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Mysterious Artifacts  
Written by VTA on 2008-12-25  

Occasionally we do encounter something we've never seen before. This is a collection of some of the strangest and most mysterious items we have found over the years, along with what little information we have managed to glean from packaging and careful examination. Can you identify any of these strange components?

This object is obviously some sort of hybrid integrated circuit, but apparently has been enclosed in one of the most bizarre packages ever to be birthed by the semiconductor industry. The device is constructed on a completely unusual five-sided ceramic wafer, with gold and ceramic lead frames exiting from two of the five faces. Instead of a typical cavity lid, the internals of this device are protected by a pentagonal plastic ring filled with clear epoxy, which leaves the internals fully visible. We have no idea why a company would package a chip in this way; perhaps the device contains light-sensitive elements, or requires visual inspection by a human operator.

Under high magnification, the device appears to contain a single integrated circuit, as well as an eclectic medley of bare-die transistors and diodes. Strangely, these delicate components are sharing space with a number of apparently mundane surface-mount resistors and capacitors.

This impressive component appears to be an odd type of capacitor; it has the correct number of contacts and says 716A CAP on the side. The case appears to be gold-plated steel, with a soldered lid and an appendage which resembles an evacuation nipple. It may be a vacuum device, or contain some sort of gas or fluid. Given the robust, affluent construction, combined with the part number and print style, we strongly suspect the device was manufactured by Western Electric. Whatever it is, it is clearly not for project use.

This is almost certainly some sort of integrated circuit, but its function and purpose are a total mystery. A search for 'Beckman 809-V6' on Google yields nothing but worthless part-miner services, and the somewhat cryptic labeling is of no assistance; we feel it unlikely that many helical potentiometers were released in white ceramic hybrid DIP packages.

Special thanks to Corey Hatch for identifying the above device: "Regarding items in your "Mysterious Artifacts" section, the Beckman 809-V6 is a hybrid microcircuit, and is a linear 6V voltage regulator. Ei and Eo are the voltage input/outputs, used in connection with COM. The T pin is used at the factory for output voltage tailoring (one or several thick-film resistors are laser tailored whilst measuring at that pin before the alumina lid is hermetically sealed in place. The other pins are used as needed as per the application circuit. Other vendors appear to still be offering these, as I noticed you too, have some for sale. While I don't own any of the 809 parts personally, I do posses some 827-V6 Mi-Crobar parts, which are 6V SCR crowbars."

Another mystery integrated circuit, these anonymous devices are packaged in an unusual white ceramic quad-inline package with gold pads. They came housed in a plastic carrier with a handwritten label stating the following; "5 CDC^68 samples wired with 31.75 um wire. Beware when opening, samples without lid". We were told that these devices were some sort of CCD, and they indeed have a large gold heat-spreader on the back like some other CCD part numbers, but the die within looks like no CCD that we have ever seen.

An image of the alleged CCD die from the device above, taken at 20x magnification. The die is divided into 56 rectangular sectors, each filled with a fine tracery of integrated circuit material. If this device truly is a CCD, it must be a very low resolution device.

This unusual item was discovered at a garage sale - a collection of grown monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon ribbon, mounted behind glass in an 8x10" picture frame. It appears to be an in-house material sample, the sort of thing a project engineer would put together to explain to his boss what his team has been spending all that money on for the past six months. It has five different ribbons, each with a label describing its level of process refinement. Note that there is no ribbon which possesses both the desired width and surface quality. Patent history suggests that Texas Instruments was notably involved in silicon ribbon development, but the actual origin of this ephemera remains a mystery.

Here we have what appears to be a normal TO-3 package transistor with, ahem, a little off the top. Unlike certain other metal-can semiconductors buried in epoxy, this device does not light up, but the reddish fill material provides a good view of the large die inside. This could be phototransistor, some sort of company demo or display sample, or maybe just the result of a bored experimenter with a Dremel and an abundance of free time.

Special thanks to 'Doug' for identifying the above device: "The 5th from the bottom photo, on your mysterious components, is definitely some type of phototransistor, as Radio Shack sold what looks like the same part." Radio Shack sold this device as Photo Multiplier Power Transistor, Cat. No. 276-847.

This partially constructed device appears to be some sort of CCD or sensor, it has a large metallic bezel with an opening in one end, which lines up with a square sector on the surface of the silicon die within. The device's cavity lid has not been installed yet, and the surface of the die within is clearly visible. The octagonal frame surrounding the chip is a remnant of the manufacturing process, and would have been clipped off before the device was completed.

Under high magnificaton, it can be seen that the center portion of the chip has been punched or broken away, though a section of pinkish material along the bottom of the broken-out section gives some clue as to what the undamaged chip might have looked like. Note that the ball bond wires have not yet been installed between the chip package and the pads on the die.

Rarely does one encounter a device so mysterious that it can not even be sorted into the bulk classification of 'tube' or 'semiconductor'. This bizzare device looks like an electron tube; it has a glass enclosure and an evacuation nipple. On closer inspection however, it appears that there is some sort of integrated circuit interloping in the center of this device, like a computer programmer magically transported into the middle of 14th century France. The object was packed in a specially fitted box with the following cryptic handwritten label; "Electro Materials Silver Epoxy 5ele Pattern".

Special thanks to Kevin Jackson for identifying the above device: "I am sure this is a sun sensor test sample for a spacecraft. It looks just like the ones used in GEO and LEO spacecraft. The sensor is placed in a slotted window so, as the spacecraft is spinning off of the launch vehicle or when thing screw up on orbit in it does auto-recover, it can sense the sun's angular position and offset from the X axis of the spacecraft, hence the row of sensors. Its sealed in a glass envelope to stop contamination during testing. I don't think this is a flight rated component but an EDU or test article with a test mounting or test connection process for a GN&C team to test with in development."

Under higher magnification, the integrated circut appears to be some sort of linear CCD, mounted to an angled glass post in the center of the device. The IC has seven gold leads, which exit the sides of the device and then run down the back of the glass post to the pins on the bottom of the tube envelope. The top of the tube, which is in the immediate left in the photo above, is made from a seprate piece of mirrored material, which has been fused to the rest of the tube envelope.

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