Tektronix 465 repair – part VI

January 27th, 2015

If you haven’t been following my blog, you should go back to the first post of this series, in order to get caught up. At this point, I have found the cause of the missing horizontal sweep and the scope was working as well as it did prior to the coffee spill. I still had the two pre-existing issues and since I was gaining familiarity with the scope, I decided to pursue those issues.

First thing to attack was the horizontal position control. This was fixed using essentially the same repair process as the trigger “A” control. There were a few differences. The horizontal position control is made up two potentiometers, instead of a potentiometer and a switch. The coarse potentiometer is 0-5K ohm pot and the fine is 0-50K ohm pot. This circuit can be seen in the lower left corner of the schematic showing the 1000 uF cap that was discussed in a previous post.

Bad Cap on Schematic

Bad Cap on Schematic

Testing with my DMM showed issues with both of them. Disassembly was easy, as the unit is held together with small machine screws and nuts. To ensure correct re-assembly, I took a couple of digital photos before taking it apart.

Horizontal Position Control

Horizontal Position Control

Once, disassembled, I flushed both pots with isopropyl alcohol a few times and worked the wiper back and forth. Testing with a DMM indicated that the correct behavior was restored with this simple cleaning. Re-installation was uneventful and testing showed that these position controls worked like they were supposed to.

Now I was really making progress. Ever since I first purchased the scope, these controls have never worked quite right.

The trigger “B” slope switch still wasn’t working – maybe I could also fix that. If I succeeded, I’d have every function working as designed for the first time since I’ve owned this tool.

to be continued…

Tektronix 465 repair – part V

January 26th, 2015

If you haven’t been following my blog, you should go back to the first post of this series, in order to get caught up. At this point, I’ve disassembled and cleaned all the spilt coffee from the machine, repaired a trigger control, and replaced a bad electrolytic cap with a temporary substitute. However the machine still didn’t exhibit a horizontal trace. The -8 volt supply was showing it was shorted to ground. I thought that this was due to some problem in the horizontal timebase/sweep circuit.

At this point, I decided to try to further isolate the problem by disconnecting a number of components from the bottom (interface) board. This was quite easy to do, as I had already done this as part of the disassembly process of the trigger and timebase boards. I knew that the system wouldn’t work, this way, but I could check to see if the problem with -8 volts was on the bottom (interface) board or some other board. I unplugged whatever I could from the interface board and powered on the unit. At this point, -8 volts showed as correct, so I started plugging things back in, starting with the trigger control that I had fixed way back in part II of this series. Sure, enough -8 volts went back to ground and scope appeared to have horizontal sweep again.

Duh – my problem was with the repair I had made, and wasn’t due to something else that failed. I did notice all along, that the stop at one end of the rotation didn’t seem quite right. Before removing the switch I checked and sure enough, it seemed shorted to ground. I removed the switch and checked it out. After removing it, everything seemed fine and I could find no short in the switch and the glitch in the rotation disappeared. I reinstalled it and found no short and rotation continued to behave normally. I could only guess that the first time that I installed the switch, that I hadn’t put the index correctly in the slot. When tightened down, the shell had deformed and caused an internal short and also the problem with rotation.

At this point, I figured that this was likely to be the last time that I had the timebase and trigger boards disconnected. As I reconnected everything, I cleaned any soldering residue off the connections that I had to solder to remove or reattach. I did this with isopropyl alcohol applied with a small, stiff, paint brush. I scrubbed the residue until it dissolved and cleaned it up with a paper towel.

I reconnected everything, except the external trigger input, and powered up. The trigger input connected to a large area of copper that required a lot of heat, so I decided to do this later on. Besides, I didn’t quite remember how it was connected. Once I connected everything else, I powered up. This time, my treasured Tektronix 465 seemed to behave correctly. I connected scope probes to both inputs and to the calibration output and got good waveforms and the “A” trigger control worked like it was supposed to.

However, trigger “B” still would only trigger on the downslope and the horizontal position control had the same jerky operation as before. By now, I was getting more comfortable with working with this scope, so I decided that I would investigate those issues before reconnecting the external trigger input and putting it all back together.

to be continued…

Tektronix 465 repair – part IV

January 25th, 2015

If you haven’t been following my blog, you should go back the to first post of this series, in order to get caught up. At this point I have the trigger and horizontal control board out of the scope, looking for a problem with the -8 volt power supply.

