Author Topic: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?  (Read 11168 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline SilverHawk

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 17
  • Country: my
How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« on: October 06, 2016, 08:46:02 pm »
Hi there , i was wondering after listening to the interview with colin mitchell and his talking electronics magazines, about how kids used to learn electronics in the old days without oscilloscopes and if that is still applicable to this day, how much practical electronics can you really learn without an oscilloscope?

Thanks
 

Offline Audioguru

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1486
  • Country: ca
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2016, 10:25:42 pm »
When I was a kid I learned about electronics in the old days 54 years ago without an oscilloscope and without the internet by reading about it in books and magazines. Then I designed simple circuits and built them but some did not work and I needed a multimeter and oscilloscope to fix them. So I built a kit multimeter and a kit oscilloscope. I still use the same oscilloscope today.

Of course I learned about the details of electronics in university.
 

Offline danadak

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 1875
  • Country: us
  • Reactor Operator SSN-583, Retired EE
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2016, 11:02:20 pm »
A "starter" scope can be had if you have a PC.

Here is a zero costs scope that might be of interest -

If you need a scope, here is a PC based freebee that handles AC coupling only, but very usefull. Note in the
manual you have to limit input to sound card on the order of a volt, but still application, with FFT and Sig Gen
makes a very usable freebee instrument. Build an interface for the signal gen, a simple opamp buffer would do,
to buffer sound card output, and an attenuator/clamp on sound card input and you should be good to go. A
couple diodes paralled should work as a clamp.

https://www.zeitnitz.eu/scope_en

http://www.daqarta.com/dw_0all.htm

http://homediyelectronics.com/projects/howtomakeafreesoundcardpcoscilloscope/?p=3

http://www.build-electronic-circuits.com/sound-card-oscilloscope/

After you build the protective interface to sound card check it first by placing a higher V
on input to protective circuit and look at output of circuit that would connect to sound
card input.

Note this scope is only good for audio type frequencies.

Regards, Dana.
Love Cypress PSOC, ATTiny, Bit Slice, OpAmps, Oscilloscopes, and Analog Gurus like Pease, Miller, Widlar, Dobkin, obsessed with being an engineer
 

Offline nfmax

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 798
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2016, 11:03:00 pm »
When I were a lad, I had the use of a moving-coil multimeter and a soldering iron, and apart from batteries that was it. We used to make 'signal injectors' - basically a battery powered audio oscillator - and use a crystal eariece as a high-impedance signal detector. Learning from magazines and the odd book (but they were a bit pricey). I first came across an oscilloscope at school in a physics class; then my father took an OU course where they provided him with a 'generatorscope' CRO plus oscillator which I was very occasionally allowed to use. Only when I started university did I actually get full use of a scope - but only after passing the 'oscilloscope driving test'.

And there weren't any PCs then, either!
 

Online blueskull

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 11544
  • Country: cn
  • Power Electronics Guy
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2016, 11:03:34 pm »
So I built a kit multimeter and a kit oscilloscope. I still use the same oscilloscope today.

Do you mean the scope, along with all electrolytic caps, as well as tube filament and phosphor, worked for 54+ years???
 

Offline Brumby

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 8859
  • Country: au
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2016, 11:16:15 pm »
An imagination is helpful and some creative alternatives like this
When I were a lad, I had the use of a moving-coil multimeter and a soldering iron, and apart from batteries that was it. We used to make 'signal injectors' - basically a battery powered audio oscillator - and use a crystal eariece as a high-impedance signal detector.

For those who learn through visualisation, the process is a little easier - especially if they have a feel for how individual components work.

Getting an oscilloscope is like moving from a telescope trained on Mars to the Curiosity rover.
 

Offline EEVblog

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 28642
  • Country: au
    • EEVblog
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2016, 11:34:41 pm »
I didn't get my first scope until I was maybe 14 or something (saved up my cash-a-can money), so that was a good 4-5 years without one. I started earlier, but didn't get really serious until maybe 9-10yo.

You simply used a multimeter, a logic probe, a tone tracer etc.
You can do a surprising amount without a scope, but doing is not always the same as learning.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 11:37:20 pm by EEVblog »
 

Offline rstofer

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 5914
  • Country: us
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2016, 01:31:12 am »
Maybe Popular Electronics magazine with their monthly projects was a help.  I do recall that buying parts was problematic.  Some of the TV repair shops would sell what components they carried like resistors, capacitors and vacuum tubes but anything else had to be ordered and that was done by mailing in a form with a check and hoping to see parts one day.

Heathkits were popular, and I built several, while the ARRL Handbook was the ultimate reference.  I suppose I could have tried the library but I never did.

