Adding Digital Storage To An Analog Scope

This is a hack in the finest sense of the term. It not only allows you to capture data from an analog oscilloscope for later analysis, but provides you with a great tool if you’re posting on the Internet about your projects. [J8g8j] used an empty cashew container to add a camera mount to the front of his scope. This is possible because the bezel around the display has a groove in it. A bit of careful measuring helped him make an opening that was just right.

You can see that the red cap for the jar holds the camera and gave him a bit of trouble in the original prototype. This version has a tray where camera sits, which replaces the Velcro with didn’t hold the camera level the first time around. He’s also painted the inside of the clear plastic to reduce glare on the oscilloscope readout. Black and white images seem to come out the clearest, but it can be difficult to make out the grid lines. The addition of LEDs to help them stand out is one of the improvements we might see in the future.

14 thoughts on “Adding Digital Storage To An Analog Scope

  1. My GAWD, what a trip down memory lane! In my earlier electronic design days I went through seemingly endless rolls of Polaroid film capturing asynchronous one shot pulses. Ah, the smell of the coating you had to smear on the ones which were kept! Until now, I had not thought of this particular misery-made-nice by our affordable high tech. Does your pocket camera allow a time exposure? I’m guessing not. The Tektronix scope had a manual shutter and a very light tight housing and scope mounting, such that long open shutter times were no problem as you waited for the elusive one shot (nuclear decay event) to happen. Even with Giga Hz sample rates (at Giga $), sometimes an analog scope with a camera can outperform with single fast pulse capture.

  2. @spiritplumber:
    Oh definitely.

    @at all:
    I have one of those scopes here. It has been very helpful despite being retired from normal business for this many years. Perfect for watching TTL logic at work, even better for managing analog things.

  3. Uhhh.. I have photographed MANY analog oscilloscope/spectrum analyzer/network analyzer screens in my day, and I never needed anything like this!

    To reduce the glare, just dim the lights in the room, or use a dark cloth above the camera.

    The creator must have REALLY shaky hands, I take it? Hehe :D

  4. I like it! I only have an old scope, as I can’t afford anything else. Capturing good quality waveforms with enough exposure to see the grid lines is quite hard, especially on a cheap camera. I might actually build something like this and perhaps add a handful of diffused led in a ring for better illumination. Hopefully that gets the screen exposure right and without the glare. Besides, green phosphor looks cooler. :P

  5. Believe it or not, this EXACT method was used at General Electric up until about 2001 or 2002 for FDA compliance in their MR body coil tests.

    We had a Polaroid camera and a black plastic “funnel” that clipped on to the B&W screen. The computer didnt even have a mouse, it had a knob and 4 F keys and a keyboard (I cant remember what model it was).

  6. @All: Thanks for the feedback! It is an honor to be featured on Hack-A-Day. I appreciate all the comments. I know it is not mind-blowing. I is fun (and easy). I am glad to see that some have found it inspiring.

    FWIW, some comment-specific replies:

    @Slipster: I’m sorry if this tongue-in-cheek title put anybody off and wasted a click from your day. I find it funny.

    @Kyle: The flash on my chosen digital camera is broken. So a timed exposure is a must… until I get a new camera. Even if/when I do, I will probably just keep this digital cam as my “scope cam” In case you had not guessed, I’m no brain surgeon. So, with >0.5 sec exposures, shaking happens.

    @Bob Spafford: I like the idea of using a longer timed exposure. I think it will help deal with the single-shot capture challenge I’ve run into with some IR protocols. I will give it a try. Thanks!

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