Oscilloscope Basics

LeCroy oscilloscope WD2000Oscilloscopes have been invented in the 1920s. Up to now this instrument encountered many innovations.  In the beginning the most important manufacturers have been General Radio, DuMont, General Electric and Radio Corporation of America. Later Cossor and later Solartron dominated the market. Today the main players are Keysight, Tektronix and Teledyne LeCroy. Below we listed some important oscilloscope milestones.


Oscilloscope History


1897 Karl Ferdinand Braun built the first cathode ray tube (CRT) and the first CRT based oscilloscope for physical experiments.
1920s First cathode ray tubes (CRT) used for measurements.
1931 General Radio Company (later renamed to GenRad) develops one of the first oscilloscopes (Electron Oscillograph Type 535-A it was in two parts: tube and power supply).
1932 A.C.Cossor Ltd. (UK) developes its first oscilloscope.
1933 Rohde & Schwarz was founded by Lothar Rohde and Hermann Schwarz in Munich, Germany.
1934 General Radio Company (GenRad) introduces the first commercial one box cathode-ray oscilloscope (Type 687-A). Some years later the company developed the Type 770-A which was never sold. A few years later GR dropped the production of oscilloscopes.
1935 Hewlett-Packard was founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard near Palo Alto.
1938 First dual beam oscilloscope developed by A.C.Cossor in UK.
1939 DuMont introduces the DuMont 164 general purpose Oscillograph. In the 1940s DuMont was the leader in the oscilloscpe market.
1943 Allen DuMont invents frequency trigger and sweep, Model 224-A features 3 inch CRT, one channel and 2 MHz bandwidth.
1946 Tektronix was founded by Howard Vollum and Jack Murdock.
1947 Tektronix 511Tektronix introduces its first time base triggered oscilloscope (Model 511) featuring automatic triggering, calibrated readings and high accuracy.
1945 DuMont launches 248 featuring 5 MHz bandwidth and 5 inch CRT.
1954 Tektronix introduces the Model 535 which includes an own developed and produced CRT. This model was sold over 22 years.
1956 Tektronix introduces the Model 545 with 24 MHz bandwith, 2 channels and a modular plug-in concept.
1956 Hewlett-Packard (HP) presents its first oscilloscope, the HP 130A with 300 kHz bandwidth.
1957 Tektronix introduces time-delayed trigger.
1957 HAMEG was founded. First product is a 5 MHz one channel oscilloscope.
1959 Hewlett-Packard (HP) enters the European market with sales and support offices in Germany and Switzerland and a factory in Germany.
1960 HP185A oscilloscope
Hewlett-Packard (HP) invents the sampling technology. First product was launched in 1960, the HP 185A with a bandwidth of 500 MHz.
1961 Tektronix introduced Model 321, the first portable oscilloscope (6MHz, one channel, line and battery operation)
1962 Hewlett-Packard (HP) increased with the HP 185B the bandwith to 1000 MHz. This was the first GHz oscilloscope.

Tektronix introduces the Model 564 the first storage oscilloscope and the high performance Model 547.


LeCroy was founded by Walter LeCroy.


Tektronix introduces the Series 400 of portable oscilloscopes and the Model 647 a fully transistorized und ruggedized military version of the Model 547.


Hewlett-Packard (HP) introduces the Series 180, a complete family of oscilloscopes with a choice of mainframes, display sizes, plug-ins and accessories.


Tektronix lauchned the completely redesigned Serie 7000 (e.g. Model 7704 with a bandwidth of 150 MHz).


HP 1201A oscilloscope
Hewlett-Packard (HP) introduces the HP 1200A an all solid-state oscilloscope with 500 kHz bandwidth.


Hiro Moriyasu (Tektronix) invents the digital oscilloscope.

1971 LeCroy WD2000 oscilloscope

LeCroy built the first real-time digital oscilloscope (WD 2000).
Memory depth: 20 samples, sampling rate: 1 ns.

1980? Digital storage oscilloscope invented by Nicolet Test Instrument (1 MHz bandwidth).
1982 Hewlett-Packard introduced the first full digital and microprocessor-based oscilloscopes, the HP 1980A/B with two 100 MHz channels. It was also programmable over the HP-IP bus.
1983 Hewlett-Packard launched its last analog oscilloscopes, the HP 1745A (extra large screen) and the HP 1746A.
1985 LeCroy presented the high speed digital storage oscilloscope Model 9400 (dual 165 MHz, 8 bit). It used a large standard TV CRT with magnetic deflection which shows both the input signal and a computed Fourier spectrum including grid, characters and traces.
1980s First digital sampling oscilloscopes appeared.