You can go a long way in electronics without a scope but I don't think you get the 'feel' for how things work if you can't see what's happening.  The $400 and under scopes today are better than anything available back in the '50s.  $400 isn't insignificant but it is a long term investment and if you get 10 years of service from such a unit, the cost is about $3 per month.

I have had an oscilloscope since I built one from plans in the ARRL Handbook back in the late '50s.  I really should research that project and try to nail down the date.  It didn't have much for vertical amplifiers but it worked, more or less.

So many projects today are based on microcontrollers (Arduino as an example) and while a scope is handy, it isn't absolutely required.  You can struggle along and build some pretty amazing projects with minimal tools.  Most of the project is software.

Electronics is just one of many hobbies and I have dabbled at it for 60 years or so but, basically, I'm a code wienie.  It's just lately that I am looking at analog circuitry.  I blew that stuff off in college because the math was just too ugly to work with as a hobby.  I truly struggled with Differential Equations in college while today I play with them on an analog computer just for giggles.  How odd that damped harmonic motion is easy to model and it was the topic of the evening last night while I helped my grandson with his Pre-Calculus homework.  Talk about tying things together!  It's a matter of having the tools, I suppose...

I have written several times recently about the virtues of the Digilent Analog Discovery (search the forum).  For $279, the gadget includes 2 scope channels (limited to 25V), two arbitrary waveform generators, 16 bits of digital IO that can be used as a logic analyzer and some other tools.  This device is literally a lab in a box.  You can do an amazing amount of electronics with this gadget.  The new version picks up the pace on the dual power supplies to where it now delivers over 2W per output.  This is a great improvement over Version 1.  So much so that I'll probably buy one even though I have V1.

I'm not a fan of the sound card scopes primarily because I don't want to smoke my computer.  If I did use one of these devices, it would be on an old junker.  AC coupling is a limitation when working with digital circuits and, since digital is my interest, I just can't get excited about the concept.

I think most people blow right past the Analog Discovery and don't spend the time it takes to realize just what the tool can do.  There are a lot of YouTube Videos (including one by our host) and they seem pretty useful.  Dave is right, the Network Analyzer tool (used to make Bode' plots of amplitude and phase angle versus frequency) is very useful for characterizing tuned circuits.  While you're at the Digilent site, check out their LEARN page.  That Real Analog: Circuits I program is very serious electronics.  I remember those topics from way back when...


 

Offline Alex Nikitin

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 997
  • Country: gb
  • Femtoampnut and Tapehead.
    • A.N.T. Audio
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2016, 01:56:56 am »
Books about electronics, several of them, mostly collection of data sheets about valves, transistors, passive components - you can learn a lot by reading these. A moving coil meter, a soldering iron. Then I've build my lab bit by bit - starting, when I was about 14, with a simple stabilized and protected 0-30V, 300mA power supply, next came a scope - there was no way at that time and place to buy a proper scope(the USSR, mid-1970th), so I've bought as a junk a very old valve scope (AC only, 250kHz bandwidth) , removed all circuitry from it, leaving only the CRT, the case and the mains transformer, and built a rather nice (single channel though) DC-10Mhz scope, using my own circuit design (I was 16 by then). After that a better dual rail power supply, a function generator and an AC millivoltmeter (1mV - 100V full scale, 5Hz-500kHz BW). I've used that equipment for next fifteen years to design and test hundreds of circuits.

Cheers

Alex
 

Offline setq

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 444
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2016, 02:08:06 am »
A scope is a time domain instrument.

There are three ways to get around not having one by leveraging that:

1. Measure in the frequency domain as it's probably easier. You can peak amps, design filters without a scope. You just need an AC capable multimeter (mine was a moving coil Micronta piece of junk) and a signal source and frequency counter. The frequency counter is built into a UT-61E multimeter for me. Here's a signal source I hacked up yesterday out of some junk I had lying around to test a filter (yes that inductor is wound on a mcdonalds straw ;))

http://imgur.com/a/EvXDb

2. Slow everything down so you can measure it with a meter or an LED or something. Logic probe is the canonical example of this.

3. Make some assumptions and test the effect of them, rather than observing them. For example, with audio you can listen to signals and get a rough idea of harmonics without a scope.

I have a scope, but it doesn't really get used terribly often these days.

Edit: also I have had lots of broken scopes. These force you to think around the problems of not having one.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 02:13:21 am by setq »
 

Offline zapta

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 6004
  • Country: us
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2016, 03:31:34 am »
Hi there , i was wondering after listening to the interview with colin mitchell and his talking electronics magazines, about how kids used to learn electronics in the old days without oscilloscopes and if that is still applicable to this day, how much practical electronics can you really learn without an oscilloscope?

