So how does this hobby work now?


snapdiode
 

Now that it appears that there is a much smaller offering of 500 series stuff on eBay, where do people get stuff now?

There hasn't been a 1S2 listed in years AFAICT. The single 1S1 that's on now has been re-listed several times at 280$.

Spectrum analyzer plugins, 1A5, test units, Type O, etc

So how does one ascertain the value? Where to get one? I mean there's a Type O for 200$. Who would buy that?


Jeff Kruth
 

Like any other hobby or endeavor of man, scarcity leads to speculators wanting to cash in.  In the 1980's when I was buying govt surplus buy the truckload, no one wanted 500 series scopes. They fell from $500-$1000 apiece retail to $50-$100. This was because there was no more commercial market, only hams and a few hobbyists.

In the mid  '80's, I used to see tube guys buying 585's for $10.00 at the Gaithersburg MD hamfest, pulling the tubes and leaving the carcass near the trash barrels.Its like anything else. Now if you want the stuff, you have to travel to where it is and make a deal, then lug it home. Or pay a high price to those who are remarketing on eBay etc. There you are paying for the convenience of sitting on your duff, ordering off the computer then waiting for it to be delivered at your door. How easy!  I used to drive all over Hells half acre chasing stuff down.  But now, the pickins are slim and the low hanging fruit is gone. Things like 519's were immediately scrapped by anyone who bought them because who wanted a scope with no vertical sensitivity and a few centimeters of deflection.... People valued the 4X150s and sockets more than the rest of the scope! No one cared about 1 GHz BW, they looked at the size and said UGH. I recently passed (2018) on 1500 pounds plus of old Tek scopes because it was not worth my time to struggle with moving, storing, then trying to find a home for 'em then getting the shipping money out of any potential customer. Since the fuel surcharge of the mid 2000's UPS has steadily raised their prices to absurd levels. At one time junkyards were full of model T's. Now original parts from one are quite pricey. Same with the old Tek scopes. Of course as the old timers kick off, some stuff ends up available for a song. The widow just wants the basement clean again.... Due to the way govt accounting worked, excess equipment hit a HUGE peak in the late 80's early 90's. Stuff was available by the pallet load for CHEAP. But there was no market for it then, so off to scrap much of it went. I personally saw Cadisco and US Surplus in Baltimore, both BIG dealers, sell their inventory to scrap metal dealers when they closed their doors. It would make tears come to the eyes of many on this list. I always made it a point to get it when the getting was good. The only problem is moving it, storing it and caring for the stuff over the years. Adds a lot to the value.When guys would approach me after the govt auction, I would sell stuff off the pallet pretty cheap. I didnt have to move it store it and fix it. All adds to the cost. Oh well. Who would have thought that in 2020, there would be a internet list of Tek addicts! Still storing all that stuff until now would have been a showstopper. And, no offense intended, but there is still no money in it, so why would someone bother?I mean, people beef about paying $100 for something, when in reality $100 doesnt buy hardly anything of value anymore. Its like $25.00 back in the late 70's when this stuff was available. $100 is 20 Big Mac meals, nothing really. Yet people back then would pay $25-50 for a 1A4 with all the nuvistors in it. Even then, the tubes were worth more than the plugin.No one wanted the sampling stuff at all. Too much work to fiddle with. YMMVJeff Kruth  In a message dated 12/18/2020 1:30:17 AM Eastern Standard Time, snapdiode=yahoo.com@groups.io writes: Now that it appears that there is a much smaller offering of 500 series stuff on eBay, where do people get stuff now? There hasn't been a 1S2 listed in years AFAICT. The single 1S1 that's on now has been re-listed several times at 280$. Spectrum analyzer plugins, 1A5, test units, Type O, etc So how does one ascertain the value? Where to get one? I mean there's a Type O for 200$. Who would buy that?


snapdiode
 

Well basically since there is such a small supply, you can't really just decide on a whim you want a XYZ plugin and expect to find one in a week for 35$...


Greg Muir
 

Yes, eventually sources for various items will eventually dry up so sellers will try to extract as much cash as they can from selling them be it aware of the scarceness of the item or simply not having any clue as to what it is.

As I had commented in a Tek post back on the 28th of November surplus back in the 60’s and 70’s used to not be recognized by the many. In earlier days the penchant was to fabricate and get that HF rig on the air because amateur radio was a commonly absorbing hobby for the adventurous. And in those days much of the military test equipment went to scrap.

Today we are faced with people pursuing other hobbies such as those “true users” trying to afford equipping their hobby labs with more advanced (but still older) hardware plus those (curious) involved in the collection of test equipment possibly with no use in mind due to the quantity that they possess (I’m more than “curious” but still personally guilty on the collection aspect). It seems to me that the appreciation of older equipment is more-or-less based upon the age and background (education – profession) of the user with many of us older people knowing how it performs, enjoy using it and know its limitations.

