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The 80's electronics components - today's Lego!

MindPrison (864299) writes | more than 6 years ago

User Journal 10

I just love electronics, even if it's not what I do at work for a living. The eighties brought many inventions into our lives such as the personal PC that actually BECAME PERSONAL in the 80's, yes got your Altair before the 80s, but it wasnt quite the same.

Did you notice the components inside technology of the 80s? I sure did - so much so in fact that I bought my first Pilips Electronic Engineer kit (EE2003) back then when I was 12 - and got hooked on electronics ever since.I just love electronics, even if it's not what I do at work for a living. The eighties brought many inventions into our lives such as the personal PC that actually BECAME PERSONAL in the 80's, yes got your Altair before the 80s, but it wasnt quite the same.

Did you notice the components inside technology of the 80s? I sure did - so much so in fact that I bought my first Pilips Electronic Engineer kit (EE2003) back then when I was 12 - and got hooked on electronics ever since.

Today most electronic hobbyist exist in a chip-world of programming Fpgas and Pics and have hardly touch an soldering iron ever, not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that at all - hey...I even envy those very capable fpga designers that can do so many things I cant even comprehend - all power to you. The point I am trying to make is that the 80s gave us all some building bricks that lay down the ground rules for it all - and - can still be used to make some amazing discoveries, pretty much like students who use LEGO bricks to come up with new robotics-design and to solve issues that really needs a "hands-on" touch in order to become a reality, in other words - get our hands dirty.

Ive stored up a HUGE ( least to me...rather large) collection of 80s electronics components, transistors, resistors, diodes, capacitors, electrolytes, TTL-logic chips, microprocessors, eproms...oh...and I could go on and on.

The point is - this is just like LEGO for grown-ups of all ages, anything I have on my mind I can put into a construction with these easily manageable components. Sure - I could use SMD/SMT components - but that just isnt an option when age is hitting you and your hands are shaking, and besides - even for the younger ones these components are so manageable that tech-schools still prefer to use these components for prototyping before finally sending in the schematic to be printed out as an SMD-PCB.

I do know that many schools also use software emulation to simulate what the analog / digital circuits do and how it all work together, but time and again - this is far from realistic as the nature of components still aren't up to par with the "perfect world" of the software...and don't really get that "hands on" feel of experimenting yourself to knowledge as you would if you fiddled with modules you made on the fly.

Many of us grieve over the fact that the days when the local component store where in every city, even the small cities (thats radio-shack to you Americans reading this) are long gone, and Luckily I live in a city where the city itself still is big enough to carry whole "2" competing electronics stores - woah! - Now thats what I call choice.

Have no fear - Internet is here! And eBay!

Ever since Internet became accessible to everyone and not just schools and libraries, weve got the fantastic opportunity to share the good with each other without any borders at all. Fun stuff! And then there is the eBay phenomena, that have brought life to my Electronics hobby for sure - never before have I and others been so able to endulge in our hobby on such a massive scale before - not to mention that it costs a FRACTION of the price of what we paid back in the days. I used to pay about 60 bucks for a handfull of components on a lucky weekend when I was a child (delivered many a newspaper, mind you!) to get some action NERD style, and once they where all used up - I had to go for "pulls"...thats recycled components to the non-tech readers out there. But today? Theres no need for pulls at all - I have "probably" millions of components that are brand-spanking-new, and its a dream come true for a child of the 80s, its like uncle scrooge bathing in money...whereas Id probably catch led-poisoning from bathing in components, but what the hey...I have fun!

There is NOTHING on earth like building a little transistor radio (ok...maybe building a TUBE/Valve radio), and Im looking forward to every little spare moment I have in life - this is indeed LIVING - when I can get some time off from work to complete some projects, do some weird-science experiments and boldly go anywhere I feel like

So - I don't think were ending the era of the 80s components yet, not by far! The party has barely started.

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SMD (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21644559)

Almost all the prototyping I do is SMD. If you have a low-power binocular microscope, it's easy even if you're not young and acute of eye. If you get good at routing, SMD boards are much easier to lay out for homebuilt designs because you don't have to align drilled holes with pads -- you just do a one-layer board with one of the photocopy-iron-etch kits and you're done. SMD is tough enough to stand up to vehicle vibration, where TH will fail over time, and it's easy to make entire board systems the size of your thumbnail. (I'm not joking: I've built electroluminescent drivers that produce 220 volts from a pair of AA batteries, and an electrocardiogram, both of which were built on circuit boards smaller than my thumbnail.)
I do the initial proto on experimenter boards with TH, but once it's running, the next rev is SMD just because it's so easy to work with once you have the initial materials.
(Binocular scope, and a good soldering iron with a tip less than 0.5mm -- Metcal is the ne plus ultra, but there are Weller setups that go that fine.)

