That’s A Lotta Scope!

By admin, March 22, 2015

“New” Hewlett-Packard 500MHz DSO added to tool arsenal

I recently decided to upgrade my oscilloscope ability and thus purchased a Hewlett-Packard 54540A Digital Storage Oscilloscope (DSO). While vintage, it is actually amazing hardware, and there’s a bit of a tale behind it…

This scope offers:

  • 4 channels
  • 500 MHz bandwidth
  • 2 Gs/s (2 billion samples per second)
  • Advanced triggering including state and glitch detect

Remember when HP was the name to go to for quality test equipment? That was before they started suffering from “name stupidity” and took on a name nobody can remember (now Keysight).

I purchased the scope from Bill at Watronics, one of the original development engineers for HP scopes in Colorado. He reconditions these scopes in his retirement. Unfortunately my scope was involved in a disaster involving FedEx and the US Postal Service, who managed to lose it for 10 days among ice storms and failing jetliners. He was ready to send me another at his expense and I highly recommend him as a good guy.

Bill says this scope originally sold for about $15,000, which fits with my recollections. I know management wouldn’t buy me tools like this when they were new!

SPI transfer in progress

SPI transfer in progress

The waveforms above illustrate a serial communications transfer (using SPI) where a microcontroller clocks a command to a Maxim sigma-delta ADC and reads back a 24-bit conversion result. The scope is just a dream for my development work and I’m really happy to have a Motorola 68000 powered device back in regular use!

Incidentally, Motorola Semiconductor is another one of those companies that suffered from “name stupidity”, isn’t it? They are now “Freescale“–barf!–but they still offer 68k products.