After examining horizontal control board, I’m kind of surprised to see that there isn’t a whole lot circuitry on it. I’m sure that was by design, because, for the most part, this board is unaccessible when installed. It mostly contains the horizontal sweep control, which is hidden under a metal shield. Curious about it, I unbolted the shield to see what was underneath. What I found is a masterpiece in electro-mechanical engineering. I’ve always wondered why I didn’t ever have trouble with the time base control on my 465 and now, I knew why. If the bandswitch control on my Kenwood 530S was built this way, I’m sure I would have never needed to fix it.

Horizontal Timebase Control

Horizontal Timebase Control

Now that I had this board out, I cleaned the switches that were so sticky from the spilt coffee. I also looked for leakage down into the circuit, but found no sign of any coffee beyond the buttons that extended out the front the machine. Since I had so many controls removed from the front panel, I cleaned it up as much as possible. The lack of components and signs of coffee made me think that the problem with -8 volts was not on this timing control board.

I kind of stepped back and took an overall look at the machine. It was at this point, that I noticed a bad capacitor on the bottom (interface) board. One lead had fallen off and in general this capacitor looked like it had seen better days.

Bad Cap

Bad Cap

I looked this capacitor on the schematic and it didn’t seem to have a big role, but it was near to the -8 volt rail, so there was slight hope that this could be the root cause of my issue. It was a 1000uF electrolytic cap, which was rated for 10 volts.

Bad Cap on Schematic

Bad Cap on Schematic

I removed the cap and found a 470uF radial cap in my stash, which was the closest thing in value to the original that I had. I soldered it in place as a temporary patch to see if it would help. I put the cover back on the timebase switch, I plugged in the two boards I had pulled and reconnected most of the wires that I had disconnected to see if this replacement cap would solve the issue.

I powered up and the scope had no horizontal trace, exactly the same as prior to the capacitor replacement.

to be continued…

Tektronix 465 repair part III

January 24th, 2015

My previous posts describe a little of the repair history of my Tektronix 465 and events leading up to this blog entry. At this point, after a repair of the trigger “A” control, the scope now would not display a proper trace. If brightness was turned up all the way, it would display only a tiny dot at the center of the screen.

Now I had to debug a new problem. Since the scope was in a useless state, there was no question about stepping up to the plate and moving into full debug mode. First thing I did was do some web searches to locate and downloaded the service manual.

An important early step in debugging sessions of this sort is to check system voltages. According to the service manual, the voltage test points are on the bottom board. With the unit on it’s side I checked the voltages and found that the -8 volt rail was near ground which was a big problem. Next step was to check the power supply electronics. After at least an hour or two of probing components and reviewing the schematics, I couldn’t find any obvious issue with the -8 volt power supply. Something else must be holding the -8 rail to or near ground.

The service manual gives some suggestions for isolating the -8 rail from horizontal amplifier circuit or the CRT circuit by lifting legs on some components. Since the CRT seemed fine, but the horizontal amp definitely wasn’t working, I started by isolating the horizontal amp. It turns out that there is a jumper designed for this purpose. I started by lifting one one leg of the jumper and sure enough, -8 volts returned to it’s proper value. So this must have meant that the problem with -8 volts was with the horizontal amplifier.

Most of the horizontal amplifier is on the bottom board, the same board as the power supply. I just needed to shift my probing to a different corner of the board. Since there was no obvious burn or failed component in that section, I started probing to find a defective component. My probing involved looking for a capacitor, resistor, diode or transistor that wasn’t operating correctly. Capacitors are checked for value and shorts. Diodes and transistors are checked with the diode test function of my DMM. Resistors are checked for value. The main complication is that the components are in circuit, and other components in the circuit can affect readings. After several hours of probing components and checking things while powered on I could find nothing that would indicate a problem that would short -8 volts to ground.

At this point, I went back to my original thought that spilt coffee might have worked it’s way into the system and caused some problem, like it did with the trigger control. Moving deeping into the horizontal timing system looked like a daunting task, but I figured that I needed to proceed. After all, a broken scope was no good to me.

465 top view - horizontal control

465 top view – horizontal control

Top view of trigger and timebase boards. Note the writing harness and individual wires that must be disconnected to remove these boards.

The service manual has a section that describes the steps to remove the trigger and timebase boards. There are wires that need to be disconnected or unsoldered to do this. At this point, I got out a digital camera and took some pictures of wiring that I thought I might forget how to reconnect. Some of pictures used in this blog were taken at that time. I also made some handwritten notes showing how the wiring needed to be reconnected.

465 Wiring Notes

465 Wiring Notes

Following the instructions in the service manual as best I could, I removed the trigger and timebase boards. Some instructions in the service manual didn’t exactly match my particular system, but most of them did. Having the manual was a great benefit in removing these two boards.

to be continued…

Tektronix 465 repair part II

January 23rd, 2015

My previous post describes a little of the repair history of my Tektronix 465 and the recent failure of the trigger “A” level control after a spilt coffee event.