To wit, we can look at people such as the late Jim Williams who led the forefront of analog circuit design whose legacy still resides in many of the components the younger generation hold in their hands (while ignoring the world around them). Both his work and home labs were peppered with older Tek vacuum tube scopes form which he extracted the performance needed to effect his future designs. It wasn’t based upon “why need such old stuff” but, rather knowing that such equipment was still a good performer for his needs even though it may have stressed the air conditioning system a bit more.
https://computerhistory.org/blog/an-analog-life-remembering-jim-williams/

Of course we can’t omit the “hunters and scrappers” who either obtain equipment merely to strip them of their vacuum tubes and throw the remainder away or those more set on gold reclamation to make a few temporary bucks. Although I don’t class them as “bottom feeders” they still put a strain on the availability of older hardware.

Appreciating the power and ease of use given to more recent “older” test equipment through ASICS and other esoteric deigned components allows us to have increased performance but at the same time the ability to repair any malfunctioning item becomes a moot point since either the cost of purchasing replacement parts or finding them to be “unobtanium” simply can turn the unit immediately into a piece of scrap.

We all have a more-or-less certain affinity for older equipment given the appreciation of the unique and very solid designs for that era, the love of vacuum tubes and totally discrete components one can put their hands on or simply the affordability of an older unit that will meet our needs.

But we must remember that many of us are of a generation that does understand older equipment and can eke every bit if performance out of it and also know its limitations. And people like us will fade with time and find fewer others to which this equipment will go. The move these days is for many newbies to buy something shiny off-the-shelf that requires little understanding (and appreciation) of how it works, use their “plug-N-play” experience and put it to use. Why bother with digging into that older boat anchor getting your hands dirty to bring it back to life with the underlying appreciation that you actually have either learned something by doing so, appreciate the hard work of bygone engineers or appreciate the effort required to keep it alive?

I think that those who treat older equipment simply as a commodity to either strip or scrap should spend a little time reading through the older issues of “Tekscope” or “HP Journal” to really appreciate the effort that was put into the design of these products. Nowadays it is very difficult to find publications like this that truly explains the innards of equipment and reasons why the designs followed the paths that they took. Today’s companies won’t divulge that information because they are more concerned about competitiveness and that holy profit dollar. You now get a “box,” plug it in and use it. It sort of takes the fun out of things. We do know what “fun” is don’t we?

Greg


snapdiode
 

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.


Greg Muir
 

Not to harp about Jim Williams but it has been some time since I have looked through articles about him. I think this article more characterizes who he was and his love for older test equipment.
https://www.edn.com/remembering-jim-williams-5-years-later/

Greg


um-gs@...
 

Having reached retirement age surprisingly quick... I can only agree with the above.
Maybe my personal Tek experiences might fit into this chat.
Being Berlin, Germany based I won a national engineering competition ("Jugend Forscht") in 1974. As a consequence I received a donation from a state research institute: a Tek 581A with an 80 and 82 plug in! It then had been in use for no more than 8 years. That was my then and lifelong treasure in my private lab! Of course I knew each detail of the circuit by heart. 5 years ago I even succeded to find (Russian) replacement parts for the Tunnel diodes and succesfully restored the full trigger capability.
In 1976 after finishing college I travelled the USA. I gave it a try and wrote to Tektronix Inc., Portland OR asking whether I might visit them. I received a very friendly answer - so in July 1976 I was met by an engineer having been dedicated to give me a full day personal tour through the factory and labs - I still remember the atmosphere until today. Being young (and naive) I dared to ask whether they might have some stuff to let to enhance my scope ... at farewell they presented me with: a 1A4 - a Type W - a 1A 7- and the necessary 81A adapter. They even apologized to not being allowed giving me a 1S1 - this high frequency device was then under export control and I would be going back to (West) Berlin. So I continued travelling with all that stuff in my suitcase wrapped in clothes - and it serves me well until today.
And just these days (after changing to a 547 acquired for 500 €) I sold my 581/82 plus the 80/P80 for a total of 450€ - it took quite some time to find another enthusiast (and capable engineer) on ebay.
And yes, shipping the stuff is a challenge.

Gordian


Jeff Kruth
 

Hello!

What a great story! A wonderful memory of how companies like Tek used to behave toward enthusiasts ! Thank you for sharing it!RegardsJeff Kruth In a message dated 12/19/2020 3:54:01 AM Eastern Standard Time, um-gs@arcor.de writes: Having reached retirement age surprisingly quick... I can only agree with the above.
Maybe my personal Tek experiences might fit into this chat.
Being Berlin, Germany based I won a national engineering competition ("Jugend Forscht") in 1974. As a consequence I received a donation from a state research institute: a Tek 581A with an 80 and 82 plug in! It then had been in use for no more than 8 years. That was my then and lifelong treasure in my private lab! Of course I knew each detail of the circuit by heart. 5 years ago I even succeded to find (Russian) replacement parts for the Tunnel diodes and succesfully restored the full trigger capability.
In 1976 after finishing college I travelled the USA. I gave it a try and wrote to Tektronix Inc., Portland OR asking whether I might visit them. I received a very friendly answer - so in July 1976 I was met by an engineer having been dedicated to give me a full day personal tour through the factory and labs - I still remember the atmosphere until today. Being young (and naive) I dared to ask whether they might have some stuff to let to enhance my scope ... at farewell they presented me with: a 1A4 - a Type W - a 1A 7- and the necessary 81A adapter. They even apologized to not being allowed giving me a 1S1 - this high frequency device was then under export control and I would be going back to (West) Berlin. So I continued travelling with all that stuff in my suitcase wrapped in clothes - and it serves me well until today.
And just these days (after changing to a 547 acquired for 500 €) I sold my 581/82 plus the 80/P80 for a total of 450€ - it took quite some time to find another enthusiast (and capable engineer) on ebay.
And yes, shipping the stuff is a challenge.

