury of tweaking things, they may pay attention to the digits.


The point was that analogue display systems display things in their format only and digital systems can display them any way they want which includes any analogue format. The added flexibility is why it's rapidly become the standard.
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #72 on: October 12, 2019, 10:19:54 am »
Maybe I didn't make the point clearly enough.

The point is about what the pilot sees, the display, not about how the information is collected and processed.

Consider the picture below. I guarantee any pilot will be principally interested in:
  • the location and angle of the boundary between the blue and brown sections
  • the angle of the light blue line
plus, equally importantly, how they are changing.

If they are relaxed and have the luxury of tweaking things, they may pay attention to the digits.

<gif omitted>
The point was that analogue display systems display things in their format only and digital systems can display them any way they want which includes any analogue format. The added flexibility is why it's rapidly become the standard.

Whose point was that?

It certainly wasn't my point, it ignores the key aspects of my point, and is not a counterargument to the key aspects of my point. You are confusing capture and processing with display - those are very different.

Here is a repeat of my point, which you have chosen to snip from the context...

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #73 on: October 12, 2019, 11:03:42 am »
Whose point was that?

It certainly wasn't my point, it ignores the key aspects of my point, and is not a counterargument to the key aspects of my point. You are confusing capture and processing with display - those are very different.

Here is a repeat of my point, which you have chosen to snip from the context...

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
Let's back up a bit here. What actually was the point you tried to make? Repetition doesn't seem to do much in the way of clarifying. :)
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: Looking for oscilloscope for son beginning electronics
« Reply #74 on: October 12, 2019, 12:29:22 pm »
Whose point was that?

It certainly wasn't my point, it ignores the key aspects of my point, and is not a counterargument to the key aspects of my point. You are confusing capture and processing with display - those are very different.

Here is a repeat of my point, which you have chosen to snip from the context...

There is a fetish that a digital display is better than an analogue display. In some cases that is valid, but in other cases it is completely incorrect. Simple example from a different world: if you were in a cockpit, which would you rather see: a rotating ball showing the horizon moving, or digits (0,0), (8, -10), (15, 0), (25, 10).... BTW, are the instruments in a modern "glass cockpit" analogue or digital? :)
Let's back up a bit here. What actually was the point you tried to make? Repetition doesn't seem to do much in the way of clarifying. :)

Highlighted above, for extreme clarity. N.B. "display", not capture and processing.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 12:32:17 pm by tggzzz »
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