EEVblog #545 – Vintage Design RantPosted on November 7th, 2013 17 comments
Dave replies to a youtube comment that you can’t learn much practical design stuff from vintage teardown videos.
It is absolutely short sighted to think you cannot learn something from a forty or fifty year old peace of equipment, it has all been invented before and there is no need in starting at the bottom of the learning curve.
Right! As it happens, I’ve recently been reading from the Radiotron Designer’s Handbook, a classic on the subject of designing radio and other circuits using vacuum tubes. The final, 4th edition was published in 1953, and the first edition was published in 1934, if you can believe that!
It’s an amazing book and you can tell how smart people were then.
I was reading it because I thought maybe I could find some things in it that I could apply to modern analog design with FETs, and I did!
Sometimes it’s easier and better to learn from the generation of people who originally worked things out.
Some ancient things are best left to ancient times, but other ancient things are timeless.
I completely agree! I learn so much from the old stuff. Dave, you do a great job at explaining things and you keep it enjoyable at the same time!
I completely agree 100% too.
I loved this teardown, and others of top-quality test equipment, because they show things like the “TELFON” [sic.] standoffs used to insulate the point-to-point wiring, and other unusual techniques. I don’t know how else I would learn of methods like that, aside from getting a job at Fluke or Agilent.
When I was a teenager, I tore apart old tube radios made in the 1940s and 1950s. At the time, I had almost no idea how they worked, but the experience stayed with me for the rest of my life, helped stimulate my interest in electronics, and appreciate how quality products are designed and manufactured. And you can’t beat the experience of holding a selenium rectifier in your hands. LOL
I’m a proponent of studying the history of electronics and other engineering. It is bordering on humanities, but it is also very helpful for the development of any good engineer. I wish schools had more time to teach it.
In fact I would say you find more ingenious Engineering with the old stuff that most design now!!
Keep it up Dave!!
Fan from Spain!
That commenter is so wrong on many aspects. Thumbs up for old equipment teardowns.
1000000000 out of 1000000000 True
It’s is -NEVER- wasted time to take careful a look at the design of a vintage/mature product, specially when it comes from a reputable company.
This calibrator has so much math inside the front end only, in case one care to understand at least 80% of it than you will get a sneakpeek to a genius idea.
I am always amazed by the simplicity and the reliability the EE were capable to put in a product in a time were the choices were so limited compared to what we have today.
It is food for the brain, so Dave please do keep them coming.
Oh dear everywhere you go you find one don’t you, I even build off old schematics, because of the tried and trusted designs. I just can’t believe the comment was made, is it April fools day already.
Dave I’m glad you have the good sense to do these vintage teardowns we all learn stuff from them, and by the way the design is a cracking bit of work, look how accurate after all these years.
There is always value in studying the past. It’s why we study history, do archeology, and collect vintage gear.
The good thing is that with technology, you don’t have to wait hundreds or thousands of years to do this stuff – just a decade or more is sufficient. Because you study the past to learn about the future.
There is a LOT of truth to “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it”.
In addition, design rules rarely change, and even old rules thought obsolete years ago are coming back in force.
For example – a modern digital design has to incorporate a TON of analog design nowadays – skills that were long thought to be obsolete because “digital made it easy to not bother”. But now that digital circuits are running in GHz ranges, stuff like impedance of traces, signal reflections, etc., are becoming increasingly important.
Heck, even “old fogey” stuff like amateur radio comes back because it’s a very cheap and economical way to learn how to do circuits at high frequencies at home. What better way to deal with a circuit that has clocks running at 450MHz than dealing with radios that intentionally radiate at those frequencies?
Oh, and the best part of vintage gear? It’s CHEAP. A top end $10,000+ oscilloscope 15 years ago can be had for under $50 now. Sure beats spending $2000 on a new Rigol or Agilent low end scope in the beginning when you don’t want to put out much cash.
One final thing about vintage gear? Because of technological limitations back then, designs are often simpler and thus, easier to understand. A modern high performance version would probably be much more complex and way more difficult for someone to comprehend.
The old designs most of the time rely on hardware solutions over software solutions, thus there is a lot to see that nowadays are hiden under the software layers.
The hardware now a days tend to be as bare as possible to lower the price (please don’t take this as a general rule), while software tend to increase in functions, since once done it does not cost under volume.
An unnecessary resistor in a production of thousands can cost a lot, change a hardware filter by a digital filter in thousands of pieces can mean a lot of money, so you see a lot of investiment in digital processing this days, but the botton line is:
nothing like a vintage device to learn how things were done, since in then the solutions are in plain view, not hide in software.
I’ve always found the Vintage teardowns extremely interesting. For one I’d love to see a teardown of a vintage 40s radio.
To summarize it in one sentence: The laws of physics haven’t changed over the past 30 years.
The poor sap got one thing right though, the teardowns have the entertainment value as well!
Dave, that was one of your best ever rant !
No doubt, that commenter still has his belly button wet and pipi spots in his pants…
“Ye cannae change the laws o’ physics”
There is so much that we can learn from those engineers before us…
I totally agree with Dave, I see myself not as beginner, but not a pro.. yet! Understanding the principles from the groung up, for me is great, then suddenly you get that ureka moment when it all fits together. Again keep up the good work, ps any chance of some more vintage computer equipment teardowns.. pls.
This is my first comment ever because is soooo wrong to not learn from old stuff .Old stuff is great peace of engineering. ALL MY LIFE I learn from people who have been born before me ,and stuff witch is made before me.
Dave pleas don’t stop ever with Vintage Design
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