When using high performance oscilloscopes, it is recommended to always operate with a wrist band connecting with ground through 1MOhm.

So my understanding for that is the oscilloscopes are designed with ESD protection, however not strong enough to protect it from any ESD.

Then why we do not need to wear wrist bands when using an iphone?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nobody ever told me to wear a wrist band when using a 'scope. Where did you hear this? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 10:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/107719/… \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 10:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What's the difference between an iPhone and an oscilloscope? (That feels like it should have a punchline - but really they are very different things!) \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Nov 5, 2015 at 10:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nothing is "strong enough to protect it from any ESD" (think lightning and what not). Ok, maybe a neutron star (or a black hole) is. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fizz
    Nov 5, 2015 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


ESD protection devices always have nonideal characteristics. When you're thinking about protecting an oscilloscope input, the relevant ones are leakage current and parasitic capacitance. If you're working with, say, a 1GHz scope, it only takes a very little bit of parasitic capacitance to significantly degrade the input signal, so oscilloscopes have to use low-capacitance ESD protection, and as little of it as they can get away with. That's likely to make such an input significantly more sensitive than something with lesser requirements on its inputs, such as a USB or charge connector on a phone.


In practice if you work with an oscilloscope only you don't need a wrist band against ESD. The most sensitive points on an oscilloscope are it's inputs and they can handle 300V even on my cheap Rigol scope. That is 300 V continous so DC. ESD is a pulse, it contains far less energy.

Things become different when you use a FET probe with your oscilloscope. These FET probes are as ESD sensitive as any pin on an IC. But it's the FET in the probe tip that is sensitive, not the oscilloscope itself.

Devices that ARE sensitive to ESD are ICs and transistors. So if you use a scope to measure signals on these then you need ESD protection but that is not for the scope's sake but for these components !

In an (i)phone you do not interact directly with an IC or a transistor's pins. The housing of the phone isolates you from these. The contacts that are accesable like the charger input and the headphone socket are protected against ESD in a way similar to how an oscilloscope input is protected.

BTW all ICs have at least basic ESD protection build-in, without it they would be impossible to work with. However this protection only protects against ESD up to a certain level. Under bad circumstances this protection might not be enough. That is why an ESD wrist band is needed, it keep the amount of ESD in the safe region so that ICs are not damaged.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "The most sensitive points on an oscilloscope are it's inputs and they can handle 300V". You seem to imply 300V is higher than ESDs, whereas ESDs easily reach 10000 or 20000V. I'd suggest rephrasing to avoid confusing some people. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 10:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That is 300V continously while ESD is a pulse which contains far less energy. I have yet to see a device that can handle 300 V DC while being damaged by a 20000 V ESD pulse. 20kV is also a bit much, the highest level of on-chip ESD protection is 5 kV or so. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 10:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The highest level of on-chip ESD protection is 5kV or so" - that's not because ESD events don't exceed 5kV, it's because on-chip ESD protection is only intended to protect ICs during the manufacturing process, not in end-user products. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 11:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I never said ESD events never exceed 5 kV. But in practice 5 kV appears to be enough. ESD can go up to any voltage. You cannot protect against ANY ESD voltage level so a choice has to be made. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 11:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your comments are pretty much what I thought should be mentioned, all good (+1)! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2015 at 11:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.