The two types of basic electrical signals are direct current and alternating current (DC and AC respectively). Direct current signals aren’t dependant on time and operate at a constant voltage, whereas alternating current signals have an oscillatory dependence with regard to time and their voltage changes from positive to negative. An oscilloscope consists of a screen, multiple inputs, and various controls. You can use an oscilloscope to visualize alternating current signals for fault testing and troubleshooting issues with circuits. By adding a function generator to the mix you can produce a variety of oscilloscope effects.

You’ll need coaxial cable, a function generator, and an oscilloscope to create these oscilloscope effects.

First you will need to plug a coaxial cable into the function generator’s output and one of your oscilloscope’s inputs. Next you will press the square wave button on your function generator and turn the output voltage to one volt. Then set the frequency to one hundred hertz. Adjust the vertical scale on the oscilloscope’s display by turning the volts per division knob — this will change the vertical size of the square wave electrical signal on the display. You should start to see the square wave from your function generator as you change the volts per division.

Now you will adjust the horizontal scale of your oscilloscope by turning the time per division knob, which will change the span of time each horizontal division depicts. Slowly adjust the time per division until you can see several wavelengths on the display of the oscilloscope. Then change the type of signal being displayed by the function generator. You can create a number of different kinds of effects on the oscilloscope’s display screen such as sine waves, square waves, triangular waves, or pulses — all four of which are commonly available on most function generators. When you press the corresponding wave or pulse button the signals will be instantly displayed on your oscilloscope for you to observe and adjust.

You can even create art by using two function generators and adjusting the signal frequencies to create the luminescent, geographic image of your choosing.


George Leger has a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, worked in private industry pioneering surface-mount technology and in government research labs for twenty years, published several papers on surface-mount technology, co-authored papers published in national symposiums on accelerator technology, was past president of SMTA and an adjunct professor at the community college level, holds a patent, and is a certified microchip design partner, serving as a consultant to many companies developing electronic circuits.

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