Oscilloscope Clocks: Now In Color!

Ordinarily, when we hear the words “clock” and “oscilloscope” in the same sentence we conjure images of measuring a stable, repeating square wave that acts as the heartbeat of a system. Of course, that’s not the only meaning– there’s a much more fun and less useful one: using an oscilloscope to display the time.

That’s what [Wolfgang Friedrich] set out to do when he cobbled some protoboard, probes, and an FPGA into the Multi Color Oscilloscope Clock. Each digit on the clock is treated like a seven-segment display, made up of three horizontal bars and four vertical bars. The horizontal bars are generated by constant voltage at different levels, and the vertical bars are generated by quickly switching between two voltages. [Wolfgang] decided to use an R-2R resistor ladder DAC to create the appropriate analog signals from the FPGA’s digital outputs. For bonus points, each set of digits (hours, minutes, and seconds) are output concurrently through separate channels, so they can be displayed in different colors on the screen of his four-channel scope (the fourth channel is used for the points between numbers).

Misusing oscilloscopes in the name of fun has become a time-honored tradition– from Tennis for Two back in 1958 (which later became the beloved Pong) to the plethora of analog o-scope clocks we’ve seen, it’s clear that hackers just can’t get enough of the unique vector display style that a scope can provide. We love [Wolfgang]’s idea of using the scope’s channels to create a multi-color display, and we’re left wondering what kind of wacky waveforms we’ll be seeing next.

5 thoughts on “Oscilloscope Clocks: Now In Color!

    1. Thanks Adam and Alan; I am going to happily import this reference back into my original post, as it is much more comprehensive than my link to the wikpedia article. Back-annotation FTW!

  1. I’ve been watching HaD for nearly a decade, and keeping an eye out for oscilloscope graphics hacks for nearly that entire time wondering when/if someone would essentially achieve vector-style graphics using Y-T mode instead of X-Y or raster-scanning.

    This is quite a rarity, if not one of a kind.

    “Now THAT’S A HACK”

    Nicely done Wolfgang.

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