Other than the multimeter, by far the most useful test equipment in an electronics lab or maintenance shop is the oscilloscope. In recent years, this instrument has evolved in unexpected directions so as to incorporate functionality way beyond the original CRT machines of an earlier age. As test equipment goes, the oscilloscope is one of the most costly, so it is worthwhile putting some thought into purchasing a new instrument. The good news is that the better models are versatile and built to last. That is the rationale for making a substantial capital investment now rather than later, so the benefits can accrue right away. The oscilloscope in your lab will far outlast a new car in the parking lot, so why not spend a comparable amount?
There are plenty of low-end oscilloscopes that can be had at little cost, but they aren’t much use to the serious student, researcher, product developer or repair technician. In contrast, an advanced mixed-signal instrument that can display analog activity in a power supply and simultaneously, in the same display, show digital circuit behavior downstream, will let the user quickly find bugs in product prototypes or diagnose ailments in existing equipment.
The three big manufacturers are Tektronix, Teledyne LeCroy (formerly LeCroy) and Keysight (formerly Agilent and before that Hewlett-Packard). These firms have venerable histories. Each made substantial contributions, setting the stage for today’s amazing oscilloscopes.