Author Topic: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?  (Read 3760 times)

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Offline AndrewEp17Topic starter

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I was thinking about how even old oscilloscopes and other equipment from the 90s and even earlier are still used in labs today. And when you think about it, for anything other than cases where you need high sample rates or very high bandwidths, there really isn't a time where older equipment can't still be used today for its intended purpose. It was just a thought i had but i was wondering if anybody else agrees
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2024, 04:20:48 pm »
Sure it does. Imagine an old mainframe Communications analyzer, that doesn't support the currently used 4G/5G tech.
You can buy Bluetooth verifiers that don't support BLE for 1/50th the original price.
There are old test equipment that was running Windows XP, that is not compatible with IT policies and have to be replaced just because of that.
Portable spectrum analyzer, with dead battery, no replacement. Or simply worn out connectors.
Or stuff with consumables, that are cheaper to replace to a new unit, lower running cost.
 

Offline AndrewEp17Topic starter

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2024, 04:28:24 pm »
Yeah you're right. i didn't think about it like that. I quess i was thinking more of like if the equipment still works as it should than for simple measurements its still useful. But yeah you're right there is a lot of equipment that will show its age if they are used today with all technology advancing  and stuff
 

Offline Kleinstein

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2024, 04:32:35 pm »
Old scopes really are obsolete. Even if they still work and could be used the high power consumption and maybe fan noise can be a show stopper.
Similar, old tube based power supplies could well be obsolete - high power consumption and in addition often poor stability.
For private and only very occasional use it may still be acceptable, but than just the space can be an issue.
With some of the old equipment also the safety / EMI can be a show stopper - maybe OK for a museum, but nothing to really use anymore.

Running XP may still be acceptable, there can be things that are worse: I rememer an old instrument that needed an old PC with a standard ISA card - not sure if it would ran with DOS > 4.x. It was a real pain to get data off with a 5 1/4" floppy and a no longer supported early MO disc drive. I rememer a spectrometer that used the TRS80 computer with 8 inch floppy too.

Some equipment gets a rather long life for special uses though. I remember repairing an old tensile testing machine from the early 1940s in about 1998. A crazy mix of old and hacked together upgrades.
 

Offline AndrewEp17Topic starter

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2024, 04:37:14 pm »
Yeah getting data off of the equipment is another thing i didn't think of. Even if an oscilloscope or something still works, it's not always easy to get data onto modern computers where everything is mostly usb and the equipment uses older connections
 

Online coppice

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2024, 04:38:55 pm »
There is an immense amount of test equipment which is very specific, and becomes obsolete very quickly. Radio comms testers have been mentioned, and there is a lot of equipment like that, where the protocols they are for go away. However, there is plenty of equipment for things like compliance testing where they might be updatable for minor changes to the compliance specifications, but often have to be totally replaced. Sadly, they are often updatable, but the maker has either died or refuses to support old models, and you still need to replace them.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2024, 04:52:24 pm by coppice »
 

Offline AVGresponding

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2024, 04:48:52 pm »
Old scopes really are obsolete. Even if they still work and could be used the high power consumption and maybe fan noise can be a show stopper.
Similar, old tube based power supplies could well be obsolete - high power consumption and in addition often poor stability.
For private and only very occasional use it may still be acceptable, but than just the space can be an issue.
With some of the old equipment also the safety / EMI can be a show stopper - maybe OK for a museum, but nothing to really use anymore.

Running XP may still be acceptable, there can be things that are worse: I rememer an old instrument that needed an old PC with a standard ISA card - not sure if it would ran with DOS > 4.x. It was a real pain to get data off with a 5 1/4" floppy and a no longer supported early MO disc drive. I rememer a spectrometer that used the TRS80 computer with 8 inch floppy too.

Some equipment gets a rather long life for special uses though. I remember repairing an old tensile testing machine from the early 1940s in about 1998. A crazy mix of old and hacked together upgrades.

This is a very middle class first world attitude. There are plenty of people that can't afford newer, better gear; should they have nothing?
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Offline Kleinstein

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2024, 05:18:32 pm »
Even in a third world country too high a power consumption is an issue. In many areas electricity is even more expensive there.

The less developed coutries rarely have the old stuff - as they were often even more behind 20 years ago. With more standard instruments like scopes modern ones are not that expensive anymore.
Things like the old mercury standard cells are also very inconvenient to use - so really obsolete. Modern reference and meters make things that much more practical at a relatively low cost.
More special instruments may be used longer, though with some inconvenience, e.g. with an antique computer or "home made" interfaces / adapters.
 

Offline Arts

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2024, 09:44:27 pm »
Old scopes really are obsolete. Even if they still work and could be used the high power consumption and maybe fan noise can be a show stopper.
Similar, old tube based power supplies could well be obsolete - high power consumption and in addition often poor stability.

I have been using my Tektronix 547/1A1 scope for more decades than I care to count. It's a huge, noisy, power hungry shop heater. And I wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING..

Same goes for my Fluke 407D power supply, which is in my soon-to-rebuild pile. Sold my Sorenson 600-1.7 for a bucketload of cash.

And all of my audio equipment is tube based.

I really couldn't care less about electricity rates ::)

 

Offline langwadt

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2024, 09:48:19 pm »
Even in a third world country too high a power consumption is an issue. In many areas electricity is even more expensive there.

The less developed coutries rarely have the old stuff - as they were often even more behind 20 years ago. With more standard instruments like scopes modern ones are not that expensive anymore.
Things like the old mercury standard cells are also very inconvenient to use - so really obsolete. Modern reference and meters make things that much more practical at a relatively low cost.
More special instruments may be used longer, though with some inconvenience, e.g. with an antique computer or "home made" interfaces / adapters.

ye, obsolescent vs. obsolete
 

Offline J-R

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2024, 09:48:57 pm »
I think obsolete is probably a poor term to use, since the definition is a bit broad to begin with.  People apply the term differently.  I'll even admit to throwing it around somewhat loosely in conversation.

Regardless, my opinion is that there is really nothing that is ever truly "obsolete" or 100% garbage.  Even if you think it is, there just might be someone out there who wants it, maybe for parts or just nostalgia.  Whether it is worth your time to get it to them is another topic.

In my case, I have quite a few bits of "obsolete" test equipment and maybe half of it is used as my primary and the other half I bought to repair or just to satisfy my curiosity.  For example, I snagged a Heathkit IM-1212 in excellent condition and the only issue was the original owner neglected to solder one of the switch terminals.  It was fun to find the issue and calibrate it, but it has no other reasonable use case.  But I'll keep it because it's still interesting.
 

