The three types of multivibrator circuits are:
Multivibrators find applications in a variety of systems where square waves or timed intervals are required. For example, before the advent of low-cost integrated circuits, chains of multivibrators found use as frequency dividers. A free-running multivibrator with a frequency of one-half to one-tenth of the reference frequency would accurately lock to the reference frequency. This technique was used in early electronic organs, to keep notes of different octaves accurately in tune. Other applications included early television systems, where the various line and frame frequencies were kept synchronized by pulses included in the video signal.
The first multivibrator circuit, the classic astable multivibrator oscillator (also called a plate-coupled multivibrator) was first described by Henri Abraham and Eugene Bloch in Publication 27 of the French Ministère de la Guerre, and in Annales de Physique 12, 252 (1919). Since it produced a square wave, in contrast to the sine wave generated by most other oscillator circuits of the time, its output contained many harmonics above the fundamental frequency, which could be used for calibrating high frequency radio circuits. For this reason Abraham and Bloch called it a multivibrateur. It is a predecessor of the Eccles-Jordan trigger which was derived from the circuit a year later.
Historically, the terminology of multivibrators has been somewhat variable:
An astable multivibrator consists of two amplifying stages connected in a positive feedback loop by two capacitive-resistive coupling networks.[not in citation given] The amplifying elements may be junction or field-effect transistors, vacuum tubes, operational amplifiers, or other types of amplifier. Figure 1, below right, shows bipolar junction transistors.
The circuit is usually drawn in a symmetric form as a cross-coupled pair. The two output terminals can be defined at the active devices and have complementary states. One has high voltage while the other has low voltage, except during the brief transitions from one state to the other.
The circuit has two astable (unstable) states that change alternatively with maximum transition rate because of the "accelerating" positive feedback. It is implemented by the coupling capacitors that instantly transfer voltage changes because the voltage across a capacitor cannot suddenly change. In each state, one transistor is switched on and the other is switched off. Accordingly, one fully charged capacitor discharges (reverse charges) slowly thus converting the time into an exponentially changing voltage. At the same time, the other empty capacitor quickly charges thus restoring its charge (the first capacitor acts as a time-setting capacitor and the second prepares to play this role in the next state). The circuit operation is based on the fact that the forward-biased base-emitter junction of the switched-on bipolar transistor can provide a path for the capacitor restoration.