VectorClock Reloaded!

Aside

Fresh from Oscilloclock Labs – a new VectorClock creation, commissioned for the office of a world-famous film and television director:

Tek 520 VectorClock - S/N 002 (image published with permission of the owner)

Tek 520 VectorClock – S/N 002 (image published with permission of the owner)

This unit is based on an original Tektronix 520 vectorscope, which is the predecessor of the 520A that was used in the first VectorClock, described here. This custom conversion employs several key enhancements, and performance has never been better!

Be sure to check out videos on my YouTube channel.

Robbie’s Place

What do you do on a mundane business trip to London?

Why, shopping, of course! But if you were the humble proprietor of Oscilloclock.com, you would do much more than that… You would seek to expand your vintage electronic empire!

And so it was that I found myself hunting old electronic devices on Portobello Road one fine Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the game there was far and few between; only two relatively mediocre valve radios, in even more mediocre shape, at far more than mediocre prices…

Fortunately, my colleague was going to save the day. “Pop out to Cambridge for a visit – I’ve seen a few antique shops here,” said he. And after the hour train journey and a wee but of walking, we stumbled onto a veritable gold mine – Robbie’s.

(Public image downloaded from Hope Street Yard's Facebook page

(Public image downloaded from Hope Street Yard’s Facebook page)

Here I discovered an electronics lifer: a hunter-gatherer; a tribesman of electronic folklore; a true connoisseur of the electron beam!  [Robbie] operated one stall in Hope Street Yard, a kind of antique market formed out of a courtyard. Emanating from Robbie’s shop was the delicate, but unmistakable, smell of dust-covered valves heated to untouchable temperatures.

(Public image downloaded from Hope Street Yard's Google+ site)

(Public image downloaded from Hope Street Yard’s Google+ site)

Robbie’s Radios

Several hours were consumed as I perused Robbie’s lovely selection of valve (and transistor) radios, all of which were refreshingly nicely priced. And oh, what a fantastic character was Robbie! Every discovery I made brought out a story. Sometimes these were unrelated to the set at hand; such as his demonstration of a decidedly modern Karaoke machine. Robbie had a penchant for ZZ Top, and even gave us an air guitar performance! Who would have guessed?

But throughout all this, I couldn’t help feeling that I was being ‘watched’… and eventually, I discovered the culprit! It was a truly splendid Westminster ZA 617, which has a – (drum roll)magic eye valve!

A beautiful (if dusty) Westminster ZA 617. I had to peek inside right there at Robbie's!

A beautiful (if dusty) Westminster ZA 617. I had to peek inside right there at Robbie’s!

Oh, glorious day! Keen readers of my history page may recall my penchant for magic-eye tubes. Like mini-CRTs, these devices glow green and ‘wink’ as you tune in your desired station. And I imagined this set winking right at me

Robbie wasn’t quite keen to part with this set, as it was not yet restored, but he saw in me some form of protégé or perhaps apprentice, and the sale was made.

Later - the fully restored Westminster with soothing Y63 magic eye valve

Later – the fully restored Westminster with soothing Y63 magic eye valve

But Robbie’s had even more in store for me…. A telephone switchboard operator’s microphone, for instance. Now you can just imagine how I can use this in the Oscilloclock lab, hooked to a magneto telephone I another room of the house, as an intercom system. Love at first sight…

Telephone Switchboard Transmitter on Extensible Mount

I felt bad to take these off Robbie’s hands, as he was so endeared to them. To soften the blow, I then offered to assist his house(shop)-cleaning by purchasing a beautiful Bush TR 82C transistor set. Not my favorite radio technology, but this would fit in a carry-on!

Bush TR 82C - 1

Robbie’s Equipment

With the purchases decided, there was one last thing to do. Take a look at Robbie’s workbench!! There is an old adage:

To truly know someone is to know his (her) equipment

And Robbie’s equipment was certainly truly worth knowing. Take this astounding Mullard High Speed Valve Tester (MHSVT), for instance. This device uses punched Bakelite cards to specify the required settings for a given valve type. Look up your valve in the list, insert the designated card, pull the lever, and voila!

Mullard High-Speed Valve Tester - 3

But the special part? This valve tester has a CRT instead of a boring electromechanical meter. Oh, my poor heart keep still! The spot on the CRT allows you to make two observations at once (being two-dimensional) – a useful trick for dual triodes and the like. What a delight to see such an appropriate usage for a CRT!

The Mullard High-Speed Valve Tester has a CRT!!

The Mullard High-Speed Valve Tester has a CRT!!

Sadly, but completely understandably, Robbie loved his valve tester more than anything in his shop, and would never place it on sale. Hence, I satisfied myself simply with the pleasure of becoming acquainted with it.

