I've been around this forum for a while, and I've seen many posts and questions on old HP 5XXXX and Agilent 5XXXX model scopes. Some even mentioned that they just bought it recently from someone else.
I just wanted to know what's so special about these old scopes? Wouldn't it be better economically, as well as technically, to purchase a newer model like the 2000X and 3000X? They are relatively affordable, reliable, and comes with tonnes of software features that they have accumulated over the years.
By googling around, I did learn that there are some benefits in using Analog scopes, as opposed to the newer Digital scopes. So, ok, that's one benefit. Any others?
I just wanted to learn more on scopes, that's all.
I agree, I'm happy with my DSOX3024. I was tired of buying old scopes only to have them fail a few months or a year later. New digital storage scopes are warranted, calibrated and are loaded with features that older ones don't have. Not to mention the older ones are Stone Age technology. I still have an old Tektronics 475 that barely works but because it has a ch2 output on the back, I use it as a preamp for my HP frequency counter.
I just bought an HP 54601A on ebay marked non-working. Like, it arrived this past friday in the mail.
There was several reasons I did this:
1) I'm a hobbyist. My day job is all software. While I'd love to have a new 2000x or even a DSO1012A, I just can't afford to spend $1500 on it. The 54601A cost me $230 (because it has the display problem mentioned here. I also discovered that channel 3 is broken once I fixed it.)
2) The circuits I've been playing with are driven by a 16Mhz microcontroller, so a 100Mhz scope is perfect.
3) In college, I used a HP 54xxx scope (forgot the exact one, but it looks almost the same, probably higher bandwidth), so there is a familiarity as well as nostalgia.
4) When I was in elementary school, my dad used to work for HP Labs and would periodically bring home an older scope for me to play with. (as in hook up a microphone to the probe and say stuff into it) So it just seemed appropriate to eventually own an HP scope.
5) I bought it broken because it saves me money, and I like fixing stuff for fun.
If somebody were to offer me a 2000x for $600, I'd drive over, pay for it in cash, and cherish it forever. But I'd feel that might be a bit unrealistic
The new scopes are vastly superior in almost every hardware and software specification.
There's a huge community that requires basic functionality and has cost constraints. As others have mentioned, hobbyists is a significant type. However, in my interactions found many small companies that need test & measurement tools but have limited financial resources. Many of my customers would like the newest features but they can't justify.
The 2000X/3000X series scopes have actually helped the used scope market buyer. The price/performance has been greatly improved -- which lowers the price of used equipment in comparison.
Think the best analogy is automobiles. The newest cars are usually much better than ones from 5 years ago; however, there's a huge business in used cars. In these huge markets there's sub-markets created. I usually buy used cars -- but just bought a new car because wanted some of the new features (hands-free phone, bluetooth connection for iPhone audio, integrated GPS) -- and also figured I deserved it! :-P
I don't have up-to-date information, but few years ago was told that used T&M was about $2B/year (believe new equipment is about $10B/year).
Yes, it´s a matter of cost or better, price/performance.
Using the same analogy of used cars, you can buy a Mercedes with lots of quality details for the price (or less) of a standard new vehicle. It´s true that the new car have a lot of improvements, but in some cases the Mercedes have a better engine, more stable and safety design and perhaps feels not so crapy than the new standard one.
If the Mercedes it´s very old it´s not true at all that have any special or remarkable spect that tooks in better option, but with few years it´s true. For example you can buy a Tektronix TLS 216 WORKING (but without probes) for $700 in ebay or $1800 calibrated NIST and included the FET probes.
Can you buy a 16 channel 500Mhz mixedsignal analog and logic oscilloscope at 2Gsamples for less than $2000?
And by the way, with these oscilloscopes we where tested sophisticated devices by far more complex that we need to test today.
But it´s true, you have an old equipment (with hidden problems probably) and without support, some laboratories have the budget and didn´t like the possible problems.
I use new equipment and old equipment at my work, both work perfect, in some cases old equipment it´s less noisy but new equipment have the things that we use every day, like save the data to a flash memory (for example). In old equipment GPIB it´s the only answer and the interface cost more than a new oscilloscope. For my home I search for a reliable good old oscilloscope for months, but the lack of a original warranty discourage me. Sometimes, I think that an excellent old oscilloscope had be a better option, sometimes I think that take the right option.
I went the ebay route and was tired of replacing Tek scopes every 2 years. Old scopes have controls and switches that wear out and some proprietary semiconductors are now obsolete. The calibration was way off and filter caps dry out. To many things were going wrong and I spent more time on the bench repairing my own equipment. I didn't think that the TLS216 is an analog scope. That's probably why it's so cheap. The TDS series scopes on eBay cost about $1000 but the screen is smaller and the resolution isn't as good.
I'm one of the guys with a small business that found the DSOX series scopes to be affordable. I didn't mind investing $5K in a good scope. With all of the features like DVM and measurement capabilities, it saves time on the bench and I don't have to worrie about equipment failure.
Yes, I understand and decide in the same way to my home/hobby oscilloscope, BUT, some hobyst use the oscilloscope one or two hours a week, the old Tek have at least three or four years of this use and cost several times less than the equivalent equipment.
For example. Lot of microcontroller programmers need a Logic analyzer capable of decode I2C, USART and perhaps CAN and LIN, but NOT NEED decode/certify PCI, USB3 or ethernet. All of the modern stand alone logic analyzer from Agilent or big brands cost too much money for the ocassional user because they are capable of high speed analysis and if somebody needs basic protocols analysis buy a small PC integrated gizmo or an old Logic Analyzer from the age where I2C was a fast serial protocol . These devices are by far more stable and precise that a logic analyzer that looks like a small china toy and have a plenty of years of use for the normal microcontroller programmer.
By the way, I ask several times this to Agilent representatives, but if Agilent or Tek implements in the low cost oscilloscopes digital decoding or analysis of signals in their 2 or 4 channels standard oscilloscopes, they would have a big improvement in sellings and brand publicity! Most of the serial communications in modern electronics are two or three lines and the possibility of decode a I2C channel with a oscilloscope without need to buy a 16 channel logic analyzers would be a strong sell feature for the entry level or student oscilloscopes.
All of the necessary stuff it´s present in the most simplest oscilloscope and it´s only a question of more software do the analysis.
Until this happens, some old mixed signal oscilloscope would be even more expensive in ebay that modern and new oscilloscopes. That it´s the case of 5462X mixed signal that cost more than recent Agilent entry level oscilloscopes like mine.