Glossary Definition for Oscillator

Glossary Term: Oscillator 

Definition

What is an Oscillator?

An electronic oscillator circuit generates an electrical signal which varies periodically in amplitude (voltage) over time such as a sine wave, square-wave, or triangle wave (Figure 1). While some electronic oscillator circuits produce a signal of a fixed amplitude and frequency, in many oscillator circuits the amplitude can be increased or decreased (within design parameters) as required and the frequency of the signal can be varied (tuned). A signal generator is an example of an electronic oscillator (Figure 1).

 oscillator signal generator

Figure 1. Signal Generator

How can you see a signal from an Oscillator?

The signal produced by an electronic oscillator can be viewed using a piece of equipment called an oscilloscope, which displays the signal on a screen where the y-axis represents voltage and the x-axis represents time.

oscilloscope oscillator

Figure 2. Oscilloscope

The length of time that elapses before a signal begins to repeat is called the wavelength (λ) and this is the inverse of its frequency (F). The relationship between frequency and wavelength is as follows:

F = 1/λ

 

What do the terms “Amplitude” and “Wavelength” mean?

The difference between the maximum displacement and average of a signal is called the amplitude or peak voltage (Vpk).

Most modern oscilloscopes can be programmed to automatically show the voltage and frequency of the displayed signal.

 

Learn More

Silicon and Crystal Oscillators


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