The Forgotten Colleague…

And what of my colleague through all of this? Fortunately he is a patient man, and in fact holds a deep fascination in observing (and sometimes photographing) odd characters at work at their odd hobbies. So… He watched, fascinated, as we two worked our wacky wavelengths for hours and hours…


Now, if ANY of you were living in Adelaide, Australia up to the ’90’s, you’d know of another “Robbie’s”. This was the most amazing treasure trove of vintage electronics and delectable ‘junk’ you could ever imagine! Sadly, Robbie retired, but his junk floats to this day around eBay – and is likely to do so for eternity. (Visit Antique Radios – The Collectors Resource for the only reference I could find.)


Long live all our “Robbie’s”, wherever they may be!

VGA display… On a 3″ scope tube!

Yes, you’ve all thrown away your lunky old CRT monitors, in favour of sleek ultra-thin LCD displays. And, you thought you’d never see another one again…

But this CRT display has a twist! It’s round. It’s small at just 3 inches diameter. And it’s awfully cute.

Oscilloclock 3-inch CRT VGA Display Assembly - overview

Last year, I was approached by a dedicated flight simulation enthusiast, who needed a radar indicator to use in a fighter cockpit replica. The indicator should employ a CRT, for the most realistic look. Could Oscilloclock design and construct such a display?

It didn’t take much convincing! Diverging only temporarily from building clocks, I took up the challenge to create my first raster-scan CRT display unit. In the ensuing months, difficulties sprang forth from every direction in the project, but ultimately I was able to avoid a diraster (sic) and deliver a functional assembly:

See more related videos on my YouTube channel

The Setup

The key component of this setup is a new prototype VGA Board that converts a VGA signal into analogue X and Y outputs. Both analogue intensity and binary blanking outputs are provided.

Oscilloclock VGA Board prototype

Oscilloclock VGA Board prototype

The X and Y outputs drive an Oscilloclock Deflection Board, while the binary blanking output drives the blanking amplifier in a CRT Board.

Oscilloclock Deflection Board - modified for ultra-linear HV output

Deflection Board – modified for ultra-linear HV output

CRT Board - heavily modified for improved frequency response

CRT Board – modified for improved frequency response

Blanking isolation, heater, and HV supplies are provided by a Power Board.

Power Board - with improved optocoupler

Power Board – with improved optocoupler

It all looks so easy! But noooo. Astute readers will recall from other posts that every Oscilloclock project involves sleepless slumbers, horrific hair-pulling, and forgotten family members. Let’s see what caused me grief this time…

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From the Archives – a 400-LED Oscilloscope

Long, long ago… In a workshop far away…

Recently, I’ve seen quite a few search hits and even an enquiry regarding the 400-LED dual-trace oscilloscope that I briefly mentioned on my History page. With renewed enthusiasm therefore, let’s take a trip down history lane and see what I was doing back in 1990!

A compact dual-trace 1MHz DC scope - what more could a high school kid want?

A compact dual-trace 1MHz DC scope – what more could a high school kid want?

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Tek 520A VectorClock!

Television broadcasting has switched from analog to digital - and if you’ve got a nice HD TV, you’ll be loving it!

But with that transition came the death of an entire breed of equipment – the Vectorscope.

Tektronix 1420 Vectorscope

Just to be clear, these are not monitors for playing ancient video games using vector graphics!!  No, the Vectorscope is (was) used to give a delightful view of the ‘vectors’ inside an NTSC or PAL video signal, describing the color components of the signal.

If you were lucky enough to be a TV broadcast technician, you’d use your Vectorscope all the time to check your vectors’ amplitudes and phase. You would even give your vectors names like ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’, and check up on their relationships daily, just as any responsible guardian would!

But above all, you would marvel every single day at the beautiful hardware you were using, and the complex circuitry involved. Take a look at my Tektronix 526 Vectorscope, which has oodles of delicious tubes to heat my shop on a nice winter’s day:

Tektronix 526 Vectorscope

Well, it all went digital and there is no longer any need for analog color signal analysis. But dry your tears… There is something even better:

Announcing the Tek 520A VectorClock

This lovely Oscilloclock reincarnation of a Tektronix 520A, sold at Maker Faire Tokyo 2013, allows its new owner to forever relive the magic of NTSC, PAL and SECAM analog color.

Tektronix 520A VectorClock - brilliant blend of the old and new!

Tektronix 520A VectorClock – brilliant blend of the old and new!


See more related videos on my YouTube channel

The Tektronix 520A has a stunning built-in array of lights for illuminating the CRT graticules. By simply removing the bezel and external graticule, the Tek 520A morphs into a deliciously moody timepiece!

Tek 520A VectorClock - Glorious Glow

Normally, I shun CRTs with built-in graticules. Their lines detract dreadfully from an Oscilloclock image. But here! The Tek 520A’s internal vectorscope graticule is round! What better way to accentuate a Circle Graphics driven display?

