In the well known science fiction film 2001 A Space Odyssey there is a scene in which Bowman and Poole are trying to locate the fault in the AE-35 unit. If memory serves, they use a tool which allows for probing the circuit board and seeing on a monitor in real time some paths in the circuit light up and flash, as well as other information about the circuit's operation. This leads them to conclude there is no fault. My question is whether such a tool now exists in the real world, and if so which companies manufacture it. I have tried various online searches but so far I can't find the answer, so I hope the experts on this forum can answer. This is my first post, and I thank anyone who takes the time to answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ‘I’m sorry Dave, we don’t have that!’ \$\endgroup\$
    – Kartman
    Sep 27 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is known as an encabulator. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 2:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably as close as you'd get would be a Digital Signature Analyzer. Made by folks like Fluke, HP etc. Worked well for TTL logic but not useful for todays MCU controlled functionality. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 2:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MathKeepsMeBusy: Turbo-, retro-, or micro-? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 12:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelSeifert mini- they didn't have micros back in 2001 \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 13:06

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The movie the tool is a visual prop to help the audience understand that they were analyzing a circuit. It has elements of real devices like continuity meters and board schematic view tools, but is not a real instrument.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is getting close. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 5:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very interesting. \$\endgroup\$
    – user296683
    Sep 27 at 6:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey I found the problem: they forgot to solder components on that orange PCB! :) No wonder HAL is acting up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Sep 27 at 6:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ It looks to me like a combination of a logic probe and a schematic. A very simple version of this is something I wish I had when debugging a failed board. That is, ask it to highlight a specific path based on the schematic that it already has, not the board. I can then touch the other probe to any part that it shows lit up and check for connectivity. I eventually turned up a faulty noise reducing inductor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joshua
    Sep 27 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joshua Sounds like a boardview? I usually make those for any circuits I design, since it makes troubleshooting easier. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 at 20:44

There is no tool quite like that. The closest thing is a TDR (time domain reflectometer). This tool sends a voltage pulse down a conductor and by measuring reflections can provide many insights. For example if there was a broken trace on a circuit board, or a component is blown up, you can see that.

It may be possible to probe a good circuit with a TDR to capture known good signatures and then look at a failing circuit for differences.

It's a stretch to liken it too much to that scene but it's somewhat reminiscent.


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