So now I had a Tektronix 465 that was completely useless. I figured that the coffee had penetrated into the trigger “A” potentiometer and caused an open or short in it. My experience with the trigger “B” pot indicated that I should be able to open it up and clean it out without too much difficulty. Whether I could restore it to proper functionality was another matter.

The 465 is easy to get into. Unplug the unit and remove the 6 screws on the back, 4 of which hold the feet on. Then slide the chassis out of the enclosure. The trigger controls are on exposed on the right side of the chassis. Both trigger controls can be seen on the left side of this image. This image also shows why I have been a bit nervous about troubleshooting this unit. A lot of discrete logic and individual wires running around doing mysterious things.

Trigger Card

Trigger Card

The controls have dual functions in one unit. On the back is the slope switch, which is a simple on/off switch. On the front side is a 10K potentiometer. Removing the control from the chassis is easy. Use an allen wrench to loosen the screws holding on the knobs and remove them. Use a wrench to remove the nut and washer holding the control to the front panel. Unplug the wiring harness and you should be able to remove the control from the chassis.

Once removed, I tested the pot by using an DMM on ohms setting to check for dead spots or shorts. A 10K pot should show a gradual/steady progression as you rotate the control. Testing showed that this control clearly had issues as it reported open circuits in various postions. I decided to open it up and clean it out and see if I could restore proper operation.

I opened the control by gently bending back the tabs holding the control together. These are the tabs at the front of the control. Note that one of these tabs is not bent over by the factory. This tab is used to index the control to the front panel. This tab should not be bent back over, when reassembling the control. Don’t touch the ones at the back of the control, unless the switch part of the control is really messed up and you need to get in there to straighten it out. You have to be gentle bending these tabs back, as they are not intended to be opened. The metal will fail if you have to do this more than a couple of times or you are not careful with them. Once opened, the control will come apart. Be aware that the hardest part of putting it back together will be getting the switch portion properly engaged as you put everything back together. Try to pay attention to how the switch mechanism is set up, before everything comes apart.

I used a cleaning process that is very similar to what I have used on Datanetics mechanical keyswitches. I simply flooded the mechanism with isopropyl alcohol and rotated the wiper. After doing this a couple of times, I tested again with the DMM. After doing this, it appeared that it was operating correctly. I let it dry overnight and retested in the morning before reassembling the control.

I installed the control in the chassis and turned on the scope. Oh-no, now I didn’t get a trace. No matter what controls I changed, the only sign of a trace, was a small dot in the center of the screen. This dot could only be seen, if I turned the brightness fully up.

My first thought was that the coffee had migrated to somewhere else and now messed up the horizontal control circuit.

to be continued…

Tektronix 465 repair

January 22nd, 2015

SCELBI clocks

SCELBI clocks

Those of you who have followed my blog probably know how much I rely on my Tektronix 465 dual channel oscilloscope. I don’t own a modern scope or any logic analyzer at all. This scope is my main go to device, when more information is needed than what a simple DMM can provide.

Sunday, right at the end of my dummy load exercise, a serious issue with the faithful 465 suddenly appeared. At that point, the main trigger level control failed to function. I could no longer set the trigger “A” level, which pretty much makes this scope useless.

Before I go into what happens next, I’ll describe a little history of this unit. Prior to Sunday, my treasured 465 had a couple of other, less important problems.

  • The “B” trigger slope switch didn’t work properly, so the “B” trigger would only trigger on down slopes.
  • The horizontal position knobs didn’t work very well. The coarse knob sort of worked, but the fine knob was useless.
  • The “B” trigger level and slope control was damaged when the scope was shipped to me and the scope took a hit to the front corner. I disassembled the switch and straightened the bent components when I first got the scope and got it working. My repair was less than perfect, and after a bit of usage, the slope switch broke again. I don’t use that feature very much and didn’t bother to fix it again until a couple of months ago. I decided I wanted it to work right and I went in and fixed the slope switch again. This time, I think I bent the sheet metal just right and the switch worked just like new when I was done. If you are handy, these switches are surprisingly repairable, but you need to tweak things, just right. Even though I fixed the switch, itself, the slope function still didn’t work. It still only triggered on the down slope. There must have been some kind of problem in the circuit. Anyway, being a little intimidated by the apparently complexity of the electronics in this scope, I decided to leave good enough alone, and left the “B” trigger control in the broken state.

    The other issue was that the coarse horizontal position control was always a bit jumpy. It worked well enough that I could position the start of the trace in the general area that I needed it, but it wasn’t a pleasure to use. The fine control was just about useless, since I first received the scope.

