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Oscillators are mechanical or electronic devices that work according to the principle of oscillation: periodic fluctuations between two objects based on changes in energy. Computers, clocks, watches, radios, and metal detectors are among the many devices that use oscillators.

The pendulum is a simple mechanical oscillator. The most accurate clock in the world is the atomic clock, which keeps time based on the oscillations inside the atom. Electronic oscillators are used to generate signals in computers, wireless receivers and transmitters, and audio equipment (especially music synthesizers). There are many types of electronic oscillators, but they all work according to the same basic principle: the oscillator always uses a sensitive amplifier whose output is fed back to the input in phase. Therefore, the signal will regenerate and sustain itself. This is called positive feedback. This is the same process and sometimes leads to unnecessary “howls” in the public address system.

Oscillator

The operating frequency of the oscillator is usually determined by the quartz crystal. When a direct current is applied to this crystal, its vibration frequency depends on its thickness and the way it is cut from the original mineral rock. Some oscillators use a combination of inductors, resistors, and/or capacitors to determine the frequency. However, the best stability (frequency constancy) is obtained in an oscillator using a quartz crystal.

In computers, a dedicated oscillator called a clock acts as a pacemaker for the microprocessor. The clock frequency (or clock speed) is usually measured in megahertz (MHz) and is an important factor in determining the speed at which a computer executes instructions.

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