Chapter 17. Test Equipment

This chapter is a quick tour of what is available in the way of inexpensive test equipment, starting with the ubiquitous digital multimeter (DMM) and moving on to oscilloscopes, signal generators, and logic analyzers. The focus here is on low-cost tools that will help get the job done without costing a small fortune. In the world of test equipment, it’s all too easy to spend a lot of money, with some types of equipment running upward of $30,000 each (or more). For the vast majority of situations you are likely to encounter when working with common electronics components and devices, that sort of precision and processing speed isn’t necessary.

Now would probably be a good time to talk a bit about things like speed, accuracy, and bandwidth. We’ll cover these topics in more detail later on in relation to each type of instrument, but the main point is that, for the vast majority of things you might want to build or modify, you don’t need an oscilloscope with a bandwdith capable of displaying a 1 GHz signal, nor do you need a digital meter with 4 1/2 digits of resolution. You don’t need an RF spectrum analyzer, or a high-precision pulse generator, or even a frequency counter. When you are working with things that interact with the real world in some fashion, the times involved are typically anywhere from 10 to 1,000 ms (0.01 to 1 second). Physical things usually don’t move much faster than that. If you are working with a microcontroller, it will be running ...

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