Re:SMD (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21670327)

Interesting. I do have a microscope, but its a high magnification monocular scope, but Ive rigged sidelights onto it so I can check out SMD numbers & has elements to do 4x10 magnification as the smallest value...It also have an X/Y positioning board with gearing so it can be used to what you suggest. Maybe I could mount the Microscope onto an flexible xyz-arm and use it to solder with as well.

I already have the weller soldering station, Do you reccomend that Id go with an Hakko ReWork station as well (its a hot-air based solder)?

Funny you should comment on this particular subject (SMDs) as I just received a huge batch of varied assorted SMD components today, not huge as in "industry huge"...but for personal use.

Thanks for you comments.

Re:SMD (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671685)

I use hot-air pencils and I like them, for some things. You can get two or three-terminal SMD components off a board with a Weller and a bit of care, but once you get up to or past four-pin devices you have to use a hot air pencil (about which more later) or a curved tip that you put under each leg and lift it individually (which typically destroys the part) or you start paying $$$ for Metcal rework tips. (You can also use two soldering irons, one on each side, for SOIC's and the like.) So, if you want to reuse the part, you're down to $$$ or the hot air pencil. But the thing is: a heat gun, like the sort you use for paint stripping, will do a perfectly good job of pulling parts, and it's faster than a hot air pencil. It's what I use at work for 90% of my rework, and I'm doing some incredibly finicky stuff: sticking LLP's on, where they have 41 pads, all on the bottom side, with nothing available for a soldering tip. So, while I like having a hot air pencil for some things, I don't really think they're worth the money. What IS worth the money is a Metcal SP-200: []
It costs a breathtaking amount -- although that's 1/3 of what the most common Metcal stations cost -- but once you start using Metcal setups it's really, really hard to go back to anything else. The tips heat in eight seconds, they don't cost a lot, they last for a long time, and there are so many weird tips available, stuff with really fine geometries and designs to help get into places. I have no idea where you could go find/try one of these out to see if you like it, but I *love* metcal stuff.

I'm envious of your assorted SMD care package. The place I work, we have a nigh-infinite supply, but for my own work, it'd be nice to have an assortment. Ebay has amazing deals on individual parts -- a friend and I just split a reel of 2000 5 volt regulators we got for like $10, but even if we both build every project we've ever wanted to, we'll still have 1000 left over. It'd be really nice to have something like the LEGO users group website where people can trade excess SMD's to one another.

Your microscope sounds like it'd work reasonably well. You don't need very much magnification -- I generally only need 10x to make sure that fine-pitch SMD is all clear. There are a lot of tricks, though, that are best learned if you know someone who already knows how to do it. A couple examples I can explain: put a dot of solder on one pad for a resistor, then while the solder is molten, scoot the resistor over to contact the solder, which will pull it into place, then align it with tweezers and pull the iron off, and it'll be set, ready for the next side to be soldered. That's way easier than placing it and trying to solder both sides while keeping it from moving. Likewise, when you're putting down an SOIC or a fine pitch part, solder down one pin on one corner, then tweezer-align it, and tack the other corner, and then -- this one is really useful but really hard to learn the first time -- take a curved metcal tip, put the outside of the curve against one of the points where the lead touches the pad on an unsoldered leg, and run in solder wire as you scoot the tip along the chip. You'll be able to solder the entire side of the chip in one smooth run, and once you get the hang of it you won't have a single solder bridge and they'll look as good as if it had come out of a reflow oven.

Re:SMD (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21682555)

Thanks again for your helpful ideas. I really like the technique you use for soldering SMD onto the PCB by preheating/adding solder and then pushing it onto the pads, great stuff!

The Metcal soldering system sounds good to me - the 265 dollars it cost - is that for the base? (only air compressor itself) or is it for a complete set with solder-stand, pencil, one-head, hose and station? If so - its not shockingly expensive as if you where in Denmark a kit like that would set you back 4000-5000 dollars (no - I am not kidding). Heck...just a basic Weller temperature controlled soldering station for normal components would set you back 600 dollars over here. I bought mine used for about a 100 bucks.

