Electronic Test Equipment

Electronic test equipment is the heart of the electronics industry, the bleeding edge of electronics innovation and quality. No manufacturer demonstrates that better than Hewlett-Packard, whose test equipment is generally considered the paragon of electronics engineering, a standard which has never been met by another company.

Fluke 887AB Differential Voltmeter
 
Fluke 887AB Differential Voltmeter


The Fluke 887AB AC/DC differential voltmeter functions like a comparator. Instead of displaying the voltage of the object being tested, the user selects a voltage on the large numeric and the meter tells the user how close it is to the actual voltage of the tested device. Though unwieldly, the 887AB can measure voltage increments as small as 0.01mV. This is far more precise than most of its contemporaries, perhaps making it worth dealing with the comparator-style operation.

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Heathkit IO-12 Oscilloscope
 
Heathkit IO-12 Oscilloscope


The Heathkit IO-12 is a single-trace vacuum tube oscilloscope. The IO-12 has horizontal and vertical inputs on the front panel, as well as a place to connect an external trigger. The IO-12 also has a z-axis input, though it is well-concealed. The user must unscrew a small metal hatch from the back of the unit to gain access to the z-axis connector. All connecters are the banana plug style common on older scopes, instead of more modern BNC connectors. The screen diameter is an ample five inches, and rotary knobs are used for all front panel operations. The horizontal frequency scale has two user presets, which can be set by inserting a screwdriver into a pair of holes on the right of the timebase control.

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Hewlett-Packard 130C Oscilloscope
 
Hewlett-Packard 130C Oscilloscope


The HP 130C is a single-trace vacuum tube oscilloscope with identical X and Y circuits for true XY performance. The 130C contains 17 tubes, not counting the CRT and a half dozen neon glow lamps. Among the tubes are two RCA 7586 Nuvistor triodes and a host of specially aged, high performance Amperex and Telefunken diodes, triodes and pentodes.

The 130C has been called "the last good scope HP ever made". Despite HP's total dominance in every other area of test equipment, their line of oscilloscopes has not shown such a flawless track record. Most oscilloscopes manufactured by HP from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s have been mediocre at best, leaving room for Tektronix and other manufacturers.

130C Oscilloscope Operating & Service Manual (PDF)
130C Oscilloscope Calibration Procedure (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 410B Vacuum Tube Voltmeter
 
Hewlett-Packard 410B Vacuum Tube Voltmeter


The Hewlett-Packard 410B has been called the Cadillac of vacuum tube voltmeters, and is considered by many to be the finest voltmeter ever built. The most striking feature of the 410B is its high frequency probe, which has either a 2-01C or EA53 rectifier tube installed in the probe tip. The 410B's combination of high impedance and high frequency capabilities make it a superior VTVM which is still in wide use by ham radio operators and other hobbyists.

410B Operating & Servicing Manual (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 1300A X-Y Display
 
Hewlett-Packard 1300A X-Y Display


The HP 1300A was a revolution in scientific display technology. Introduced in the late 1960s, the 1300A utilized a new type of CRT which incorporated an expansion mesh post-accelerator, a component which dramatically increased the screen size to tube length ratio. This allowed for a much larger display to be housed in a chassis of standard depth. The 1300A featured a 14" screen, at a time when a typical high-speed scientific vector display measured 5". This dramatic increase in display size resulted in an explosion of graphical output applications, supplanting the once-prevalent numerical and dial readouts of the past. The 1300A was rapidly implemented in various HP systems, and is the vector display of choice for early HP minicomputers.

The HP 1300A would go on to become the world's first commercially available graphical CRT computer display, and is credited with a number of noteworthy accomplishments:

-The 1300A was the surgery room display in the world's first artificial heart transplant, an artificial left ventricle device designed and implanted by Dr. Michael DeBakey in 1967.

-The 1300A was used by computer engineer Alan Kay in his FLEX "personal computer". Kay was influenced to adopt a graphical interface after witnessing Doug Engelbart's demonstration of the Computer Network as part of the legendary "Mother of all Demos". Engelbart's demonstration also used a 1300A display.

-The 1300A was the display in the first coin-operated video arcade system, Galaxy Game, a student-built machine at Stanford University. Much like Atari's commercially produced Computer Space arcade machine, Galaxy Game ran a variant of Space War. Unlike the Atari system, which used consumer-grade custom hardware, Galaxy Game ran on a DEC PDP11/20 minicomputer. Galaxy Game predated the release of Computer Space by two months.

Despite its widespread use in the late 1960s and 1970s, the 1300A is quite rare today. Undoubtedly many have met the same fate as other, less prestigious CRTs, and were recycled into beer cans many years ago.

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Hewlett-Packard 1640A Serial Data Analyzer
 
Hewlett-Packard 1640A Serial Data Analyzer


The 1640A Serial Data Analyzer is designed to be inserted inline between two serial devices, where it can be used to display and monitor the data being transmitted across the serial line. The unit can also transmit serial data, and has limited simulation functions that allow it to send and record data in response to strings of characters sent down the serial line by other devices.