Online Gyro

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2024, 09:56:57 pm »
I'm a bit worried that my meter may be getting a bit long in the tooth - it's reading 3% low after 120 years!  :D


Edit: Seriously though, I'm still using my old Panaplex display Datron bench DMMs and Philips frequency counter/timer, they are more stable and higher resolution than a a lot of the modern stuff (that I can't justify the cost of buying anyway).
« Last Edit: May 22, 2024, 10:03:33 pm by Gyro »
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Offline Fungus

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2024, 10:44:25 pm »
Some does, some doesn't.

A better question is: Is it worth buying old equipment second hand instead of buying modern gear?
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2024, 10:55:06 pm »
I'm a bit worried that my meter may be getting a bit long in the tooth - it's reading 3% low after 120 years!  :D

Hey! That's older than my calculator.

Test equipment becomes obsolete when either (1) the thing it is measuring becomes obsolete, or (2) it ceases operating effectively.

An example of (1) is waveform monitors for analogue TV/monitor signals.
An example of (2) is unsaturated Weston standard cells.

But many items of TE continue to operate usefully many decades after the manufacturer has stopped making them. Frequently they are better and cheaper than many new TE items. Examples include scopes, DVMs, frequency counters, PSUs.

Of course Sturgeon's Law applies equally to old and new, but the old stuff that people have kept working is more.likely to be part of the 10%.

As ever, good taste and critical appraisal are necessary.
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2024, 10:57:16 pm »
Some does, some doesn't.

A better question is: Is it worth buying old equipment second hand instead of buying modern gear?

Easy: it is better to buy good quality used equipment than crappy new equipment. Ditto furniture.

Exception: if the equipment is regarded as disposable.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline AG6QR

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2024, 11:07:26 pm »
I'm on the board of directors of my local ham radio club.  Ham radio is a hobby for all ages, but it definitely skews toward the older folks, who learned on old gear and sometimes still enjoy using it.  When older members pass away, widows often donate gear to the club, and we get to figure out what to do with it.  We have a few tube testers (these used to be found in the back of any retail store that sold tubes). We have many analog multimeters.  The high-end Simpsons are still useful and sell for a pretty penny; the $7.00 Radio Shack meter from 1978 might still work as well as it did when new, but it's hard to find anyone who wants to use it, since the cheapest digital meter is better in almost every way.

Really old gear, made with vacuum tubes and point-to-point wiring, can almost always be repaired to like-new functional condition.  The circuits are usually relatively simple, and wiring can be probed relatively easily.  Tubes and inductors rarely fail. Resistors and capacitors can be replaced with modern substitutes that often work better than the originals. Schematics are surprisingly likely to be available online (if not in an envelope inside the equipment itself). Old hardware like switches can sometimes be a bit of a problem, but usually not insoluble.

But gear from the early age of integrated circuits is a lot more difficult to repair.  And when software and firmware enter the picture, good luck!

We've got quite a few CRT oscilloscopes.  Early scopes that lack triggering circuitry are like that cheap Radio Shack meter -- even if repaired to work as well as they did when new, nobody wants to use them. They're relegated to being historical curiosities only.

Tektronix scopes from the dawn of the integrated circuit age have custom chips in them, with no readily available replacement sources except other old Tektronix scopes.  Too often, the same chips have failed in several scopes, so cannibalizing is not always practical. In any case, the older CRT scopes are big, heavy, and contain lethal voltages inside, so not every tinkerer would be well-advised to tear one open and fix it.  Most problems with a scope require at least a separate working scope to diagnose and repair.

Older analog oscilloscopes have one advantage over all but the very nicest and most expensive digital scopes:  They work well in X-Y mode.  Specifically, they continuously paint the X versus Y trace, with no interruptions for moving digital data around, no pauses to repaint the screen, no frame rate issues whatsoever.  There are a few cases where that can be very useful.  It can never quite be matched with a digital scope, but a few high-end units can sometimes come close enough for some practical purposes.
 
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Online G0HZU

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2024, 11:11:04 pm »
Some does, some doesn't.

A better question is: Is it worth buying old equipment second hand instead of buying modern gear?

The alternative is to rent new test gear instead of buying it.

For example, the (24 year old) Agilent E4440A PSA spectrum analyser is listed as obsolete by Keysight. To get close to the performance of its RF converter stages with anything new you would still have to pay about $60k or more. The alternative is to rent the new $60k+ analyser whenever the high performance is needed.

The rest of the time you could buy and use a low cost Siglent spectrum analyser if you don't want the baggage that comes with maintaining older test gear like an Agilent PSA analyser.
 

Offline tggzzz

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2024, 11:17:34 pm »
For example, the (24 year old) Agilent E4440A PSA spectrum analyser is listed as obsolete by Keysight. To get close to the performance of its RF converter stages with anything new you would still have to pay about $60k or more. The alternative is to rent the new $60k+ analyser whenever the high performance is needed.

The last time I looked, a long time ago, a rule of thumb was that if you rented something for 10 months then you paid the same as if you had bought it. I.e. monthly rental cost was 10% of the purchase price.

Is that still true?
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Online G0HZU

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2024, 11:26:26 pm »
For example, the (24 year old) Agilent E4440A PSA spectrum analyser is listed as obsolete by Keysight. To get close to the performance of its RF converter stages with anything new you would still have to pay about $60k or more. The alternative is to rent the new $60k+ analyser whenever the high performance is needed.

The last time I looked, a long time ago, a rule of thumb was that if you rented something for 10 months then you paid the same as if you had bought it. I.e. monthly rental cost was 10% of the purchase price.

Is that still true?
It probably depends on the item. On my bench at work is a rented Keysight E5080B VNA (4 port 20GHz). I think I've had it about 5 months now. Fortunately, I have no idea how much it is costing a month. Over 5 months I doubt it will amount to 50% of the purchase price though.
 

Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2024, 11:39:36 pm »
I've spent the last 25+ years working for two of the biggest T&M instrument manufacturers.  Based on my experience, the short answer is "it depends"

Some instruments are obsoleted by changing technology:  no one needs instruments to test Token Ring, Frame Relay, ATM, AMPS, WiMAX, etc. anymore. 

And some instruments are effectively obsoleted by advancements in measurement technology:  I can still use a grid dip meter to tune an antenna, but there are MUCH better and cheaper ways to do this now (e.g. NanoVNA).