Gordian


Tom Phillips
 

Greg,
Thank you for posting the link to the Jim Williams article. I saved many articles written shortly after Jim passed but I had never seen the 5 Years Later article.
Cheers,
Tom


Michael W. Lynch
 

Excellent Article!
--
Michael Lynch
Dardanelle, AR


Greg Muir
 

Gordian,

A very refreshing story indeed about your international venture and unexpected cooperation from the Tektronix people. Both Tek and HP were the true companies of past willing to help people with whatever they needed.

I experienced a couple of events when working with a National Science Foundation offshoot back in the mid 80’s. One was working on development of CCD sensors to be part of a high dispersion spectrograph for stellar astronomy. The entire unit was built in-house. The CCD arrays turned out to be a real challenge to meet necessary low light level detection specifications (finally resulting in having only 10 electrons read noise) as they operated in their cryogenic environment.

After a considerable search I happened upon TriQuint Semiconductor – a child of Tektronix at the time located on the Tek campus in Beaverton. At that time they were developing some very esoteric CCD arrays for military uses. A simple phone call to their engineering people resulted in an invite to visit their facility and discuss my needs.

Upon meeting with the engineers I laid out the design specifications to be met that included no cover on the Kovar housing to prevent spectral shaping and flipping the silicon die over on its back so as to minimize the travel of the spectra through the material to minimize fringing. And I was surprised to receive the answer “no problem.” These people were willing to do what was necessary to meet the customer’s specifications.

One of the memorable parts of the trip was wandering through the Tek facilities. I was invited on a tour by the TriQuint manager I had met. It happened that corporate had squeezed the (then) small TriQuint operation in one of their CRT manufacturing facilities. I remember when going to their offices I had to duck under the continuous stream of unfinished CRT glass envelopes traveling on the overhead conveyors on their way to final assembly. It was interesting to take in all of the busy employees as they diligently worked to produce their top quality products.

When the trip was coming to a close I was invited out to dinner with the TriQuint manager. Expecting simply a good meal and conversation I was astounded when He offered a position in their organization. But unfortunately the timing was not right given the complex task I had presently been involved in. An opportunity missed that still haunts me to this day.

We always had visiting researchers from countries all over the globe. In the early 80’s we had one particular colleague from Poland who was working in a research project and came to our organization to use our advanced computing facilities. At that time the personal computer was still somewhat evolving from its infancy and he did not yet have such machines to use in Poland. Obviously he was quite impressed with the (then rather crude) processing power contained in a small desktop box and immediately started to develop programs for his project on it.

Later in the year it was time for his return to Poland. He decided to purchase a PC to take back with him then found out that the US State Department had placed restrictions on international shipments of PCs and could not take it with him. But after some “creativeness” from our management the PC became classified as “scientific support equipment” and he left a very happy and thankful person.

With respect to your comment regarding reaching retirement age surprisingly quick – aren’t you aware that the speed of time increases exponentially with age? For me at this age simply traveling from the ground floor to the lab in the basement seems to take an hour or two.

Best regards,

Greg


Greg Muir
 

Tom, Michael,

In the past I had times when becoming rather stuck in an analog design where I had to reach out for help. Fortunately I had the opportunity to either call Jim Williams or email Bob Pease about a problem that I felt I was totally clueless on. And the comment in the article regarding Jim’s need to answer every call is very true. He always seemed to have the time to devote to really helping people with questions.

As for Bob Pease there was always a multi-page email answer full of comments, suggestions and new approach ideas to try frequently along with PDFs of past application notes from his library.

The passing of both men is a stupendous loss to the engineering community. And the loss of Bob’s life was unnecessary given his death occurring while attending Jim’s funeral.

Greg


Jean-Paul
 

Bonjour à tous, a few Tektronix Memories......

In 1967, as a young engineer about to graduate, I was invited for a summer at Lawrence Radiation Laboratoires. I was touring the Livermore lab, in fusion power area, an experiment running a pinch or toroid plasma....huge components, like energy storage capacitors and RF plumbing.

In a shed, a 5 m rolling door, labeled DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE . I was Very curious.....thru thick windows were rows of DOZENS of TEKTRONIX 500 series scopes lined up.

The physicist explained that rack of scopes behind the door were elevated at 20 kV. Many safety interlocks.
The scopes were preset, the HV turned on, the experiment ran ( they called each transient a "shot") and scope cameras recorded the results. My first mémoire of Tektronix scopes.

By 1968, at my first job, designing real time Spectrum Analyzers, 454 began to replace the 500 tube scopes.

Jon