Browse Definitions :
Definition

oscillator

An oscillator is a mechanical or electronic device that works on the principles of oscillation: a periodic fluctuation between two things based on changes in energy. Computers, clocks, watches, radios, and metal detectors are among the many devices that use oscillators.

A clock pendulum is a simple type of mechanical oscillator. The most accurate timepiece in the world, the atomic clock, keeps time according to the oscillation within atoms. Electronic oscillators are used to generate signals in computers, wireless receivers and transmitters, and audio-frequency equipment, particularly music synthesizers. There are many types of electronic oscillators, but they all operate according to the same basic principle: an oscillator always employs a sensitive amplifier whose output is fed back to the input in phase. Thus, the signal regenerates and sustains itself. This is known as positive feedback. It is the same process that sometimes causes unwanted "howling" in public-address systems.

The frequency at which an oscillator works is usually determined by a quartz crystal. When a direct current is applied to such a crystal, it vibrates at a frequency that depends on its thickness, and on the manner in which it is cut from the original mineral rock. Some oscillators employ combinations of inductors, resistors, and/or capacitors to determine the frequency. However, the best stability (constancy of frequency) is obtained in oscillators that use quartz crystals.

In a computer, a specialized oscillator, called the clock, serves as a sort of pacemaker for the microprocessor. The clock frequency (or clock speed) is usually specified in megahertz (MHz), and is an important factor in determining the rate at which a computer can perform instructions.

This was last updated in September 2005

Continue Reading About oscillator

SearchCompliance

  • information governance

    Information governance is a holistic approach to managing corporate information by implementing processes, roles, controls and ...

  • enterprise document management (EDM)

    Enterprise document management (EDM) is a strategy for overseeing an organization's paper and electronic documents so they can be...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

SearchSecurity

  • cyber espionage

    Cyber espionage, also called cyber spying, is a form of cyber attack that is carried out against a competitive company or ...

  • virus (computer virus)

    A computer virus is malicious code that replicates by copying itself to another program, computer boot sector or document and ...

  • honeypot (computing)

    A honeypot is a network-attached system set up as a decoy to lure cyber attackers and detect, deflect and study hacking attempts ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • risk mitigation

    Risk mitigation is a strategy to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by a business.

  • call tree

    A call tree is a layered hierarchical communication model that is used to notify specific individuals of an event and coordinate ...

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

    Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third party to provide ...

SearchStorage

  • cloud storage

    Cloud storage is a service model in which data is transmitted and stored on remote storage systems, where it is maintained, ...

  • cloud testing

    Cloud testing is the process of using the cloud computing resources of a third-party service provider to test software ...

  • storage virtualization

    Storage virtualization is the pooling of physical storage from multiple storage devices into what appears to be a single storage ...

Close