    There is one other issue with scope that showed up in the last few weeks. I think it started with a rather large cup of coffee that I spilt on my work bench. I cleaned it up, but I didn’t realize until a week or so ago that some of the coffee had dripped off my bench onto the front of the scope which is kept stored on the floor right next to that bench. Well, when using the scope a week or so ago, I noticed that controls were incredibly sticky. The buttons were most noticeably sticky and I had to force them to move. It was very puzzling, until I remembered spilling the coffee. At that point it had all dried up and there was little I could do, except keep using the scope and hope the controls would loosen up over time. The alternative would be to disassemble the scope and clean the controls. Do to the complexity of construction of this device, this is something that I was hesitant to undertake.

    That brings us up to last Sunday, when the trigger level control malfunctioned.

    to be continued…

    Dummy Load Fun

    January 19th, 2015
    Dummy Load

    Dummy Load

    A dummy load is an antenna replacement that doesn’t actually transmit. It is used to tune up and check out RF transmitters. I needed to build one to check out my vintage HAM transmitter before actually getting on the air. The last thing I want to do as a new HAM, is to transmit a poor signal. The design of a basic dummy load is pretty simple and is composed of two main components.

  • A source of impedance, that is designed to act like an antenna
  • A way to dissipate the heat that the source of impedance creates
  • Some loads may also have additional capability to measure power and other important parameters of your transmitters signal.

    I could have purchased a dummy load, but like many things in my life, I decided to do things the hard way and build my own. Several months ago, I started work on this project. I found a simple design on Ken, K4EAA’s, website. This design utilizes an array of resistors that combined together produce an equivalent to the 50 ohm load that a well tuned antenna would generate. I proceeded to procure the necessary components. I purchased the resister’s that Ken sold, a paint can at the local hardware store and a few other components at a couple of different places.

    My load is almost the same as Ken’s, except that I put the “hot” side on top and the ground side on the bottom side of the can. I figured that the hot side would be a little less likely to short out to the side of the can, if built that way.

    An option with this unit, is adding a couple of binding posts that can be used to measure the power being consumed. The extra components needed are only a diode and a capacitor. Ken’s unit was built with 2 1N4148 diodes, but he provided a BAV21 with the resistor set. One key parameter of the diodes is the max reverse voltage. The HF output of a 100 watt transmitter, like my Kenwood, can be over 100 volts. The BAV21 has a max reverse voltage of 200 volts. The 1n4148 spec lists it as 100 volts, which is why Ken put two in series.

    Anyway, after constructing the dummy load, the fun really began. Before installing the capacitor, I attached my radio to the dummy load and tried out the basic load functionality. It worked perfectly, with my SWR meter showing an SWR barely over 1. Next I attached a 250V, .001 uF capacitor that I happened to have left over from a previous project. Here is where things started going badly. The SWR went off the meter with the cap attached. I tried several things, checked how I had mounted the diode and binding posts and couldn’t see anything seriously wrong. After a little while, I gave up and left the capacitor off. I figured I would revisit the project in the future.

    Fast forward to this last weekend. I’m getting ready to go on the air, and figured that I needed to check out my transmitter again. After successfully checking out the transmitter, I decided I needed to take another look at getting the power measurement feature of the dummy load working.

    This time, I had my oscilloscope ready, and was going to investigate more exhaustively. First, I tried a lower value capacitor to no effect. After hooking up the scope, I found the signal on the binding posts looked like a miniature version of 100 volt sine wave that the transmitter was sending. The signal between the binding posts was about 10 volts, peak to peak. After quite a bit of messing around with other capacitors and measuring various aspects of the simple circuit, I figured I’d pull up the BAV-21 data sheet.

    What I found, pretty much indicated that a BAV-21 probably wasn’t the right diode for the job. All capacitors have a parameter called reverse recovery time. This is the amount of time for the diode to switch from conducting to not conducting in the reverse direction. Well the data sheet value for a BAV-21 is 50 nano-seconds for their standard test conditions. I did a quick calculation. What the calculation showed me is that when exposed to a 20 MHZ sine wave, it will never completely shut off. Though I was testing at around 10 MHZ, it seems that the selection of that part probably wasn’t ideal.

    I have a number of 1N914 diodes around and pulled up the data sheet. Reverse recovery was listed at 4 nano-seconds, which means it should work much better. The down side is that the max reverse voltage is only 100 volts. I also found out that the 1N4148 that Ken used has the exact same specs. In fact, these days, they are considered the same part. I figured I could do a quick test with a single 1N914, since the voltages I measured were around 100 volts. I figured that it was near the limit, but if I didn’t run it too hard, it should survive.