Thanks

Electronics is much easier to learn these days, not because the availability of cheap oscilloscopes, but because the the availability of information and parts that the Internet brought.  With a click of a button you can find any datasheet you want, ask people all over the world and order components in small quantities and reasonable prices, regardless if you live in a big city or a small rural town. IMO, this is the biggest change in the electronic hobby and learning scene.
Drain the swamp.
 

Offline Gyro

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 4213
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2016, 05:31:46 am »
It's really hard to overestimate how much the internet has changed things. When I started out you used to look forward to the days when one of the Reps was coming in with his box of 'goodies'. With any luck you'd scrounge your own set of databooks (Nat Semi were particularly generous)  which you would immediately mark all over with your name so they didn't get stolen. If you needed a specific datasheet, you'd phone the distributor, persuade him that he should give you one for free and then wait for it in the post the next day. At a pinch you could get a partial faxed, but the resolution was lousy. For help with component selection you'd have to phone an app engineer or the distributor and hope that they were on the ball. You really needed to think ahead if you were going to make sensible progress.

Even this level of support was only available to engineers, hobbiests had to glean things from the electronics magazines. You tend to forget unless you think back but it's a totally different world these days. In some ways, having (access to) a scope was the least of your problems, current information was.

P.S. I still have my three successive treasured issues of the NS linear applications handbook, still useful today.
Chris

"Victor Meldrew, the Crimson Avenger!"
 

Offline David Hess

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 9290
  • Country: us
  • DavidH
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2016, 08:22:34 am »
You learn to detect spurious oscillation by monitoring supply currents and operating points.  If a precision circuit has mysterious level shifts with no apparent reason, then you might add small amounts of capacitance or resistance at various points to detect oscillation.  Judicious application of the mark-1 fingertip can be used for this in some cases.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 11871
  • Country: gb
    • Mike's Electric Stuff
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2016, 08:41:38 am »
It's really hard to overestimate how much the internet has changed things. When I started out you used to look forward to the days when one of the Reps was coming in with his box of 'goodies'. With any luck you'd scrounge your own set of databooks (Nat Semi were particularly generous)  which you would immediately mark all over with your name so they didn't get stolen. If you needed a specific datasheet, you'd phone the distributor, persuade him that he should give you one for free and then wait for it in the post the next day. At a pinch you could get a partial faxed, but the resolution was lousy. For help with component selection you'd have to phone an app engineer or the distributor and hope that they were on the ball. You really needed to think ahead if you were going to make sensible progress.

Even this level of support was only available to engineers, hobbiests had to glean things from the electronics magazines. You tend to forget unless you think back but it's a totally different world these days. In some ways, having (access to) a scope was the least of your problems, current information was.

P.S. I still have my three successive treasured issues of the NS linear applications handbook, still useful today.
I had a complete wall of databooks, accumulated over many years. Also a pretty large collection of mags, mostly ETI and the occasional Wireless World and Elektor.
Any one remember the huge and expensive IC Master books? These proported to list just about every IC by every manufacturer, though I don't recall them being hugely useful in practice.
Another more useful publication was CIE's distributor directory, which listed distributors for every manufacturer and I think also had some product category listings. They published it every year at a fairly high price, but also sold off the previous year's editions much cheaper
Youtube channel:Taking wierd stuff apart. Very apart.
Mike's Electric Stuff: High voltage, vintage electronics etc.
Day Job: Mostly LEDs
 

Offline David Hess

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 9290
  • Country: us
  • DavidH
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2016, 09:45:07 am »
Even this level of support was only available to engineers, hobbiests had to glean things from the electronics magazines. You tend to forget unless you think back but it's a totally different world these days. In some ways, having (access to) a scope was the least of your problems, current information was.

A visiting friend once incredulously exclaimed to me, "How did you get a McMaster Carr catalog?"

For a while I lived close to the Motorola literature distribution center at Irvine Spectrum and they had no problem with my dropping by, signing it, and raiding their documentation inventory room for whatever I wanted.  Little did they know I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona instead of the close by University of Irvine.

Some companies were much more liberal about sending databooks and samples.  I never had any problem with National and Maxim for instance but I had to inherit most of my Texas Instruments books.  Linear Technology sent me everything except their application books which I had to buy.  Unitrode and Analog Devices sent me their stuff but PMI did not.

I had a complete wall of databooks, accumulated over many years. Also a pretty large collection of mags, mostly ETI and the occasional Wireless World and Elektor.

I still have my databooks if not immediately available then in storage boxes.

Quote
Any one remember the huge and expensive IC Master books? These proported to list just about every IC by every manufacturer, though I don't recall them being hugely useful in practice.

