Friday, March 7, 2014

WB6JDH's Scope Emporium

"Would you buy a used scope from this man?"
My Tek 7704A lives! It was revived by the gentlemen who provided me with it originally. Read here the colorful background on just how this came to be.

One has few true friends in his life. Some become friends at work or in a sport that one indulges in or as a fellow member of a club or organization or a hobby or pastime.

Dick, WB6JDH, is a true friend and a person who I crossed paths with because of our mutual love of Amateur Radio. I'd say "electronics" but that's not really the truth in my case; I am still one of those wriggling things, clambering up onto the sand, trying to extricate myself from the primordial ooze. Dick has long since deposited himself well inland, evolved through the lizard, early mammal, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon stages, and walks erect through the sunny uplands of electronic theory.

I stand in awe of him -- not only because he knows shit but because he does shit. He crafts radios, test equipment, devices, restores the old and preserves it for the rest of us, the largely great unwashed who have little or no appreciation for his art and skills or the worth of beautiful things from the days gone by.

During his career, he was a chemist -- a graduate of San Jose State back in the early 60s -- who stood many hours at vats of printer's ink formulating the ingredients of one color or another. Somewhere along the line he took up flying model airplanes (held a control-line speed record I am told) and gardening (he and his lovely wife, Ann, are constantly pruning, weeding, manicuring their on their sprawling rural estate, The Groveside Arms), and ultimately, ham radio. Maybe the intellect that allowed him to master the arcane art of chemistry also gave him the talent to understand electronics but I more think it is his temperament and tenaciousness. When faced with a problem, He is like a terrier, unrelenting until he understands the underlying concepts and principles and then dogged in his application thereof.

Simply put, Dick is one of my best friends -- no, a hero to me -- because of his ceaseless curiosity and the fact that he can make things work. He also is a wonderful pedagougue. (In case you are wondering, it's not something that you can get arrested for.)

His domain, his kingdom is the workshop in his garage. Of course, his garage long ago lost the capability to house both of his cars. Rather, it has turned into a magic repository of the miraculous electronic detritus of equipment of the near-past. Over the last decade, Dick has ventured into the arcane world of repairing old oscilloscopes, specializing in old 70s and 80s Tektronix and Hewlett Packards. As the picture above shows, he has a stack of Tek 7704s and 7904s, a quintillion plug-ins, and various and sundry other related gear. In addition to that, he has a storehouse on the backyard housing even more treasures as well as what I call his "knob farm". These are dead Tek 465s and 7704s that he cannibalizes parts from and uses to plant geraniums.

To me it's all like that wonderful scene in the 50s move "King Solomon's Mines" whee Steward Granger stumbles into the cavern strewn with jewels and gold and silver and any trinket imaginable.

But this treasure trove grows with each two-per-month visit to the Southern California swap meets, gracious attendance to fellow ham's estate sales, local salvage emporiums, and general ham-to-ham barter. And, as I said above, he often finds his inventory augmented by repair drop-offs.

And now to the reason for this post: About two years ago, I had been visiting Dick on a regular basis only to realize I had been subjected to a constant mantra by Dick to the effect that I really needed to upgrade my bench scope to something like a 7704. He was semi-kidding, of course, but it became more intense during late one rainy February when I had made several trips to his Mecca in a vain attempt to repair my Tek 2465. (I thought I did a post on that , but cannot find it.) In any event, I was troubleshooting the beast and located a bad resistor which breathed like into it again. But, alas, the 2465 was crippled and maimed and actually no longer serviceable. It was at that point I succumbed. Dick and I chatted and negotiated and -- in return for the remains of the 2465 and a very reasonable amount of spare cash, I was "lent" one of the 7704s from his stack and four very useful plug-ins.

Of course, I got it back home and, for the life of me, could not figure out where to put it on the bench. But setting it up and operating it got me hooked and I never looked back. Eventually, I hollowed out a spot for it (see picture above and some previous posts with pictures of my bench) and revel in its complexity, accuracy, and beauty. It has performed reasonably faithfully barring a couple of incidents with a misbehaving 7CT1N curve racer and a 7D15 frequency counter.

The former Dick and I pored over and sort of mutually solved. Well, Dick did most of the brain work and I did the donkey work. But I felt pretty good just to have taken a part. The counter was a more formidable problem and I am justifiably proud that I solved this one myself. (If you do not count the advice I got from the guys on the Tek Scope Yahoo group. From thence, I thought, I was off and running.

Or so I thought.

During my effort to get the UW VFO working, my Tek 7704 lost the trace and no amount of pushing buttons replacing plug-ins or hurling invectives would restore it. So, in a frenzy, i gave Dick a call and described the situation to him. He graciously set aside some of his Friday afternoon for me to visit. He also said that he had a couple of 7904s ripening on the vine and maybe I would be interested. I owned that I would (thinking that Dick would countenance a swap) and made arrangements to take Friday afternoon off from work.

Long story even longer, I showed up and we poked and prodded and measured and scratched our heads to no avail. Dick verified that the mainframe power supply voltages were present and correct and we pressed on. After a bit more of this confusion, Dick blithely reached over and turned the left side mainframe intensity control clockwise and -- BAM! -- let there be light!

Now didn't I feel the fool? It was one of those humbling experiences that embarrassed me but not that much because I got to spend the afternoon in that wonderful treasure mine with a good and dear friend.

The trade for the 7904? Well, truthfully, I was so glad to have my old 7704A back with me. It had served me well over the past couple of years and I would have felt like I was selling one of my children into slavery had I parted with it. So, I loaded it up into the back of the Jeep and joyously returned to the shack on another rainy February day..

..just like the first time I brought her home with me.



O. Alan Jones said...

As I said before Bill, I really do like your writing style. Thanks for sharing this story with the rest of us. BTW, what kind of rig is that on your workbench on it's side?

The War Planner said...

Alan, what a shocka! I went in to edit a post and found I had comments "undisplayed". I musta missed a hunnert of 'em. I hope to God folks don;t mistake me for the aloof, self-centered snob i really am. The rig is an old Centruy 21 analog model QRP rig made by Ten Tec about 20+ years ago. It has PTO (Permeability Tuned Oscillator) instead of a VFO. All that means is that there's a variable coil instead of a variable cap.

They tend to freeze up and need to be rebuilt. In this case, Ten Tec *still* has a parts kit (including a little silicon grease packet). I think I posted on my rebuild effort. Once I got it done, the final needed work and I plan to get to that some day after the UW is completed and boxed up. My post on the VFO and receiver is coming up tonight.