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MindPrison's Journal: The 80's electronics components - today's Lego! 10

Journal by MindPrison
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 sure...you 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 (well..at 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 ...you 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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The 80's electronics components - today's Lego!

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  • 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
    • 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 & codes...it 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 stati
      • 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 t
        • 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 -
          • 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:
            http://www.newark.com/jsp/Tools+&+Production+Supplies [newark.com]
            • 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
              • 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
                • 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 - peo
                  • 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.
                    • 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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