test&measurementZONE Products for the week of October 3, 2011
MDO4000: Innovation Breach with Transformational New Oscilloscope Category
World’s First Mixed Domain Oscilloscope Combines Scope and Spectrum Analyzer Functionality in a Single Instrument – Providing Time Correlated Analog, Digital and RF Signals
Tektronix, Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of oscilloscopes, introduced the world’s first mixed domain oscilloscope (MDO) that delivers the functionality of an oscilloscope and a spectrum analyzer in a single instrument. The new MDO4000 Mixed Domain Oscilloscope Series gives engineers the unique ability to capture time-correlated analog, digital and RF signals for a complete system view, helping them to rapidly solve complicated design issues.
More than 60 percent of oscilloscope users also use a spectrum analyzer to troubleshoot embedded system designs with integrated wireless functionality, requiring them to work in both the time and frequency domain. Traditionally, an engineer was either a mixed signal/digital engineer or an RF engineer. But with wireless becoming more commonplace, design engineers must often work in both domains. The MDO4000 Mixed Domain Oscilloscope Series is the first oscilloscope ever to integrate the functionality of a spectrum analyzer to provide a unique toolset which will save days or even weeks of debug time.
“We believe that the MDO4000 Series is the most revolutionary product to hit the oscilloscope market in the last 20 years, for the first time breaking down the barrier between time and frequency domains,” said Roy Siegel, general manager, Oscilloscopes at Tektronix. “It fundamentally changes what’s involved in debugging designs with RF where there is a need to correlate events in the frequency domain with the time domain phenomena that caused them. Just as the mixed signal oscilloscope (MSO) is the standard for embedded design test, we expect the MDO will become the new standard for designs that increasingly include RF capabilities.”
“The complexity of debugging issues in modern wireless systems, combined with the lack of equipment designed for the task has forced us to spend many hours focusing on the test setup rather than the design issue itself,” said Ward Ramsdell, Electrical Engineer and Owner of Prototype Engineering. ”Based on our early usage of the MDO series, we believe that these oscilloscopes will help us to deliver our designs to our customer faster than ever before, and with more comprehensive verification of the system's functionality. This is because for the first time we’re able to simultaneously visualize multiple points in a design, looking at analog, digital and RF aspects of the system's operation, which allows us to quickly track down design issues and better understand the real-world performance of the system at a high level. The Mixed Domain Oscilloscope signifies a fundamental change in the test equipment landscape, and will absolutely improve the way we approach our work.”
The spectrum analyzer came about in a strange way. The first needs to examine spectrum in the frequency domain came about in the late 1930s and into WW-II as a means to see who was on the air in certain relatively narrow frequency bands. Espionage agents would change frequency on an irregular but predetermined basis, and there was little chance of catching their short transmission bursts with conventional radio tuning. These early devices, known as panoramic adaptors, were produced on both sides of the Atlantic with the majority being for connection to the detectors on receivers like those from Hallicrafters.
After the war panoramic adaptors continued to be made by companies like Eddystone (Stratton and Company) and then Racal with spectrums visible on the CRT above the receiver covering maybe a 100 kHz and perhaps up to a 1 MHz band. The Eddystone products were perhaps the most interesting (though not the technically best) because, for example, the thirteen valve (tube) Eddystone 770R communications receiver (19 MHz to 165 MHz with a 5.2 MHz IF and huge image problems…) had an adaptor known as the EP17R. What is less known is that there was a version of the adaptor which never went into production which also had a time domain display and, intriguingly, a frequency vs time display which was intended to be used as a distortion measurement system. Eddystone disappeared into the Marconi Wireless Telegraph morass and both eventually went into history.
The Tektronix MDO4000 series is a modern version of that early work but I doubt anybody who worked on it at the company had any clue as to a past history of such an attempt to mix domains on a single display.
And Tek has done it in a superb fashion. This is, truly, a major jump in electronic display instrumentation technology and we hope that it will be recognized as such.
We don’t want to repeat the specifications from nearly twenty pages of the data sheet here – although it is well worth studying in some detail – but the salient points of the series are that there are four analog channels (with 500 MHz and 1 GHz models), sixteen digital channels, and one RF channel (from 50 kHz to 3 GHz, or 6 GHz, in a 1/2/5 sequence). The instrument provides time correlated acquisitions in analog, digital, and RF. The analog channels are sampled at either 2.5 Gsample/s or 5 Gsample/s on two of the channels and at 2.5 Gsample/s on the other two.
The instruments provide a full complement of connectivity and triggering, and there are many automated measurement modes; in RF these include channel power, ACPR and occupied bandwidth. Resolution bandwidth is also in a 1/2/5 sequence from 20 Hz to 10 MHz with reference levels from -140 dBm to +30 dBm in 5 dB steps. The vertical display can be shown in dB, dBmV, dBµV, dBµW, dBmA, or dBµA.
This is not a half-hearted effort to produce a compromise frequency/time instrument. It is a fully-featured double use piece of kit with twenty-six patents pending that will find an affectionate place on many a lab bench. In these days of tight budget crunching for capital equipment the MDO400 series (in the form of the MDO4054-3, MDO4104-3, MDO4054-6, and MDO4104-6) will be a wonderful reason for updating your oscilloscope with one that has all of the things that you wished for and can get today together with an exemplary spectrum analyzer that can look at exactly the same signals and their timing derivatives from an entirely different perspective. One can see long weekends being spent at the bench while new owners learn to get the very best out of this wonderfully productive gear. The world of VCO/PLL design and problem solving as well as the solution of EMI issues will never be the same again.
The MDO4000 series is in production with prices starting at $19,900.