The only gray area is where older instruments can still perform ... roughly ... the same measurements.  I can use my analog HM407 scope for a lot of basic measurements, and for some of these it is not appreciably worse than a "modern" scope.  But speaking as a hobbyist, I feel that there are much better and much more cost-effective solutions than buying a decades-old analog scope.


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Offline J-R

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2024, 11:46:30 pm »
Test equipment becomes obsolete when either (1) the thing it is measuring becomes obsolete, or (2) it ceases operating effectively.

An example of (1) is waveform monitors for analogue TV/monitor signals.
An example of (2) is unsaturated Weston standard cells.

But there are still people who could want those items, such as for retro-computing (1), or as a conversation piece to sit on the shelf (2).
 
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Offline David Hess

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2024, 12:21:45 am »
Old scopes really are obsolete. Even if they still work and could be used the high power consumption and maybe fan noise can be a show stopper.

A higher bandwidth older instrument can always show things that a lower bandwidth newer instrument will miss no matter how many extra features the newer instrument has.

For most applications, an old digital storage oscilloscope is just as good as a new one, and digital storage oscilloscopes have been around for 40 years now.

Tektronix scopes from the dawn of the integrated circuit age have custom chips in them, with no readily available replacement sources except other old Tektronix scopes.  Too often, the same chips have failed in several scopes, so cannibalizing is not always practical.

Jim Williams gave the same reason for preferring older Tektronix instruments.

With exception of much later models, those custom Tektronix ICs and hybrids are about the least likely parts to fail.
 

Offline EvgenyG

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2024, 02:03:36 am »
The only gray area is where older instruments can still perform ... roughly ... the same measurements.  I can use my analog HM407 scope for a lot of basic measurements, and for some of these it is not appreciably worse than a "modern" scope.  But speaking as a hobbyist, I feel that there are much better and much more cost-effective solutions than buying a decades-old analog scope.

HM407 is a great little scope. I've got one too. Yours is in such great condition. Mine came from a Uni lab and is a bit thrashed. I replaced all rotary encoders, fully recapped (136 capacitors!!!) and cleaned it. Still does not look as great as yours, but works well, has a super sharp trace. Nothing beats its AutoSet speed and roll mode is amazing. I also quite like the quick and easy way to change scope modes with presets. I would love to get a HM1507 at some point. It is quite well made inside, fairly easy to service.

I think having one analog scope is good for a lab. I don't see a reason to get more than one unless you're a vintage tech fan or want to open a museum.

Unfortunately, even the HM407 won't see things that any modern high refresh waveform rate scope would easily do.
 
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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2024, 03:28:21 am »
I love electronics, iv bought alot of broken stuff and have spent time fixing for the last 15 years many of boxes. Some that have sat for 5+ years after acquiring. Getting older and making more money, im realizing that some things i should just buy new and be happy with. It depends where you are in your journey. I love my stuff, but id only save 1 or two items in a house fire. I have several professional musician friends that collect music synthesizers. After restoring several dozen vintage synths over the years iv learned if you need something to work for your job, go a buy a new one with a warranty. Vintage synths are cool, and sound great. But i went from $30 an hr to $80 an hr because it was not worth it anymore to restore old gear, my time should be spent on other things LIFE has to offer. Even though i may enjoy it at times, more often i end up cursing the obligation of restoring something. Recycling,melting down, burying and blowing up old stuff is OK. Not everything should be kept forever. Iv got alot of old test gear that im restoring. But to what end? Something is ALWAYS for sale and snickerdoodles my shelves are full, stuff lives on the floor now. Those shining objects with a buy it now button are my sweet horrible addiction.   
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2024, 03:46:47 am »
In my world there are two definitions for obsolescence.

1.  No longer useful for purpose.  This can mean either that the purpose has gone away, or that support in the form of spare parts, cables, etc. are no longer available.

2.  Wildly less useful than current versions of the same product, making it undesirable.

Both of these are a bit fuzzy.  In general the first definition has some element of number of users.   A tiny market of historians or cult users of a product doesn't really qualify as purpose.   So Sinclair and COSMAC computers are obsolete, loss of purpose as are original IBM PCs.  But the entire world of audio enthusiasts is well served by oscilloscopes (from a performance standpoint) from just about any time from the mid-50s on, so I wouldn't call them obsolete based on loss of purpose.  But a range of scopes from the late 70s and the 80s are obsolete because they can't be maintained.

The second definition is where is really hits.  I have a variety of oscilloscopes ranging from 1960s designs up to the present.  And use the newest one almost always.  Because it is small, light and has features that are useful, even though the UI is clumsy relative to many of the classic scopes.  Things like viewing pre-trigger signals.  Decoding serial data.  And others.

Weston cells are another example.  When available they still provide a voltage reference that is far better than most folks really need, so in a sense still suitable for purpose.  But they are no longer available or maintainable.  And far less convenient than packaged standards available today. 
 

Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #25 on: May 23, 2024, 06:59:22 am »
A higher bandwidth older instrument can always show things that a lower bandwidth newer instrument will miss no matter how many extra features the newer instrument has.

I understand the sentiment :), but I think it depends on which "features" the older and newer scopes have. 

FFT comes immediately to mind.  There are lots of things you can (easily) see with an FFT that you can't see without it, no matter how much bandwidth you have.  The quality of the FFT implementation is also really important - this has come a long way in the last 15 years or so.
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Offline Shock

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2024, 07:45:33 am »
Two different terms, obsolescence is going out of use, once out of use it's obsolete. Once sales start to decline you could argue a piece of equipment is becoming obsolescent, so depends on who's making the statement.
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Online coppercone2

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2024, 07:54:47 am »
i think its dumb to think that way because you never know what someone is working on. the thought that all the possibilities that are useful that are possible with that equipment have been exhausted is utterly ridiculous.

can it still implement novel technology? yes. Can the extra data readouts and stuff from new equipment be detrimental to design? its possible. you can keep collecting data forever and get nowhere at all, at that point it will just be used to bamboozle people and get sold as 'experience' .

