If there’s anything I learned in college, then it is this: you cannot solve a circuit related problem without having the proper debugging tools to do so. There were numerous times in which I could not solve any problems in my circuit because I could not properly see a waveform, or could not measure the current correctly. Then in my last semester of senior year, one of my professors gave to me Digilent’s Analog Discovery for free (I got a lot of free stuff during college). After obtaining that piece of engineering beauty from my professor, I instantly fell in love with the device.
What is the Analog Discovery?
The Analog Discovery is a USB multitool to properly debug or power your circuit. This little device has an oscilloscope, function generator, DC power supply, digital outputs, and logic analyzer in one package. All you need to use the device is a computer with a good ole’ USB connection. So what tools are available? I’ll talk about the tools I used on the Analog Discovery thus far.
1) Oscilloscope: You will find yourself working with signals that will not always output a simple square pulse. Sometimes, you’ll work with sinusoidal, triangular, and even sawtooth waveforms. To make sure the circuit is outputing the correct waveform, you need to see it. This is where an oscilloscope comes in. Although I saw waveforms moving at 1KHZ (as seen in my implementing PWM on PIC18F tutorial), the fastest signal you can see on the scope is 5MHZ.
2) Multimeter: Although most electrical engineers should have at least a multimeter in their possession, the Analog Discovery includes a multimeter as well! Although the device claims it can measure up to 20V, I usually play it safe and measure up to 5V.
How do you use it?
Although I mentioned you need a USB micro cable, you also need to download Waveforms from Digilent’s website. Underneath the Analog Discovery is a bunch of wires. Based on what tool you want to use, you’ll need to use a specified wire. For example, if I wanted to use the tool’s oscilloscope, you need to connect Analog Discovery’s 1+ to your signal, and 1- to ground. Finally, if I wanted to use the 5V DC power supply, then I’ll connect my devices requiring 5V to V+ and my devices requiring ground to V-. If you want a more concrete look at Analog Discovery’s pinout diagram, then look at the picture below, which can also be found on Digilent’s website.
What’s The Bad News?
Unfortunately, I cannot say the device is free. Although I got this device for free……this device is quite expensive. Without a student discount, the Analog Discovery costs $200, which is enough to get you a really good oscilloscope, function generator, or logic analyzer for that price.If for you are a college student, then you can get a 50% student discount, which will make the Analog Discovery cost $100.
In my opinion, if you have $200 laying around, I rather get standard EE equipment. However, if you move alot, and do not want to carry EE equipment with you where you go, then buy the Analog Discovery. You buy the Analog Discovery from Digilent’s website.