Ive just browsed trough the SMD " you call it"...and indeed it seems to be a care package as it comes pretty complete both on the resistors and caps as well as the most useful tantalytes. There are however a LOT of transistors I have NO clue what is as theyre obviously branded (on the box) with the "whatever-production" it comes from - own numbering system. yes - I understand there is an SMD convertion table out there, but they really dont give all the transistors specs. Eg...a zenerdiode (marked Z1) that "looks" like a transistor...could in fact have several specs....and I have no clue WHAT of all the Z1 this particular one is (just an example). I suppose I could use a curve tracer (yes I have one) but its broken...and old...and Ive tried to fix it...weird construction....its an Tektronix CT71 curve tracer... the PCB looks like its something constructed by ...well..meager means...and the trannies are fastened to the chassis barely isolated by waferthin asphestos-chips. Oh well, maybe I could build one from scratch...the technique aint that complex...after all...its just increasing drain/voltage versus steps of B/E/C or voltages across curves. etc. Doesnt seem like rocketscience.

Thanks again for the tip, now I have a new "toy" I want ;) (man..Id never believe Id see the lab is filled to the brim with test-gear...pretty old...but useful nevertheless..)

Re:SMD (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21684517)

We have a Tectronix curve tracer -- I think it's a 571. It's from about 1962. We also have piles of spectrum analyzers and modern computer-based curve tracers and network analyzers... and everyone uses the old curve tracer. Those things are really useful. But they're also freakin' dangerous, but I think you knew that.

I forgot that Metcal has recently been purchased by OKI, so looking up OKI soldering stuff will probably find more hits.
newark says: []
that the kit comes with the power supply, soldering iron itself, and stand, but any tips are sold separately. You definitely want to check and make sure what you're getting. They'll always sell the supply and iron together because they're to some extent matched -- these use RF down the coax cable to heat the tips. However, different places sell the PS/handle for different prices and some include a stand/sponge holder and some don't, and it really is kind of useful.
Metcal codes their tips: 6xx series run at 600 degrees F, 7xx series run at 700 degrees. For some of their products they offer 5xx tips or 1xx tips, that run at different temps, but I don't think you can get those for the SP-200. Looking at the profiles, I would recommend the 771 tip for most stuff, and the 613 for small surface-mount. I really like curved tips, though, and many people don't, so that's a preference thing.

Characterizing the transistors is going to be a bear. If you can get the person who built the kit to give you any information at all, that'd be awfully nice. I guess you could also start measuring diode drops between terminals to figure out what you've got -- but there are lots of things packaged in SOT-23 packages. We have, in stock, FETs, transistors, and dual diodes in that package, and you'd have a heckuva time telling one from the other and figuring out which is what. (Particularly with the FETs, which in my experience have the gate blow out the moment you touch them unless you're grounded and handling them on a grounded mat: and then you're trying to figure out the function of a non-functional part.)

I have a schizophrenic lab at home: most of the stuff is test equipment I inherited from my dad, vintage 1965 Hewlett Packard stuff: tube oscillators and tube power supplies. Then I have a few very, very nice new pieces of equipment: function generator, 350mhz oscilloscope. Lately I've been adding homemade stuff, as well: home-designed computer-controlled power supplies and such. It's a mess.

I really envy you living in Denmark, but I don't envy the prices.

Re:SMD (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689084)

Yah, I will do the diode drop test + insert them into a test circuit of mine to see what switching speeds they are capable of plus the power. Yes - the CT71 curve tracer is DEADLY if someone touch the two/tre terminals at the same time as its capable of feeding you with several thousand volts with some amps to them...heck.. 6 milliamps across the heart and its bye bye dear life (yay mythbusters). So While trying to repair it (numerous ...TOO many times) I have been as careful as I would with pure acid as I do NOT want to quit just yet ;). But I want it to I might end up just building (reproducing) the entire stepping circuit pcb. Cant for the life of me figure out whats wrong with it... its one of those cases where EVERY SINGLE component seems perfectly fine (at least to my knowledge of fault finding...which might have a fault or two in it...who knows?). It is one of my more or less mindboggling puzzles, I have repaired SO much test gear...but this one eats me up.