That is a heavy assumption that you don't get sideways growth of related technologies that don't need the most demanding electronics but are none the less new (i.e. new sensors, transducers, etc).

it feels like a eternal sales pitch sometimes hearing about what capabiltiies you need from someone that has no idea what your doing

and there is the over looked fact that laboratory equipment is sometimes used the same way as sky spot lights at a boxing arena, to give something a ritzy confident look, where it actually performs no real function at all, you know... for the business strategy and accounting 'confidence' metric, where two or more groups of 'totally don't know what the fuck is going on here, or in the industry, and related industries, like seriously' groups of people need 'confidence' and 'optics' to facilitate some kind of interaction or exchange.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2024, 08:16:06 am by coppercone2 »
 

Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #28 on: May 23, 2024, 08:16:02 am »
Once sales start to decline you could argue a piece of equipment is becoming obsolescent, so depends on who's making the statement.

You might be surprised at how often equipment is obsoleted due to unavailability of parts or changing regulations.  RoHS "obsoleted" a lot of products. 
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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #29 on: May 23, 2024, 08:17:00 am »
i wonder how many pounds of plasticizers and whatnot each gram of lead saved puts into the e-waste trash piles that i swear are recycled after beyond economical repair determination is made. we won't have lead, but we will have microplastics instead! especially when its burned, grinded down and dunked in acids in a barrel on top of a trash fire made with tires and old yard furniture. it should get back to the USA in about 50 years from africa via fish, rain, ocean currents and wind.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2024, 08:19:27 am by coppercone2 »
 

Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #30 on: May 23, 2024, 08:20:31 am »
and there is the over looked fact that laboratory equipment is sometimes used the same way as sky spot lights at a boxing arena, to give something a ritzy confident look, where it actually performs no real function at all

I once had a customer who was adding RF functionality to their product for the first time.  One day I went in their lab and saw a really ancient spectrum analyzer on their bench. Someone (jokingly?) told me that it was to give them credibility: anyone touring their lab would see that boat anchor and say "Boy, these guys have been doing RF forever..."    :-DD
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Online coppercone2

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #31 on: May 23, 2024, 08:25:40 am »
that is like coral reef don't disturb it because the results are difficult to predict and its not well understood
 

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #32 on: May 23, 2024, 08:28:33 am »
but more specifically their usually smart when they use it to show off. its usually extremely expensive. The people that do this ONLY know the manufacturing date and cost. I have trouble making a example because i always think they can use it for something no matter how ridiculous it seems to the people in the lab..... there is always something you can do. i only learn of the true motive by learning who bought it, why, and what meetings lead to it. And it will be usually covered by something official, like iso, and its like some utterly ridiculous specification that just stands out like crazy, say 100 times in excess of the spec of what they actually work on. you see 5% 5% 10% 10% 5% and then suddenly some inane unstable thing is like measured to 0.0001% , when commonly in the trade they measure it  to 20% LOL (and its only ever changed if something stops working, i.e. no spec)

say, measuring electrolytic capacitors with a random ass aging and nonlinear characteristic to femtofarad levels of precision

its like those people that can sell you something from 1920 that has been upgraded with miter cuts on the edges and jetblack anodizing as cutting edge technology

like it or not, its how billion dollar deals are made regularly :-DD
« Last Edit: May 23, 2024, 08:44:24 am by coppercone2 »
 

Online xrunner

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #33 on: May 23, 2024, 11:12:29 am »
The definition of obsolete is

Quote
no longer in use or no longer useful

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obsolete


But then the word "truly" was added to it in the thread title, so we have "truly obsolete" ... what does adding "truly" even accomplish?

But anyway, the question is completely subjective as it means different things to different people regarding their needs or desires.  :P
I told my friends I could teach them to be funny, but they all just laughed at me.
 
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Online newbrain

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #34 on: May 23, 2024, 01:46:22 pm »
Quote
Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
Yes.


When I was twelve, it was a wonderful experience.
I bought it for peanuts (mine was marked Fairchild, not Dumont), but my parents weren't so amused to have my desk repaired, as it almost collapsed under the weight.
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Offline Njk

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #35 on: May 23, 2024, 02:09:08 pm »
What's wrong with that bridge? If digital indication provides better accuracy by its own? The only real problem is that the things like that are lasting too long to be profitable for manufacturers
 

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #36 on: May 23, 2024, 02:36:38 pm »
The fact that you can still "use" old equipment (if you have nothing better) is one thing.

What is repeatedly recommended to beginners in this forum is to buy a 30-year-old 20MHz CRO because it is "better" than, for example, a Hantek DSO2000 for a similar price.
Is that nonsense or can you say that with a clear conscience?
I've never had an analog scope, that's why I'm asking.
 

Offline oz2cpu

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #37 on: May 23, 2024, 03:04:51 pm »
YES equipment do get obsolete from pro use in a company,
then hobby dudes and radioamateurs score them and continue to use them for another 10-20 years,
then collectors get the stuff to play with, and store for another 20-40 years,
when they die, sadly their kids take it all to the dumb..
I am the missing link just before the dumb,
need prof : search youtube for : oz2cpu teardown
I get car loads of instruments in every week from people who just want to get rid of it,
better give it to me, or have some of my many friends come pick it up for them.
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Offline coromonadalix

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #38 on: May 23, 2024, 03:20:12 pm »
yes and no  for  mentioned reasons,  it depends of what you need to do ....


oz2cpu   i envy you   loll    i would like to receive thoses thingies  loll

aldo22    i had analogues scopes before,  phillips  and others,   and at one time they where pretty good ..
              BUT now technology evolved,  lcd screen got very good and fast, DPO technology  helped a lot
              if you had some Fluke portable scope  you'll understand what i meant   loll  it was very crude


I'm still using 20 years or more meters,  34401a  34410a ,  some Beckman Industrial meters / Wavetek ...  still going strong, and never blown a fuse in them

Some of the old stuff can still be pretty darn good, really depends,  still using old TEK TDS 7k series ... at least 20 years old  ...

Some OLD Gossens 28s 29s meter,  nothing recent beats them, and old psu's,  some where build like tanks, weighted a ton  IE:old Kepco  52 pounds, and a Kikusui (almost same specs, newer tech 25 pounds loll)


really depend of the needed usage,  some will last a life time, others dont

Quality as taken an huge drop, now  it's now more like :   use them, they fail  = trash them
 
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Offline Njk

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #39 on: May 23, 2024, 04:11:28 pm »
Laugh on me, but for low resistance measurement, I trust this old bridge more than my Fluke 189 because it's a specialized tool and there is absolutely no magic inside, while the Fluke is a general-purpose multimeter. And BTW, the polyurethane foam on the battery compartment cover is disintegrated by now. So ridiculous. Also, I had to replace the supercap because of leakage.

