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We present a detailed description of an experimental setup for alternating current scanning tunneling microscopy, in which two slightly detuned high frequency signals are mixed at the tunneling junction and the resulting difference frequency signal is amplified using conventional scanning tunneling microscope electronics. This signal is used to control the distance between the microscope tip and the sample. With graphite as a model surface atomic resolution images have been obtained. It is demonstrated that the origin of the generated signal on graphite is the nonlinearity of the static current–voltage characteristics. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.