Letter Re: Laptop Becomes Oscilloscope and Waveform Generator

Monday, Nov 5, 2012

Jim:
I'd like to tell the readers about an amazingly affordable electronics workbench tool that turns you laptop into an oscilloscope, and a lot more: Analog Discovery. This one card can
replace $10,000 worth of other gear. The student version is just $99. See a quick summary of the specifications.

I think that this is the Pico scope taken to the next level. This puts AM radio, FM radio, radar, sonar, ultrasound, spread-spectrum radio for secure communications, encryption tools for running secure comms over otherwise insecure channels, high-bandwidth servocontrol of machinery and countless other modern technologies in hands of the garage inventors, small businesses and university research groups. At my company we've been using much more expensive versions of this technology for a while.

The Digilent Analog Discovery design kit, developed in conjunction with Analog Devices Inc., is the first in a new line of all-in-one analog design kits that will enable engineering students to quickly and easily experiment with advanced technologies and build and test real-world, functional analog design circuits anytime, anywhere - right on their PCs. For the price of a textbook, students can purchase a low-cost analog hardware development platform and components, with access to downloadable teaching materials, reference designs and lab projects to design and implement analog circuits as a supplement to their core engineering curriculum.

The specs:

Dual 14-bit 105 MSPS ADC
Dual 14-bit 125 MSPS DAC
16 digital I/Os at 100 MSPS
Programmable power supply

It is designed to be an oscilloscope/AWG/logic analyser/digital pattern generator, so the usual caveats (5 MHz analogue input bandwidth) apply for such a device, but the screenshots
of the software look quite nice and Mac OS X and Linux versions are promised.

Like many here, I'm not too interested in this class of oscilloscope, but assuming it's hackable it could be the basis for a cheap software defined radio transceiver. It doesn't look like a schematic diagram is available, but Digilent often provides them. We'll have to wait and see after it's released.

Here is a write-up in EE Times: Disruption in the engineering classroom

And, one in EDN: The joys of tinkering, by Robert J. Bowman, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Regards, - Chris M.


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