As for the beginners, I'd already mentioned it somewhere here that when I was a schoolboy, I found a huge oscilloscope in the garbage area of the yard. I'm not sure if it was in perfect working condition or my father provided some initial help. But to my memory, it was somehow working from the beginning. It was of pure tube type and sometimes I was bitten by high voltages. That was OK, because on the other hand, it tolerated all my mistakes (it's difficult to get a tube electrically damaged). I could experiment with changing the schematics and to see the effects from this on the CRT screen. So it was perfect for learning. Not sure if any modern equipment (of any price) can give a beginner better insight in electronic circuits
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #40 on: May 24, 2024, 01:31:48 am »
The quality of the FFT implementation is also really important - this has come a long way in the last 15 years or so.

The quality of the FFT implementation has come a long way; it has gotten significantly worse since the 1990s when an oscilloscope could display both the magnitude and phase results.  This has actually held me back from buying a modern DSO; why would I buy something new that lacks this incredibly useful feature, especially when old obsolete DSOs had it?  Without it, a modern DSO is no better for transient response analysis than an obsolete oscilloscope.

And while we are at it, FFTs should also include a noise marker function, which depends on the RBW.  Your FFT reports its RBW, right?  RIGHT?

The point of the above is that the FFT function is usually a check-off toy on most "modern" DSOs.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2024, 01:43:33 am by David Hess »
 
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Offline Fungus

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #41 on: May 24, 2024, 05:16:19 am »
I once had a customer who was adding RF functionality to their product for the first time.  One day I went in their lab and saw a really ancient spectrum analyzer on their bench. Someone (jokingly?) told me that it was to give them credibility: anyone touring their lab would see that boat anchor and say "Boy, these guys have been doing RF forever..."    :-DD

Remember when Apple made a "lab" for their M1 launch and filled it with $100 FNIRSI tablet-scopes:


 
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Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #42 on: May 24, 2024, 10:27:47 am »
And while we are at it, FFTs should also include a noise marker function, which depends on the RBW.  Your FFT reports its RBW, right?  RIGHT?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but our oscilloscopes report and allow you to explicitly set RBW when in FFT/spectrum mode.  I can make and post a more detailed video showing this if you like, but here's a quick example

https://youtu.be/acE3d4TpiW4?t=34

Noise markers are, in my experience, more of a spectrum analyzer feature than an oscilloscope feature.  Noise markers also require correction for both RBW and the filter shape (which is not user-adjustable), so this is typically handled automatically by the instrument  I mention this in a different video :)

https://youtu.be/pL0pY-t8KWY?t=84

The point of the above is that the FFT function is usually a check-off toy on most "modern" DSOs.

Everyone has different needs or priorities when using an oscilloscope, but FFT / spectrum analysis is a critical feature for many of our customers.  I could give a fairly long list of all the different ways it is used, but there have many been posts and discussions about this here on EEVblog.

Again, my apologies if I'm misunderstanding you.  One thing I've learned over many years working in the test equipment industry is that people often have very different ways of describing measurements, tests, etc.  And of all the instruments I've worked with, oscilloscopes are definitely the ones where terminology varies the most among users and instruments :)
Test and Measurement Fundamentals video series on the Rohde & Schwarz YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKxVoO5jUTlvsVtDcqrVn0ybqBVlLj2z8
 
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Offline RolandK

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #43 on: May 24, 2024, 10:28:47 am »
For me, main aspects are:
- function: what can be measured, ranges, accuracy, some special features, eg. hw trigger possibilies of scopes.
- interface: usablility, speed, easy access to main functions,
- quality: low failure rate, construction, parts with plenty of headroom and fitting the purpose.
- maintanance: service docs with schematics, service friendly buildup. Simpler circuits are easier to understand.
- resource: energy consumption, occupied size.

Then there are emotional aspects:
- fun in use / repair
- good TEA community (eg share tips, repair stories, free manuals)
- Brand with good reputation

for me, if an instrument gets obsolete, has to do with multiple aspects. And: A lot of instruments are mediocre even new. This are the ones which go obsolete very quick.

Interesting examples:
- heathkit, their function and quality is often sub-earth level. But maintanance and emotional aspects compensate for that. :-/O
- fluke 289: superb function, a bit clumsy, bad interface, no service manuals
- hp: they had designers who were responsible for good user interfaces and maintainability. :) With the advent of one knob menue driven interfaces some machines got nearly unusable. >:(
- tektronix: analog scopes with good function, interface and maintenance. With the digital tds 744a or the like: superb function, but bad interface, like fluke 289 >:(
- hp 4274a: full service manual, no customer parts, good user interface, but internal very complex, hard to maintain.
- genrad 1689 compared to 4274a (very near to each other in function and age): better accuracy, worser user interface, simpler buildup, easier maintainance

newer developments sometimes are not so good in these aspects, eg:
- main functions hidden in 2nd or 3rd menue level
- noisy because auf smps (which tends to fail early)
- complex and overloaded banana software (ripes and rottens at the customer)
- operating systems need minutes to boot, are slow and tend to security problems.
- custom IC's, controllers with integrated flash not only protect the knowledge, but are unobtanium at all or short after maketing ends.
- very quick out of service, no service manuals
- developed by unexprienced new staff, who ignore existing knowledge (Danning Kruger effect), eg. hameg hm8142 is good, hm8143 has design flaws (do not connect both outputs antiparallel, one of them will be killed in a blink :wtf:), hm8142 has very good user interface only with the optional keyboard, which is removed at hm8143. ::)

For commercial use, you may have a service contract with the manufacturer, that's it, the manufacturer drains your employers money.
But afterwards these machines get very quick obsolete, as they can't be repaired anymore or it is too expensive or excessive "customer rights" or business quarter shareholder value driven managers push manufacturers out of buisiness with private persons (eg. keysight).

Therefore, as private person, i like machines which fulfil many of the aspects mentioned above. Age is only indirect a concern, and has 2 aspects:
- developent over time improves or worsens different aspects in newer machines. Norms (eg. electric safety) develop, too.
- Lifetime: things get dirty (fixable) and wore out or fail (often fixable). Availability gets a concern if needed on the job. Jojo's are not good for 24/7 use.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2024, 07:37:47 pm by RolandK »
Why do old shaffner filters blow? - because there are rifas inside.
Why do rifas blow? Only time shows if the best new thing is really best. Here it is not.
 