1640A Datasheet (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 2912A Reed Scanner
 
Hewlett-Packard 2912A Reed Scanner


The Hewlett-Packard 2912A Reed Scanner is a scarce component of HP's first-generation data acquisition systems. It is a modular, expandable input scanner capable of switching up to 1000 channels (40 in mainframe) at up to 40 channels per second. The 2921A and 2922A plug-in modules each provide 10 channels, and the 2923A provides 9 channels. Though capable of independent operation, the 2912A was often controlled by a HP 2100 series computer.

2912A Reed Scanner 1969 Catalog Excerpt (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 4955A Protocol Analyzer
 
Hewlett-Packard 4955A Protocol Analyzer


The Hewlett-Packard 4955A is an obscure cousin of the HP 9825 desktop calculator, a minicomputer-class system used extensively in scientific and engineering fields in the 1970s. Instead of being built for arithmetic and programming, the 4955A is optimized for network analysis, research and development. The 4955A is built upon the HP 5061-3011 16-bit hybrid microprocessor, equivalent to an enhanced HP 2100-series minicomputer on two NMOS dies.

4955A Datasheet (PDF)
Protocol Analyzer Comparison Sheet (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 8010A Pulse Generator
 
Hewlett-Packard 8010A Pulse Generator


The Hewlett-Packard 8010A Pulse Generator is an extremely powerful dual-channel device which allows the generation of complex digital pulses with custom rise and fall times, at rates up to 1MHz. The 8010A is a particularly obscure piece of equipment; only a few examples are known to exist.

8010A Pulse Generator 1970 Catalog Excerpt (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 8016A Word Generator
 
Hewlett-Packard 8016A Word Generator


The Hewlett-Packard 8016A Word Generator is a unique type of computational signal generator, which allows the construction, storage and output of one, two, four or eight binary words up to 256 bits in total size, at frequencies up to 50MHz. The 8016A can generate RZ or NRZ pulse shapes at either TTL or ECL voltage levels, and offers standard and inverse outputs for all eight channels. The 8016A has an internal clock with output signal and synch out, and can also be driven by an external clock.

The 8016A allows total control over the binary input of a logic device under evaluation, whose resultant output can then be examined by a contemporaneous logic state analyzer. To this day, the 8016A remains an invaluable and irreplaceable piece of test equipment, with truly limitless utility in the modern era of hobby computer electronics.

8016A Datasheet (PDF)
8016A Operating and Service Manual (PDF)

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Hewlett-Packard 43114A Digital Delay Generator
 
Hewlett-Packard 43114A Digital Delay Generator


According to the available documentation, the Hewlett-Packard 43114A digital delay generator does not exist. Like most HP equipment, the unit is built to survive a land war in Asia. A machined aluminum frame and a complex tongue-and-groove enclosure protect the internals. The primary point of interface is a five-digit BCD encoder, which is used to set the amount of delay applied to the source signal in units of microseconds. At its maximum setting, the unit can delay a signal by 99,999 microseconds. The unit also has a knob to set the threshold for triggering; a value between zero and 90 volts can be selected. There are two outputs: a TTL output located on the front panel, and a +90V output on the rear of the unit. An interior inspection reveals that most of the internals of the device are powered by generic TTL chips.

Unfortunately, the output of the 43114A is highly specialized. The unit does offset the input by the amount of delay selected on the BCD switch, but it does not preserve the data of the input. All of the output pulses are of the same length, regardless of the input signal, which makes it near useless for offsetting most serial signals. RZ (return to zero) signals could probably still be offset, though it would depend heavily on the width of the RZ pulses required by the destination device.

This particular 43114A also has a serious operational failure: with a +5V logic signal as the input, the maximum speed the device can handle before it no longer triggers accurately is 20Hz.

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Serfass RCM 15B1 Conductivity Bridge
 
Serfass RCM 15B1 Conductivity Bridge


The Serfass RCM 15B1 conductivity bridge functions as a comparator. The component to be tested is attached to the device, and the user manipulates the controls to match the internal configuration of the device to that of the tested component. The eye tube provides visual feedback to this process: as the device is brought closer to matching the value of the tested component, the illuminated wedge on the tube becomes narrower. When the wedge of light in the eye tube is at its minimum width, the comparator has been successfully tuned to the component and the component's value can be read from the state of the controls. Comparators of are little use to the modern electronics engineer, as modern equipment can provide much faster and more accurate measurements.

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Supreme 546 Oscilloscope
 
Supreme 546 Oscilloscope


The Supreme 546 is a military-issue vacuum tube oscilloscope built in the 1930s and 1940s. The 546 is notable for its relatively massive 3" display, three times the diameter of many scopes from the same era. Internally, the 546 is exactly what one would expect from a piece of equipment of this age. The underside is a mass of tar and wax paper capacitors; topside there is nothing but tubes.

Supreme 546 Wiring Diagram (PDF)

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