Chasing Electrons


The modern world is buzzing with electrical equipment of all kinds. Gadgets and gizmos for every imaginable task are usually within arm’s reach and almost all of them include a plug or a battery or both. The common, yet somewhat mysterious force of electrical current pervades daily life. Common, because it is right there at your nearest wall plug and mysterious because without electrical testing equipment it is mostly invisible.

While the different tasks all these electrical items perform are convenient, things still break and stop working. Worse still, no amount of button pushing, tapping or yelling seems to fix them. Thankfully, electronics technicians and electricians are very handy at repairing the televisions, ceiling fans and toaster ovens. These well-trained repairmen use specialized equipment to diagnose and make repairs on extremely complex pieces of equipment. Three pieces of equipment used by electricity experts are multimeters, amp meters, and oscilloscopes.


As the name implies, this device measures several things. Multimeters measure voltage, current and resistance among other variables. Normally, the meter includes two probes or leads that can be placed in contact with live circuits. The digital display provides a numeric representation of the quantity of interest.

Amp Meters

Early experimenters discovered that electrical current flows along the path of least resistance like water flowing downhill. Electrons follow this path in whatever direction offers the least resistance. Just like a flow meter can measure how much water is flowing through a pipe, an amp meter measures how much electricity is flowing in a wire. Usually, amp meters have a clamp probe that goes around the wire. The clamp is a cleverly disguised transformer that measures the current without even having to touch the actual wire.


This complex-looking contraption is a tool that provides technicians with a visual representation of the electrical signals while they are changing. The screen has a grid of vertical and horizontal markings allowing measurements of the amplitude and shape of the target signals as well as how quickly they are changing.

The modern marvel of electricity drives much of today’s commerce and makes life a lot less labor-intensive. Occasionally though, microwave ovens stop working and must be repaired. Luckily, a well trained and equipped technician can quickly diagnose and fix almost anything.