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Online 2N3055

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #44 on: May 24, 2024, 10:43:25 am »
The quality of the FFT implementation is also really important - this has come a long way in the last 15 years or so.

The quality of the FFT implementation has come a long way; it has gotten significantly worse since the 1990s when an oscilloscope could display both the magnitude and phase results.  This has actually held me back from buying a modern DSO; why would I buy something new that lacks this incredibly useful feature, especially when old obsolete DSOs had it?  Without it, a modern DSO is no better for transient response analysis than an obsolete oscilloscope.

And while we are at it, FFTs should also include a noise marker function, which depends on the RBW.  Your FFT reports its RBW, right?  RIGHT?

The point of the above is that the FFT function is usually a check-off toy on most "modern" DSOs.

Keysight MSOX3000T  I have can show both magnitude and phase, but it has only 64kPts for FFT so that is a limiting factor.
So it is not like nobody has it.

Other point is that it is obvious that users don't need it so much as you think. Otherwise it would be in every scope....
« Last Edit: May 24, 2024, 10:45:31 am by 2N3055 »
 
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Offline tggzzz

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #45 on: May 24, 2024, 01:25:25 pm »
Other point is that it is obvious that users don't need it so much as you think. Otherwise it would be in every scope....

That may be true, but one doesn't follow from the other!

Checkbox marketing/engineering is a real phenomenon :(
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online 2N3055

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #46 on: May 24, 2024, 01:31:41 pm »
Other point is that it is obvious that users don't need it so much as you think. Otherwise it would be in every scope....

That may be true, but one doesn't follow from the other!

Checkbox marketing/engineering is a real phenomenon :(

Nah, it is called market research...  :-DD
 

Online joeqsmith

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #47 on: May 24, 2024, 01:38:43 pm »
That was my very first oscilloscope. 

Quote
Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
Yes.
(Attachment Link)

When I was twelve, it was a wonderful experience.
I bought it for peanuts (mine was marked Fairchild, not Dumont), but my parents weren't so amused to have my desk repaired, as it almost collapsed under the weight.
 
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Offline David Hess

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #48 on: May 24, 2024, 05:22:07 pm »
And while we are at it, FFTs should also include a noise marker function, which depends on the RBW.  Your FFT reports its RBW, right?  RIGHT?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but our oscilloscopes report and allow you to explicitly set RBW when in FFT/spectrum mode.  I can make and post a more detailed video showing this if you like, but here's a quick example

https://youtu.be/acE3d4TpiW4?t=34

Noise markers are, in my experience, more of a spectrum analyzer feature than an oscilloscope feature.  Noise markers also require correction for both RBW and the filter shape (which is not user-adjustable), so this is typically handled automatically by the instrument  I mention this in a different video :)

https://youtu.be/pL0pY-t8KWY?t=84

I did not go into detail, but the application is to make noise density measurements, which requires knowing either the RBW, which depends on FFT bin size and FFT window as described in your video, or having an equivalent to the noise marker function found on spectrum analyzers.  Most DSOs have neither, so one is left to determine the unreported and undocumented RBW, which can then be used to normalize the measurement made by or on the DSO.  The noise marker function commonly associated with spectrum analyzers does it all in one step.

DSOs should be really good at this with trivial effort, yet most (all?) are almost totally useless at it.  Offhand I do not know of any DSOs which support it (1), and your example of a Rohde & Schwarz model reporting RBW is a step forward.  The alternative is to import the waveform data to a computer and calculate it there, of if you are someone like me, use an *obsolete* *analog* oscilloscope to make accurate spot noise measurements and then calculate the noise density over the area of interest from that.  Modern DSOs can make accurate spot noise measurements, accounting for their filter's shape factor, like an *obsolete* *analog* oscilloscope, right?  RIGHT?

(1) Old LeCroy DSOs should be able to do it, but I think that is only through their considerable user defined math capability, and you still have to determine the RBW yourself.

Quote
The point of the above is that the FFT function is usually a check-off toy on most "modern" DSOs.

Everyone has different needs or priorities when using an oscilloscope, but FFT / spectrum analysis is a critical feature for many of our customers.  I could give a fairly long list of all the different ways it is used, but there have many been posts and discussions about this here on EEVblog.

I think there is a major difference between FFTs on entry level DSOs and high bandwidth DSOs by the major manufacturers.  The later provide useful performance at RF while supporting triggered or gated measurements.  The former seem more like a marketing check-off.  Sometimes I think one of the check-off DSOs would be useful for making distortion measurements, except everything interesting is slightly below the level that they can measure.

Now what entry and mid level DSOs could do with their FFTs is network analysis ... but they discard the phase information, unlike some obsolete DSOs of the past.

Quote
Again, my apologies if I'm misunderstanding you.  One thing I've learned over many years working in the test equipment industry is that people often have very different ways of describing measurements, tests, etc.  And of all the instruments I've worked with, oscilloscopes are definitely the ones where terminology varies the most among users and instruments :)

Some of the variation in terminology comes about for marketing advantage.  It makes it difficult for knowledgeable customers to figure out which instruments support which features.

Keysight MSOX3000T  I have can show both magnitude and phase, but it has only 64kPts for FFT so that is a limiting factor.
So it is not like nobody has it.

The serious LeCroy models can do it.  Old obsolete Tektronix DSOs can do it.  Your example is the first time I have heard of an HP/Agilent/Keysight model that can do it, but there it is, albeit barely in the manual.

Quote
Other point is that it is obvious that users don't need it so much as you think. Otherwise it would be in every scope....

Based on my experience in college and industry, I think it comes down to most potential users not being able to understand it.  The usual solution is to get a dedicated network analyzer, which will become obsolete immediately after it is no longer needed because it is so specialized.
 

Online 2N3055

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #49 on: May 24, 2024, 07:02:59 pm »
12 bit Siglents do report bin size and RBW adjusted for window.
 

Online G0HZU

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #50 on: May 24, 2024, 08:22:58 pm »
My really old (and long obsolete according to Keysight) Infiniium 500MHz DSO can display magnitude and phase in FFT mode. It also reports the 'resolution' although I'm not sure this is the same as the resolution bandwidth. The 'resolution' doesn't change if I change the window type for example. Either way, the FFT function is fairly poor on this scope. Not as poor as some other scopes, but poor enough to only make me use it for really quick/casual measurements.

