Test and Measurement News

July 2011

Pico Technology is 20 Years Old!

In 1991 we made our name with the tiny ADC-10 PC Oscilloscope. Thanks to your support, we soon became the market leader in PC Oscilloscopes and have maintained this position ever since. Our 20th anniversary calls for a celebration, so this month we are launching our fastest ever real–time scope, the PicoScope 6404 (see below), and giving you a chance to win one in our prize quiz.

To enter the quiz, just answer four multiple–choice questions, the answers to which can all be found on our website. The winner will be announced in the next newsletter. Good luck!

Oldest Scope in Use Competition. The winner of May’s competition is Frank Thompson, who kindly sent us an account of his heart-monitoring apparatus using the ADC-100 (released 1995). Details of the set–up will appear on our website shortly.

New 500 MHz PicoScope!

The new PicoScope 6404 is our fastest ever real-time oscilloscope, suitable for design, troubleshooting and testing of high–speed circuits. You can use one with a PC to save space on your workbench, or connect it to a laptop to create a portable instrument that’s perfect for field servicing and on-site demonstrations. The high sampling rate and bandwidth makes this scope ideal for analogue and digital circuit designers, test engineers and installers. Here are the main specifications:

  • 4 channels
  • 500 MHz  bandwidth
  • 5 GS/s sampling rate
  • 1 GS buffer memory
  • Signal generator and arbitrary waveform generator
  • USB 2.0 interface
  • Kit with 4 probes and carrying case available
  • All software features included, so no need to buy upgrades or add–ons

The PicoScope software includes all of these features at no extra cost: oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, color persistence display, automatic scope and spectrum measurements, arbitrary waveform designer, advanced triggers (including window, pulse width, interval, dropout, runt and logic), math channels, reference waveforms, serial decoding (I²C, UART, SPI, CAN), mask limit testing, alarm outputs and a choice of 20 interface languages. If you want to write your own application to control the scope or use it as a digitizer, Pico provides a software development kit, including example code, free of charge.

Technical and ordering information on the PicoScope 6404

PicoScope 9000 Series Training Videos: Part 6

The PicoScope 9000 Series 12 GHz  PC Sampling Oscilloscopes are specialized instruments designed for analyzing serial data signal quality, for characterizing cables, connectors and circuit boards, and for TDR/TDT testing. 8 GHz optical–input models are also available.

These scopes require careful setting up to obtain accurate results, so we have produced a series of instructional videos to help you use their capabilities to the full. Here is a selection of the latest video releases:

  • Advanced Menus: Generators. Demonstrates the features of the built-in dual multi-function signal generators fitted to the PicoScope 9211A and 9231A.
  • Advanced Menus: Basic TDR. Demonstrates the basics of using the TDR system on the PicoScope 9211A or 9231A sampling oscilloscope.
  • Application: Improving TDR Accuracy. Shows the method of improving the accuracy of TDR acquisitions and measurements using the TDR Correction feature.

Explore our library of videos on our YouTube channel

Watch out for more videos later!

Product Focus: Tetris Probes and Positioners

The Tetris active oscilloscope probes are named for their ability to fit together when probing closely–spaced pins. They are available with bandwidths of 1 GHz  and 1.5 GHz, and are compatible with any scope with 50–ohm inputs. Most of the circuitry is housed in a box next to the BNC connector, leaving a thin, lightweight probe head that can be used alongside another to probe two adjacent 0.1–inch–pitch pins.

Technical details and ordering information

We also supply two probe positioners that can be used to hold probes in contact with fine–pitch devices, leaving your hands free to operate the scope. Both positioners have a stepless 3D clamping system with 3 joints that are locked in position using a single control screw.

  • The TA115 probe positioner (fixed) has a probe clamp with holes machined to fit standard scope probes.
  • The TA116 probe positioner (adjustable) has a parallel–jaw clamp to accommodate any shape and size of probe.

Questions and Answers

Here are some of the questions and answers that have cropped up recently on our discussion forum:

Q. Buffer memory. Having used a traditional digital storage scope, I’ve got used to each scope having a certain storage capacity for samples. For example, one which stores 10,000 samples will record that many samples when triggered. I can then move back and forth through the stored data looking at the waveform. The problem is, I thought it was the PicoScope software on the PC that stored the captured samples. So what relevance does the “buffer memory” have which is quoted for the various different PicoScopes. For instance, the PicoScope 2105 has a buffer memory of 24 kS. But why do I care about that, when all the data is streaming back to the PC and (presumably) being recorded by the PicoScope software?

A. The device operates in two modes:
1) Block mode: the scope samples at very high rates to its internal buffer memory and then transfers data to the PC.
2) Streaming mode: streams directly to the PC, bypassing the scope’s buffer memory. In block mode you can achieve very high sample rates: in the 2105’s case 100 MS/s, which cannot be achieved in streaming mode. In streaming mode the 2105 streams at 1 kS/s. On our newer products the streaming rate is much higher, in the MS/s.

Q. Extra ground leads. I have a PicoScope 4424 scope, and have been using it with no problems. I have four probes (60 MHz) but only one ground clip, the one with a crocodile clip on one end and the half ring that snaps around the probe's neck on the other. Recently, I have found myself needing extra ground clips for the rest of the probes, but I could not find anywhere in the website to purchase them. Any pointer to the part number or how to order them would be appreciated.

A. The PicoScope 2104/2105 accessories can be used with our scope probes. You can find them here, part number PP359.


Please visit Pico Exhibitions for the latest list of exhibitions and trade shows that Pico and its representatives will be attending.

We're hiring!

Thanks to our continuing success and growth Pico are always seeking talented people to join our company.

Please visit https://jobs.picotech.com/ to see our current vacancies. We look forward to hearing from you!

Software releases

Our latest software releases are available as free downloads. To check which release you are using, start the software and select Help > About.

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Contact details

UK Headquarters:
Pico Technology, James House, Colmworth Business Park, St. Neots,
Cambridgeshire, PE19 8YP, United Kingdom
Tel.: 01480 396395 (+44 1480 396395)
Fax: 01480 396296 (+44 1480 396296)

North America Office:
Pico Technology, 320 N Glenwood Blvd, Tyler TX 75702, United States
Tel:+1 800 591 2796 (Toll Free)
Fax:+1 620 272 0981

Asia-Pacific Office:
Pico Technology, Room 2252, 22/F, Centro, 568 Hengfeng Road, Zhabei District,
Shanghai 200070, PR China
Tel: +86 21 2226-5152

Email: sales@picotech.com