FAQ - Oscilloscope - Do I need one?

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Richard Hull
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FAQ - Oscilloscope - Do I need one?

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:07 am

Nuclear radiation detection is not all about just picking up a finished instrument and taking a reading. Of course, it could be if you are fortunate enough to be "well instrumented" across the board in all nuclear radiation detection measurement capability and know exactly how to take, interpret and apply the readings based on gained knowledge of what the environment is in which the measurments are taken.

Unfortunately for most, even the professionals, nuclear measurement is a deep water dive into the world of electronics. Applied electronics demands its own "kit" of instrumentation. Among the simplest instances of nuclear electronics one must have an oscilloscope and the knowledge of how to use it, set up measurement scenarios and read what is being displayed in the normal time versus voltage or current, on screen display. One learned, it is easy to use and one of the most valuable of all electronic instruments. The learning curve can be very steep for the no electronic type and learning to use all of its capabilities will come in time as the OJT (on the job training), brings on new skill sets.

For the average fusioneer here the quick answer to the question posted in the title of this FAQ is NO! You do not need one at all.

The "O'scope" is a must have tool for fine tuning, designing and discovering many aspects of the electronics involved in nuclear measurement and instrumentation. Becoming involved this deep will also serve a second very important and valuable insight.......The limitations in detectors and the electronics involved and the limitations in the application and use of finished instruments, themselves!!!

Only this valuable instrument can warrant that you are "in the biz" of counting what you think you are counting. This is especially true if you are assembling whole-block electronic units for neutron detection as with a NIM bin measuring system or scratch building electronics for nuclear measurement.

Some of the highest end nuclear electronic situations can demand what is commonly called a "fast scope". Most applications have no need whatsoever of a fast scope. I am in deep and 60 mhz is all I really need. I currently use a 200mhz Tektronix storage scope that I got surplus for $110.00.

A modern 60 to 100 mhz storage scope can be had brand new out of box for $200-S400! Such things in the 1960's would be the price of a new car back then. Rigol and others import these nice scopes from China. The same modern o'scope from the world famous Tektronix would be 800-1000 bucks. Used versions of the Rigol I have seen at hamfests for $150. I just bought a 400 mhz Tektronix rather modern, late 90's storage scope at a recent hamfest for $250.00. It has moderate internal memory and the only way to get screen data out is via its internal 3.5" floppy drive. All Rigols and more modern scopes hook up via USB. Why buy this scope?? It had all the available $600 each plug ins in the rear....FFT plug-in, Parallel and serial printer port plug-in, RGB video output plug-in and the GPIB plug-in. That's about another $2500 of cool, useful accessories not to mention the storage and high frequency capability that are must haves in today's world.

Want a scope? It's out there, provided you need it and are willing to learn how to use it. Older, used or surplus o'scopes from the 40s through the early 80's are to be avoided! You really should have a more modern 1990 or later "storage scope".

All of the above assumes you want to wade into electronics a bit deeper. I constantly use my scope in Arduino work and other electronics projects so it is not just for nuclear work.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: FAQ - Oscilloscope - Do I need one?

Post by ian_krase » Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:55 am

I'd take issue with the idea that old non-storage CRT oscilloscopes are "to be avoided", but they are (probably) not very useful for fusion-related radiation detection work, and most are arguably overpriced given the ready availability of Rigol and Sigilent high-performance digital storage oscilloscopes.

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Re: FAQ - Oscilloscope - Do I need one?

Post by Richard Hull » Sat Mar 02, 2019 12:19 am

I merely feel that if one is going to pour money, be it $150 or $1500 into the purchase of an o'scope, the value of a full modern storage scope will be found very useful in being able to freeze events that are one shot deals in the sub-microsecond time frame. Random pulses or pulsed operations are easily examined at one's leisure. Such storage scopes can snag elusive noise peaks that interfere with many electronic processes.

Older scopes demanded a rather continuous and, hopefully, regular pulses to be analyzed in real time. Random pulses are lost in such old scopes. The first effort to aid this came in the 50's with long persistence phosphors. The first attempts at true storage scopes in the 70's were just rotten at best. From the late 80's on, storage became the norm in professional electronics. After 2000 it was tough to actually find and purchase a newly manufactured non-storage scope. Today, very inexpensive fabulous storage scopes are to be had at the impulse buy level!

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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