    I hooked everything back up. The SWR was now perfect, but the measurement values on the binding posts are still bad. Now, I’m really confused and decide to do an LTspice model of this simple circuit.

    Spice Dummy Load Model

    Spice Dummy Load Model

    I learned a few things doing the simulation.

  • The circuit should work fine
  • A larger cap will not give any better results than .001uF
  • Spice Dummy Load Model

    Spice Dummy Load Model

    The blue line is a 100 volt peak to peak transmitter signal. The green line at the top should be the value at the binding posts. The red line shows the current across the diode. The sharp negative spike in current is the reverse recovery time. I did a brief search, and I couldn’t find a model for the BAV-21. Would be interesting to see what a simulation of that diode looked like.

    After doing this analysis, I scratched my head some more, and did some more checking connections and signals. Finally, I determined that the 1N914 diode was dead. I must have exceeded the reverse voltage rating and fried it. I should have put two of them in series, like Ken did. I replaced the burned out one with 2 1N4148 diodes in series and everything started working perfectly.

    The chart on the side of the can, was created by measuring the resistance of the load and the diode drop of the two 1N4148 diodes. I created a spreadsheet that calculated power for each possible voltage measurement. I printed it out, cut it to size and glued to the side of the can.

    I’m still a bit surprised that several sites list the BAV-21 diode as the correct part for this job. Dummy loads have been around for decades. You would think that errors like this would be corrected by now.

    Well Known Game Designer, John Hill, has Died

    January 13th, 2015

    It’s sad to see another icon of the wargaming world, has died. I found out today that well known game designer John Hill has died on January 12th, at age 71.

    I was deeply involved in wargaming in the mid to late 70’s and spent many hours playing his most well known game, “Squad Leader”. He also designed a popular Civil War Miniature’s rule’s set called “Johnny Reb”.

    Brain Boards Sold Out – summary of pending projects

    January 9th, 2015

    I built and tested the last two kits over the holiday break and sold them on eBay. I made 59 PCBs, and kept 1 for myself, so there are 58 that were sold, either as kits or fully assembled.

    Once the initial interest passed, they were very slow sellers, so I’m not expecting to make any more. I have some ideas for an enhanced version, but that is very far down my list of things to do, so I don’t know if or when I’ll take the time to work on that.

    Here are just a few projects on my backlog that are ahead of the enhanced Brain Board. These will easily keep me busy for a couple of years or more.

  • Finishing all the SCELBI I/O Boards
  • Getting Apple II RTTY on the air – reception is working – transmission software is coded, but needs lab testing prior to actual “on air” tests
  • Getting vintage computer Morse code encoder/decoder on the air – Jack Rubin sent me an early Byte Magazine article with a 8008 software package for this, so I’ll probably do this on the SCELBI
  • Fabricating SCELBI Chassis Components
  • Putting together the VCF East 10 display and “Fix It” lecture
  • Hack together a Mimeo with 20K DRAM
  • Move Apple II RTTY application to the Mimeo/Apple 1
  • I have identified another board that is rare, of historical significance and worthy of replication
  • I have other ideas, that are even further out, such as doing a Mark-8. If I did a Mark-8, I would probably etch my own boards. This would probably be pretty easy to do, as the artwork was published and there was no solder mask and the holes were not plated through. I don’t think I would make batches of boards for sale, as this has been done already, and some of the parts are in the harder to find category.

    I also really need to do a manual/book on the SCELBI and I have made some half hearted attempts to start this. The main obstacle is that I’d want to scan and OCR the original docs and that is a very laborious process.

    ExTech EX-330 multimeter snapshot review

    January 6th, 2015

    Cutting to the chase, I’m a bit disappointed with this multimeter. I bought it primarily based on low price, features and relatively good review in Dave Jone’s EEVblog #91.

    The Ohm, DC volts and Diode check function work as expected. Some of the other features don’t work as well as I had hoped.

  • AC volts doesn’t work in millivolt range
  • Capacitance tester is basically unusable, except for a very small range of smallish caps
  • My sub $100 Tek 465 oscilloscope can be used for checking AC volts, though accuracy is approximate.

    The Fluke counter I picked off of eBay and repaired for around $40 is vastly more accurate and usable for frequency readings.

    At some point, I’m going to have to pick up a more capable capacitance tester, but in the past I have hacked one together out of spare parts on the few occasions when I really had to have one.

    For the features that do work well, the ergonomics of the EX330 are quite nice, much better than the $29 unit that it’s replacing.

    Bottom line – you get what you pay for, though I’m starting to believe that if it works or can be repaired, there can be some real bargains found in the vintage test gear marketplace. :-)