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Al Williams

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Oscilloscope or Something Else?

August 15, 2010

I currently own 4 oscilloscopes which is actually more than I need -- well 5 if you count one I have semi-permanently loaned out to a school group. But I may just have to buy another one. But maybe not for the reason you might think.

Lately I've been noticing some little "toy" pocket scopes available online. Search eBay for DSO Nano and you'll see. They aren't just on eBay either. These little gadgets look like a cell phone or an MP3 player, but they contain a simple 1MHz bandwidth scope. If you shop you can easily score one for well under US$75.

A 1MHz bandwidth relegates this to toy status for most of us. I guess if you are just doing audio stuff it might be acceptable, but I would not be buying one if it was just a scope.

However, you have to look a little more closely at the specs. The 60 gram device has a ARM Cortex M3 chip, a 320x240 display, an SD card slot, and a USB connector. But the most important key is that the software is open source. There's even a start at documentation to help you get started reprogramming the device.

That's a game changer. I don't see a $75 oscilloscope. I see a $60 generic development platform I can reprogram for something else. Of course, if I want to use it as a scope I can always reflash it too.

What would you do with this box?

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