Now since we are on cool-test-gear-bragging-rights-dept. I might as well list the home-lab..(aka. nothing better to do). Ive got a HP 5890a Spectrum analyzer (its digital, capable of scanning 1.8 ghz realtime, very sensitive, small filters etc, video averaging thingy), An BlackStar 2.4 Ghz oven-stabilized Frequency counter, Marconi oven-stabilized 10khz-1ghz signal generator, boonton 82AD Modulation meter (1.2 ghz), Tektronix 500 Ms (100mhz) math capable FastFurier scope, Gould 200 mhz Color scope with plotter (weird..built in plotter), analog&digital Fluke 60 mhz realtime scope, Fluke Bench-multimeter with voltage overload alarms etc. Digital-programmable PSU, another digital psu but with analog control, Marconi-2955 Radio-test-set (sort of 11 instruments-in-one..very neato!) Escort Function-Generator (5 mhz with sweeping) digital readout etc.., HP-Logic-Analysis-System (16500a) Huge @%$%! Colour-sony-trinitron-touch-screen interface controlled logic analyzer with 1-ghz timing master module (boots from something that looks and sounds like an Amiga-3.5" disk drive, Hartmann & braun (ultra precise but stone-old) digital bench multimeter (it got Nixie-fluorescent tubes...weee...and autorange with relays clickkety click click..funny!) Some other Fluke multimeters, Data IO 29a multi-eprom programming station (yes...with this baby you can code DIRECTLY to the Eproms...and it takes a LOT of weird different types..monsterbig thing...I think Arcarde-PCB collectors would die for this one), Weller soldering station, Welleman soldering station, 3 other eprom burners with a heap of stone-age laptops to make them work properly, oh...and get this one... A PROTOCOL Analyzer (I bet there would be some slashdotters in here that would hunt me down for this one....dont worry aint fast enough to be of any use..he he) The protocol analyzer comes complete with a ISDN E1/PRA breakout interface. Nasty...wish I had this years ago...its brand new though...bought it to have fun with radio-modems as it will do as an excellent programmable VT-terminal ( comes with some sort of basic)...uh...lack of knowledge... And I have a couple of Commodore SX 64s as well....and racks of racks of endless racks of 80s components....endless....Well..a guy gotta have a hobby...but Married I will never be...

Re:SMD (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21690162)

One of my workmates and I have been repairing oscilloscopes -- buying broken ones off ebay and fixing them and reselling them when possible. It sure makes it a lot easier to diagnose faults when you have two and you can compare them -- so, do you know anyone with another similar curve tracer?

Your setup is vastly nicer than mine. Sigh. SOME day... I don't have a lot of money -- it all goes into a mortgage -- so the stuff I have is either repaired or homebuilt. I've built a couple of fairly high-amperage power supplies and am currently trying to add digital control to them via USB: that'll be nice. I desperately need a good bench multimeter. SOME day... But I do have a pile of old Amigas.
Yeah, the 16500 was an enormous mainframe of a system. My dad helped design some of that and I got to use them some. Those are nice machines.

Re:SMD (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21696758)

I dont have a lot of money either, all stuff is bought either cheap (used) or broken and like your stuff...been repaired to work once again ;). Unfortunately I do not know anyone with a similar curve tracer, apparently these where produced in small numbers so I was pretty lucky to get a copy of the service manual for it. I found someone (french) that had repaired his - but he was near impossible to communicate with even though his english was excellent so he had no interest in helping out, fair enough - people are different. You should be able to get some pretty cheap and decent bench multimeters on eBay, if you live in the united states you are in luck because shipping is cheap there, shipping over to Denmark cost nearly as much as the instruments themselves, but we do have some rather good used-goods forums over here where Ive gotten most of my test-gear at rock bottom prices (way cheaper than eBay). BTW - If your Dad helped design the HP 16500 Mainframe, could you be kind enough to ask him a question for me whenever you feel like it or have the time? My 16500 came to me BRAND NEW - and was probably ditched due to unrealibility due to overheating as BOTH the Papst-fans where burned out. it looked BRAND new both on the inside and on the outside, I repaired the two industry class fans by replacing an internal resistor + a busted capacitor and they worked again. But it seems to me that the unit wont start these two...its like it cant deliver enough voltage to start them off - I suspect this has something to do with heat-detection circutiry as I can turn HP 16500 on/off after "letting it start without the fans" and keeping it on for an 30 minutes or so...and when turning it on again...the FANS will come on immediately? Is it a design flaw of some sort? Its pretty weird. With the fans on - the unit works fine 24 hours a day.

Re:SMD (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21742914)

Sorry about the delayed response. My father died several years ago, and I have email out to a couple other people who might know/remember someone else who worked on the 16500.

I can get good stuff on ebay but it's not cheap, unfortunately.

Re:SMD (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21743918)

Ouch! Sorry to hear that about your father. :/ Never mind the 16500 - it's not that important to me, it's just an instrument, I'll figure it out sooner or later. Take care and thanks for the übercool information about your SMD soldering techniques!
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