I have two widely separated years of the D.A.T.A diode and transistor books.
 

Offline Gyro

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 4213
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2016, 07:54:39 pm »
Quote
but I had to inherit most of my Texas Instruments books

Ah yes, another ritual, the 'inheriting' of the databooks. Whenever someone left the vultures would circle looking to pick off 'scraps' on their last day (hey, you still want that?). It all seemed good clean sport until it came to my turn (Buggeroff I'm keeping that!  :box:).

I still have a few boxes full too, I would have more, but one weekend I sorted then into 'useful' and (smaller) 'less useful' piles in the garage. The next day my wife decided to take the wrong pile to the tip while I was at work. :palm:
Chris

"Victor Meldrew, the Crimson Avenger!"
 

Online CJay

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 3218
  • Country: gb
  • M0UAW
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2016, 10:08:50 pm »
Databooks, magazines and enthusiastic friends (many years after one friend passed away I found out he designed and had published several  projects for electronics magazines) but I was relatively lucky in that my first full time job gave me access to an oscilloscope, sig gen, frequency counter and lots of other gadgets I could use to work on my own projects 'out of hours' as I had a key for the business.

I haven't 'learned' electronics, I'm still learning.

M0UAW
 

Offline setq

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 444
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2016, 10:49:01 pm »
The next day my wife decided to take the wrong pile to the tip while I was at work. :palm:

This is why I do all the cleaning and tidying!
 

Offline oldway

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Banned!
  • Posts: 2174
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2016, 11:05:08 pm »
I began to learn electronics at 13 years old in the valves era.

I was buying all the electronics magazines I could find.

Very soon I bought my first oscilloscope because I was aware that an oscilloscope is realy "the eyes" of the electronics technician.

My first oscilloscope has been a Heathkit IO-12E.
I had a lot of fun with it.

I was building a lot of kits, the most often amplifiers, and my own valve amplifiers.

Later, I worked with color TV repair and a good oscilloscope was essential because the signals were very complex.
I used then Telequipment and Philips oscilloscopes.
 

Offline nfmax

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 798
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #19 on: October 07, 2016, 11:11:39 pm »
Hands up if you are old enough to have used an oscilloscope with a 'stability' control!
 

Offline setq

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 444
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2016, 11:13:09 pm »
Hands up if you are old enough to have used an oscilloscope with a 'stability' control!

Not old enough but broke enough to only be able to afford one with that in the distant past!

Now I spent £10 on a 50 MHz Philips PM3217 and I'm happy :)
 

Offline eugenenine

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 755
  • Country: us
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2016, 11:34:20 pm »
A lot of the 'projects' we built as kids didn't need one.  How many of us got the Forest Mimms books from Radio Shack, the 555 timer, the 741 op amp.  All of those 'projects' were in the audio frequency range.

When I was a senior in high school an uncle gave me a Tek 212.  it was later stolen and I was scopeless until this year when I found two different Tektronix 2200 series for $40 and $50 so now I use one and my son uses one.
 

Offline Z80

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 115
  • Country: gb
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2016, 12:25:38 am »
Well the fundamentals are no different now than they were years ago, Ohms law is Ohms law.  Like most I started with an analogue meter and a stack of mags / databooks.  The lack of anything else made you get on and experiment and witness the glory of the magic smoke.  If you needed test gear you either built it or applied lateral thinking to whatever you had.  No 16 channel logic analyser?  No problem, tune an AM radio to a clear spot and listen to your program.  The biggest game changer of modern times is the internet, not cheap scopes.  If you can't find what you are looking for on the web, you aren't looking hard enough.
 

Offline zapta

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 6004
  • Country: us
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #23 on: October 08, 2016, 12:36:34 am »


Well the fundamentals are no different now than they were years ago, Ohms law is Ohms law.  Like most I started with an analogue meter and a stack of mags / databooks. 

As a kid I also didn't care how long it took to build things, time was plentiful and cheap, so eficency didn't matter.

Drain the swamp.
 

Offline free_electron

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 7100
  • Country: us
    • SiliconValleyGarage
Re: How did kids in the old days learn without an oscilloscope?
« Reply #24 on: October 08, 2016, 01:26:45 am »
just because in the old days people learned electronics without an oscilloscope does not mean you shoul ddo that now. yes it can be done , but why deny yourself the insigt that the avaialble machinery can give you ?

How did people get to work before there were cars ?
how did people eat soup before there were spoons ?
how did people stay warm before they developed the knowledge to make, maintain and transport fire ?
Professional Electron Wrangler.
Any comments, or points of view expressed, are my own and not endorsed , induced or compensated by my employer(s).
 


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf