We recently started restoring a vintage1 analog computer. Unlike a digital computer that represents numbers with discrete binary values, an analog computer performs computations using physical, continuously changeable values such as voltages. Since the accuracy of the results depends on the accuracy of these voltages, a precision power supply is critical in an analog computer. This blog post discusses how this computer’s power supply works, and how we fixed a problem with it. This is the second post in the series; the first post discussed the precision op amps in the computer.
I picked up a Marconi 2305 modulation meter off eBay the other day. As the name indicated, a modulation meter is used to measure the modulation characteristics of a source signal. The Marconi 2305 is capable of measuring amplitude/frequency and phase modulated signals from a few hundred kHz all the way up to 2 GHz.
The Marconi 2305 was built sometime between the late 70’s and 80’s. It is a pity that the iconic British Marconi Instruments went under in 1998 and had since changed hands a couple of times.
Teardown and repair of an GW Instek 1080W power supply from The Signal Path:
In this episode Shahriar investigates the failure of a GW Instek 1080W power supply capable of providing up to 80V and 40A of programmable output voltage and current respectively. The power supply does not power on. However, relay noises can be heard inside the instrument during power on.
Teardown of the unit reveals a modular design with PCBs on all sides. The instrument comprises 6 different modules and 3 complete power supplies in parallel. The controller circuit is powered from the middle power supply module. Examination of the boards reveals three separate failed devices.
While I was making a video on how to use HP 8671A as the frequency reference for an improved version of my simple DIY tracking generator for my HP 8566B spectrum analyzer, my spectrum analyzer suddenly decided to call it quits and displayed the dreaded “YTO Unlock” message. Although it wasn’t the first time it had done so — other times the “YTO Unlock” message only appeared once in a blue moon and rarely affected any measurements — this time however the problem seemed to be permanent and the error message wouldn’t go away.
In my previous post, I did a teardown of an HP 8620C sweep generator along with an HP 86245A 5.9 GHz to 12.4 GHz RF plugin. A few of the plguin boards in the 8620C had leaked capacitors and also there seemed to be some sort of mechanical issue as no power was delivered to the transformer regardless of the power switch positions. So what I planed to do next was to restore the power to the unit and replace those bad capacitors and see if I could bring this sweep generator back to life.
A teardown of the HP 8620C and HP 86245A by Kerry Wong:
I just picked up an HP 8620C sweep oscillator with an HP 86245A 5.9 GHz to 12.4 GHz RF plugin on eBay. This time around though, the unit does not work. While it was advertised as a working unit I could not get it powered on and there was no sign of life whatsoever. So before I start troubleshooting and repairing the unit, I thought I would do a quick teardown to see what’s inside and if I could spot anything obvious that was out of the ordinary.
I recently helped repair the card reader for the Computer History Museum’s vintage IBM 1401 mainframe. In the process, I learned a lot about the archaic but interesting electromechanical systems used in the card reader. Most of the card reader is mechanical, with belts, gears, and clutches controlling the movement of cards through the mechanism. The reader has a small amount of logic, but instead of transistorized circuits, the logic is implemented with electromechanical relays.1 Timing signals are generated by spinning electromechanical cams that generate pulses at the proper rotation angles. This post explains how these different pieces work together, and how a subtle timing problem caused the card reader to fail.
Ken Shirriff wrote a great article describing the repair process of the vintage IBM 1401 mainframe computer:
The problem started when the machine was powered up at the same time someone shut down the main power, apparently causing some sort of destructive power transient. The computer’s core memory completely stopped working, making the computer unusable. To fix this we had to delve into the depths of the computer’s core memory circuitry and the power supplies.
Teardown, repair and analysis of an Agilent E4443A 3Hz – 6.7GHz PSA series Spectrum Analyzer from The Signal Path:
In this episode Shahriar repairs an Agilent PSA Series Spectrum Analyzer. The instrument generates many errors during self-alignment and produces no measurements below 3.2GHz. The block diagram of the unit is thoroughly presented and various possible failure points are considered. Based on the observation of the noise floor, the most likely cause is the second LO module. The measurement of the LO power indicates that the second LO power is fall below nominal.
Alan Wolke (a.k.a W2AEW) writes, “A local ham radio friend dropped off his Yaesu FT-1000D transceiver for me to take a look at. He said that the receiver was “dead”. This video documents my debug process and the repair and final check out.”