I also have a newer DSO here made by Tek (MSO4104) and the FFT function is not nice to use. I rarely use this scope, even for everyday  stuff because the UI is so awful. It does have a nice big display though. I think this Tek scope is only about 12-13 years old but it feels very dated. It has the latest firmware so this is about as good as it is ever going to be. The features on the newer scopes from manufacturers like Siglent really do show how restrictive and poor these older Tek scopes are today.

It's hard to imagine how this MSO4104 could ever be classed as 'obsolete' in the sense it could no longer be useful in a typical engineering lab. However, in 50 years' time who knows what will change. Maybe the 230V AC mains system will change by then or maybe there will be health and safety regulations that effectively make it obsolete.

I still have my first scope here (Tek 585) and I think it is over 60 years old and it still worked the last time I powered it up. I would class this scope as obsolete but I'm sure there are plenty of happy 5xx series scope users still out there.



 

Online nctnico

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #51 on: May 24, 2024, 08:48:07 pm »
The fact that you can still "use" old equipment (if you have nothing better) is one thing.

What is repeatedly recommended to beginners in this forum is to buy a 30-year-old 20MHz CRO because it is "better" than, for example, a Hantek DSO2000 for a similar price.
Is that nonsense or can you say that with a clear conscience?
It is not nonsense, it is utter nonsense. The same goes for every bench DMM thread. Someone will come in and go harping on about some ancient 6.5 digit HP / Agilent DMM with little features and a crappy VFD or LCD display.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 
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Online coppercone2

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #52 on: May 24, 2024, 10:50:16 pm »
what the hell features are you looking for.

even the new stats feature that you get on the new DMM truevolts, try using that in a company. like I wanna see someone that actually made a decision with it. you end up writing down V or A or Ohm.

historgrams and graphs are open to interpretation and no one can make a decision with that.causes confusion

then you get some other BS thats not even optimized. The beeper is useful and the diode test, well you wanna get a fluke for that since it goes to a higher voltage anyway. Most people end up using the hand held 4.5 digit DMM because its calibrated and they can walk around with it, it has a clock display. then I end up with a high end DMM on my soldering workstation permanently in continuity mode


and TONS of stuff in modern electronics are too unstable to use with the high resolutions anyway

do i even use the true volt unless I have to? No. it takes too long to boot up. I have a 34401A under it that gets used all the time over the fancy 7.5 digit meter that has to spool up the OS for way too long and annoys me with its bright light

seriously it feels like a joke when you need to wait for equipment to setup in a work environment. and you know I will round it down to 10 mV because its going to just create confusion or be incompatible or cause too tight a spec for no reason or just drift way too much to be of any use
« Last Edit: May 24, 2024, 11:01:51 pm by coppercone2 »
 

Online DimitriP

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #53 on: May 24, 2024, 11:04:24 pm »
Quote
ancient 6.5 digit HP / Agilent DMM with little features and a crappy VFD or LCD display

HP /Agilent 6.5 digit display ARE  the "features".

The rest is eye candy, design, procurement, production and future service , calibaration and warranty "optimization".

Now, if I could get my hands on one of those "ancient, 6.5  digit HP /Agilent DMM with little features"  , "cheaply" I would be happy ! :)


   If three 100  Ohm resistors are connected in parallel, and in series with a 200 Ohm resistor, how many resistors do you have? 
 

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #54 on: May 24, 2024, 11:30:42 pm »
Don't be silly, DimitriP and coppercone2.

Newer is always better.

Directly something newer arrives, all older stuff becomes useless - and it is immoral to let newbies use anything except the newer stuff.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline David Hess

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #55 on: May 25, 2024, 12:00:08 am »
I still have my first scope here (Tek 585) and I think it is over 60 years old and it still worked the last time I powered it up. I would class this scope as obsolete but I'm sure there are plenty of happy 5xx series scope users still out there.

The 547 held on for many more years after it was declared obsolete by Tektronix because it was their fastest oscilloscope that lacked a scan expansion mesh, which allowed it to display signal details which were not visible on later or faster instruments.

I have a Tektronix 545A but would only use it as a last resort, or if I needed a space heater.  My 547 does at least have the virtue of the best possible screen clarity, and it really shows.

historgrams and graphs are open to interpretation and no one can make a decision with that.causes confusion

I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful.  Right now I do it manually on my calculator.

Quote
ancient 6.5 digit HP / Agilent DMM with little features and a crappy VFD or LCD display

HP /Agilent 6.5 digit display ARE  the "features".

I consider OLED displays to be an "anti-feature".
 

Online DimitriP

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #56 on: May 25, 2024, 01:10:32 am »
Quote
I consider OLED displays to be an "anti-feature".
OLED is not  "ancient" enough  :)

Quote
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful

I pushed the STD DEV button on my ancient 5335a with Voltmeter option installed and a number showed up , eventually :)
   If three 100  Ohm resistors are connected in parallel, and in series with a 200 Ohm resistor, how many resistors do you have? 
 

Offline shabaz

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #57 on: May 25, 2024, 02:10:45 am »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation..
Not an exact match at all, but I thought I'd give it a bash with a Bluetooth handheld multimeter (screenshot attached).

The new code is just sitting on my local PC, I've not committed the standard deviation code to the web (mobile/desktop) app yet, but can do that if required.

I'm not very good at web apps, so I find it a bit of a struggle. SCPI + Python etc would have been far easier but that handheld device doesn't support that. Also, being a typical handheld device, it doesn't have a very fast update rate, so stats performance is not great; for instance 20 samples takes about 10 seconds.

The MP730624 multimeter I used is some Uni-T rebranded model I believe.

 

Online nctnico

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #58 on: May 25, 2024, 10:18:01 am »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful.  Right now I do it manually on my calculator.
I'm looking at getting a UNI-T UT8805E bench DMM which can do that. It supports measuring a specific number of samples and calculating the standard deviation. But I'm sure modern day bench DMMs from Tektronix and Keysight have a similar feature as Uni-t must have copied the idea from somewhere.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2024, 10:25:55 am by nctnico »
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline pqass

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #59 on: May 25, 2024, 01:36:35 pm »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful.  Right now I do it manually on my calculator.
I'm looking at getting a UNI-T UT8805E bench DMM which can do that. It supports measuring a specific number of samples and calculating the standard deviation. But I'm sure modern day bench DMMs from Tektronix and Keysight have a similar feature as Uni-t must have copied the idea from somewhere.