Hewlett-Packard introduced a digitizing oscilloscope with 500 MHz bandwidth (HP 54xxx)
1991 Pico Technology ADC-10 PC based oscilloscopePico Technology was founded and introduced first PC-based oscilloscope named ADC-10 and pioneered also digital triggering. The ADC-10 featured one channel with 10 kS/s sample rate and was connected via parallel port to a PC.
1991 LeCroy introduced a hi-resolution oscilloscope with 10 bit vertical resolution and 100 MHz bandwidth
1992 Hewlett-Packard introduced the HP 54600A. For the first time a digital 100 MHz oscilloscope was available for the same price as a 100 MHz analog oscilloscope. The HP 54600A was also the first oscilloscope featuring a FFT analysis (Fast Fourier Transfor) to perfom a frequency domain analysis.
1992 Pico Technology launched the first (PC-based) oscilloscope with 12 bit resolution (ADC-12 with parallel port PC interface).
1993 LeCroy introduced the first PC-based digital oscilloscope.
1996 Agilent 54645D oscilloscope Hewlett-Packard introduces the first mixed-signal oscilloscope (MSO) with two 100 MHz analog channels and 8 or 16 digital logic channels - the HP 54645.
1997 CRT display was more and more replaced by LCD. Tektronix launched the TDS210 with 60MHz bandwidth and backlit monochrome 4,7" LCD (320 x 240 px).
1998 Tektronix invented the digital phosphor oscilloscope (DPO).
1998 HP 54845A oscilloscope Hewlett-Packard introduced the first members of the Series HP 54800 Infinium oscilloscopes with 5 models featuring a bandwidth of 500 MHz to 1.5 GHz and sample rates of up to 8 GS/s. This was the first Windows based oscilloscope.
1999 Agilent Technologies created by a spin-off of all non-computing products from Hewlett-Packard.
2002 Siglent was founded in Shenzen (China).
2005 Rohde & Schwarz acquired HAMEG.
2006 Pico 5000With the PicoScope 5000 Series Pico Technology released the first USB-connected oscilloscope with 1GS/s realtime sample rate and 250 MHz bandwith.
2007 Tektronix acquired by Danaher Corporation.
2009 Tektronix introduces the MSO70000 mixed-signal oscilloscope with up 4 analog channels with up to 20 GHz bandwith and 50 GS/s and 16 digital channels.
2009 LeCroy developed the Wavemaster 8Zi with 20 GHz bandwidth and 40 GS/s.
2010 LeCroy introduces first oscilloscope with 45 GHz bandwidth and 120 GS/s sample rate (WaveMaster 8Zi-A).
2010 Tektronix announced the DPO/DSA/MSO70000C Series of digital and mixed signal oscilloscopes reaching a 100 GS/s sampling rate.
2010 Rohde & Schwarz RTM RTO oscilloscopesRohde & Schwarz enters the oscilloscope market with two families R&S RTO with up to 2 GHz bandwidth and R&S RTM with up to 500 MHz bandwidth.
2011 Rigol Technologies entered European market.
2011 Tektronix mdo4000 oscilloscope Tektronix introduced the Series MDO4000 mixed domain oscilloscopes (MDO) a combination of oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer.
2011 LeCroy introduced the first oscilloscope with 65 GHz bandwidth the LabMaster 10Zi. Up to 20 acquisition channels with 65 GHz bandwidth could be synchronized.
2011 Teledyne LeCroy oscilloscope HDO4000LeCroy launched the first oscilloscopes with 12 bit vertical resolution of the ADCs and sample rate 2.5 GS/s the Series HDO4000 and HDO6000 offering 16 times more vertical resolution than traditional oscilloscopes.
2012 Teledyne acquired LeCroy. New name is Teledyne LeCroy.
2012 Yokogawa presented the first mixed-signal oscilloscope with 8 analog channels (DLM4000).
2013 Pico Technology USB oscilloscopePico Technology launched the first oscilloscope with flexible resolution from 8 to 16 bits. (PicoScope 5000).
2013 Teledyne LeCroy demonstrates the first 100 GHz realtime oscilloscope.
2013 Pico Technology released the first USB 3.0 oscilloscope.
2014 Yokogawa oscilloscope and power analyzer PX8000Yokogawa introduced the first combination of oscilloscope and power analyzer the PX8000.
2014 Tektronix 6-in-1 oscilloscope
Tektronix introduced the first 6-in-1 oscilloscope including a digital multimeter, arbitrary signal generator, spectrum analyser, logic analyser, and protocol analyser, the MDO3000 Series.
2014 Agilent split into two companies and test & measurement branch renamed to Keysight Technologies.
2014 Teledyne LeCroy LabMaster 100GHz oscilloscopeTeledyne LeCroy: the first 100 GHz realtime oscilloscope (already demonstrated in 2013) with 240 GS/s is commercial available: the LabMaster 10-100Zi.
2015 Tektronix launched a compact 70GHz oscilloscope with 200 GS/s sample rate (DPO70000SX).
2016 Rohde & Schwarz enters handheld oscilloscope market with R&S Scope Rider combining 5 instruments.
2017 Tektronix introduced FlexChannel technology in 5 Series oscilloscopes. Each channel can be used either as analog or as 8 digital channels.



This information has been compiled from many sources. We would like to highlight at least some of them:

Green Trace - This site shows a private collection of vintage CRT oscilloscopes.

hp Memory Project - Also a private site documenting the first sixty years of Hewlett-Packard between 1939 and 1999.

Hewlett-Packard Archiv - Private collection of HP documents.

Oscilloscope Museum - Private collection of vintage CRT oscilloscope, mostly European instruments.

Richard Sears, Vintage Electronics - Private collection of historic test & measurement instruments.

The Museum of Tek Scopes - Private museum of vintage Tektronix oscilloscopes.

Wikipedia - General information about oscilloscopes in the free encyclopedia.

Wikipedia - Oscilloscope history in the free encyclopedia.


We are still working on this oscilloscope milestones. So if you know more details, please send us an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.