Oscillators certainly don’t jump out at the average layperson as a regular part of their everyday lives, but you might be surprised: oscillators are everywhere and are a significant piece of technology. Crystal oscillators provide key feats of engineering that help to operate electronic devices everywhere. If you look at your desk right now and you see a cell phone in front of you, there’s most certainly an oscillator at work. If you’re reading this from a laptop, oscillators are found there, too.
In particular, the quartz crystal oscillator is a ubiquitous part of our lives, because its uses are so practical and necessary in today’s technologically-driven society. However, if you read on for our list of how they’re used, you’ll find that one of the first uses of the quartz crystal oscillator was developed long before the cellphone or the computer as we know it today.
Crystal Oscillators in Watches
Many people may think that the word “quartz” written on the face of a watch has something to do with the watch band or the materials in the face itself. However, a bit more investigation reveals that quartz refers to the kind of crystal used in the oscillator that enables the watch to tell time accurately.
Quartz was discovered to be the most effective, efficient, and protective of various crystals considered for timing devices because of the stability of its frequency, low cost, and durability. These factors distinguished it from other crystals, such as Rochelle salt and tourmaline. Where Rochelle salt was fragile, quartz was stronger. Where tourmaline was strong and expensive, quartz offered similar strength, but a better price. Besides these far more important characteristics, Rochelle salt and Tourmaline just don’t have the same ring to them when advertising a Seiko watch.
Crystal Oscillators in Computers
A similar timing element is necessary for a computer, and not only for the clock on its operating system. In a computer, the timing element is also necessary for logging particular protocols on the computer in real time.
Additionally, graphic and sound cards use crystal oscillators in a computer system because pixels need to be generated at a particular rate per second, and sound needs to meet certain frequency requirements for complete, high-resolution sound. Without crystal oscillators, there’s not much that a personal computer can do.
Crystal Oscillators in Bluetooth Technology
Bluetooth technology also uses crystal oscillators for its performance. It may not seem like it, but Bluetooth technology is now well over 20 years old, and crystal oscillators have used their frequency-generating technology for their pairing with other devices. Crystal oscillators create a strong frequency so the Bluetooth tech can connect to a nearby device.
Industry leaders in crystal oscillator technology have developed careful, precise technology that has attracted Bluetooth as a client. In fact, there are superior engineering teams that can provide all of the components necessary for the operation of Bluetooth technology simply and efficiently, given the vast demand for technology with this kind of connective capability.
Amendments to Crystal Oscillators
One amendment to the crystal oscillator that has changed its use cases is TCXO, which is an acronym for temperature compensated crystal oscillator. In the case of a product such as a cell phone where a crystal oscillator’s exposure to temperature variation will affect its frequency (keep in mind that a cell phone can be carried anywhere) engineers have discovered a way to adjust for those changes. This represents a perceptive step forward in how crystal oscillators can be used, even as conditions and requirements for our technology change.
Engineers have continued to build on the capabilities of more traditional oscillators, and the results have blown open what we think is possible for how this tool can be used in manufacturing.
Future Use Cases for Oscillators
Additionally, as telecommunications technology has changed, so has a level of purity and precision in relation to frequency as well as phase noise, which refers to how much disruptive noise is generated from the vibrations of the oscillator.
However, even as scientists and engineers experiment with various oscillation techniques, it is important to recognize how crystal oscillators, and their longevity as part of our technology, have paved the way for these amendments and outright innovations.
While other forms of oscillators may find their way into a larger role regarding how everyday tech items function, it is important to credit the crystal oscillator’s development and usage as an vital, consistent, and solid base upon which these innovations can be built.