The HP 3456A from 1981 can do this.  It can be had for about $250 on eBay and has a lovely LED display.
Enter the number of samples, delay between samples, and it will produce min, max, mean, and variance after a single trigger button press.
You'll have to √variance yourself for std dev though.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2024, 01:39:57 pm by pqass »
 

Online 2N3055

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #60 on: May 25, 2024, 01:59:52 pm »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful.  Right now I do it manually on my calculator.
I'm looking at getting a UNI-T UT8805E bench DMM which can do that. It supports measuring a specific number of samples and calculating the standard deviation. But I'm sure modern day bench DMMs from Tektronix and Keysight have a similar feature as Uni-t must have copied the idea from somewhere.

The HP 3456A from 1981 can do this.  It can be had for about $250 on eBay and has a lovely LED display.
Enter the number of samples, delay between samples, and it will produce min, max, mean, and variance after a single trigger button press.
You'll have to √variance yourself for std dev though.

That function is also available on Rigol DM3068 and a slighty simpler version on DM3058. Also on Siglent SDM3055/3065.
You can also set various triggering options, etc.
 

Online Alex Nikitin

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #61 on: May 25, 2024, 02:26:48 pm »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful.  Right now I do it manually on my calculator.

I do have the HP3456A in my lab, however my new HIOKI DM7275 7.5 digit DC voltmeter can do it as well, I can set a manual/external trigger, a delay and a number of samples per a trigger event, and the statistics display gives max/min/av/p-p/stdev.

Cheers

Alex
 

Offline pdenisowski

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #62 on: May 25, 2024, 03:47:37 pm »
I have been looking for a bench multimeter that can calculate standard deviation, but it has to be over a specific period of time or a specific number of samples to be useful. 

Our HMC8012 bench multimeter can do this - calculates standard deviation based on a user-defined number of samples (up to 50,000) :)

https://www.rohde-schwarz.com/us/products/test-and-measurement/rs-essentials-meters-and-analyzers/rs-hmc8012-digital-multimeter_63493-44315.html
Test and Measurement Fundamentals video series on the Rohde & Schwarz YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKxVoO5jUTlvsVtDcqrVn0ybqBVlLj2z8
 

Offline S57UUU

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #63 on: May 26, 2024, 05:20:04 am »
If you need to test modern stuff like 5G or something, using old instruments would make it very hard work if not impossible. New instruments have built in "personalities" that enable "one button press" measurements to test compliance with modern standards.

But I don't need that for my ham radio and radio astronomy hobbies. For that, my stack of old instruments from the 80's serves me very well. They are "just enough digital": they do calibration and error corrections, and can be computer controlled via HP-IB, but no windows virus gardens and similar.

For example, some five years ago I bought a HP8593E with the 26GHz option for 1200 euros. I don't think there is a modern alternative that would fit that budget.

I do have a nanoVNA and a SAA-2, also a tiny SA ultra, these are great when out in the field. But when at home, I prefer to use my HP8714ES and HP8720A, the user interface is just soooo much friendlier.

My HP8663 opt 103 is bulky and heavy, bought it for 600 euros. Even today, it is still among the cleanest signal generators. Also have an HP8673 up to 26GHz, don't know of any cheap modern alternative.

I cobbled together a HP3048 system with HP11848 and HP11729. It is run by a DOS/ISA computer, is slow and bulky, but it measures up to 18GHz and gives great results.

My HP8970 uses totally obsolete detector based technology, but measures noise figures very well, on par with modern equipment.

Admittedly, I am an old fart, I used these boxes as a young professional in the 80's, so they grew close to my heart. But I do believe they can still be very useful today. Service manuals, schematics and even EPROM firmware files for most of them are available on the web, also the through hole components make them easy to repair (for now, I mostly had to replace some electrolytic caps).

Some of my instruments were old stuff even in the 80's, like the HP3400, which I call a "true-true-RMS meter", and I still find it useful.

As far as scopes go, I just bought a rigol 814 and a set of "pc bite" self supporting probes, it is great for debugging serial stuff. But when just needing to see some signals, for example in the audio range, I still sometimes fire up my tek 2232 (and 2467 until the battery went bad and it forgot it's calibrations).
 
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Online coppercone2

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #64 on: May 26, 2024, 10:46:58 am »
test equipment often evolves to
1) make tests run faster, because more tests of more devices is ALWAYS the easiest route for a test lab to take to show 'improvement' in a way that non technical people understand and will not question (don't want your budget to get interrogated, don't want to teach old dogs and some how gophers where there should be dogs new tricks). It is also a measuring contest between competitors, because volume means quality.
2) allow for less trained personnel to run tests (lower salary, allows for more workers doing tests, decreases cost of hated QC and R&D departments, easier to hire (they like to get irrelevant professions and pay little)
3) less chance of error (harder for sloppy work to screw up, ties into 1&2. i.e. irrelevant degrees & uninterested people slamming buttons)
4) decrease load on analysis (that is, have the company "approve" some calculated number so the buyer can say "well _____ says that this method of data analysis is the "standard" for this industry)..... (again, it might mean that a clueless TE company is making decisions about something it knows nothing about that govern standards of another unrelated industry... they often don't know what is best for the customer but the customer wants them to back them up as much as possible for liability reasons, and it sounds good. like yeah we are on the same page as ______)

These are IMO the driving factor for MANY equipment decisions. Its often not engineered to give you that much more capability because IMPLEMENTING new more precise and interesting stuff  for the companies buying the TE is HARD compared to doing more of the same.



I am sure there are engineers at TE manufacturers that wanna raise the bar of precision and deep thought, but they do end up making (alot of) stuff to be appealing towards customers. Business people hate buying equipment, these listed factors are a huge 'no argument' selling point that does not require visionaries to see the potential. Then of course sales will tell the TE designer that "this is the selling point now".

But if it actually helps improve things, instead of just being empty calories, I am not sure about that. Too much data is more and more common because they feel 'data rich' and 'confident'. It could also be seen as over weight with lots of ru(b)bles in the pocket
« Last Edit: May 26, 2024, 11:02:33 am by coppercone2 »
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Does old test equipment really ever become truly obsolete?
« Reply #65 on: May 26, 2024, 11:01:55 am »
You are leaving one very important item out: Adding more measurement functions. Like capacitance and temperature measurement on DMMs and protocol decoding, digital channels and bode-plotting on oscilloscopes. Back in the old days these measurements required expensive equipment. Digital channels and protocol decoding on oscilloscopes has helped making logic analysers becoming obsolete.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 


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