Silky smooth Circle Graphics on steroids!

Silky smooth Circle Graphics on steroids!

Under the Cover…

The Tek 520A is solid-state. It can be left on 24 hours a day and not fail for many years. This makes it a perfect match for my Maximum Re-use + Minimum Invasion policy: nearly all existing circuits – HV power supply, deflection amplifiers, blanking – are put to use, with just a few (reversible) tweaks.

Tek 520A VectorClock - Maximum re-use, Minimum invasion

The Oscilloclock Power Board is mounted neatly next to its own dedicated low voltage supply. A small relay board can be seen below, for controlling the Tek’s main power unit. All cabling is HV-tolerant and neatly fastened with high-temperature cable ties.

Tek 520A VectorClock - Control Board mount and cabling

Of the more interesting reversible ‘tweaks’ needed for this retrofit, here we see a delightful little trimpot pretending to be a transistor. Quite an act, I would say!

Tek 520A VectorClock - an unorthodox transistor replacement

Like what you see?

If you love big, looming Vectorscopes and need to have one put to good use in your living room, Contact me. And be sure to subscribe from the front page, to track all the other exotic experiments and unique timepieces targeted for 2014!


Credits to [Quinn] in Canada, for providing the initial inspiration for the Tek 520A VectorClock project!

Santa in your Clock!

The world-renowned Santa Claus. How does he get in your house to deliver presents? Does he go down the chimney (if you have one)? Does he shrink and squeeze under your door? Of course not! What silly ideas.

Santa simply converts himself into pure energy and beams in!! I’ve seen this glorious event myself, and now you can too – with the latest Seasonal Treats enhancement from Oscilloclock.com.

Beam me in, Santa!

Beam me in, Santa!

Not only can you watch Santa on his travels, but you can even control where he drops his presents! Can YOU help him deliver the gifts?

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Luxury 2013 edition Model 1-S!

This 2013 edition hand-crafted scope clock exudes sophistication and elegance, to match the most refined interior – be it the boardroom or the bedroom. The 1-S boasts solid brass fittings custom-turned in Japan, ultra-transparent cast acrylic housings, and a decadent harness with chrome connectors and gold-plated pins from France. The brand-new old stock CRT was selected especially for its gentle white-blue trace and extremely long persistence, to provide a relaxing and refreshing viewing experience.

2013 luxury edition Model 1-S scope clock from Oscilloclock.com

This particular unit went on display at Maker Faire Tokyo 2013, and was sold within several hours. Enquire via the Contact page for pricing and availability of the Model 1-S and other exclusive Oscilloclocks.


See more related videos on my YouTube channel

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Oscilloclock at Maker Faire Tokyo!

Summer is over! But even as cool weather sets in, the Oscilloclock.com lab is smoking hot, preparing for…

Maker Faire Tokyo 2013

Visit the Oscilloclock.com booth, and check out the luxury 2013 edition Model 1S – to be announced in this blog at end October. One unit will go on sale at the event!

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Making the Heathkit Oscilloclock

Last month’s post about the Heathkit Oscilloclock generated tremendous interest, and I’ve heard from several folks keen to try their hand at preserving their own beloved instruments.

… so let’s take a brief look at what was involved in the Heathkit OR-1 conversion!

Heathkit Oscilloclock - inside

Approaches to conversion…

There are many approaches to retrofitting a scope into an Oscilloclock, but it really boils down to how much of the original circuit you want to re-use, vs. what you will bypass with Oscilloclock boards.

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A Heathkit Oscilloclock!

Anyone familiar with Heathkit®?

From 1947 to 1992, the U.S. based Heath Company produced electronic kits for everything you can imagine: radios, TVs, computers, robots, ham gear, and electronic test equipment. Yes, you guessed it – they also produced kits for oscilloscopes!

My Grandpa purchased one such scope, the Heathkit OR-1, around 1960. He wanted to kick off a new career in electronics repair, and the ‘build-your-own-equipment’ approach to training was in full bloom at the time. Also, since this was before the era of cheap overseas manufacturing, he could buy a Heathkit far cheaper than an assembled scope.

Heathkit OR-1 manual - a work of art

Heathkit OR-1 manual – a work of art

Unfortunately, Grandpa’s electronics career never really took off. But decades later, he introduced me to his gorgeous oscilloscope, and boy – did that kick MY career off! Much later, the OR-1 came to live with me. (You can read a bit more about my affinity for this scope in my History page.)

The problem is, I have too many oscilloscopes. But I don’t have enough Oscilloclocks. What more fitting way to keep Grandpa’s legacy alive, than to retrofit his Heathkit?

Heathkit OR-1 Oscilloclock

Heathkit Oscilloclock - Splash and Clock

Special features

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