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Post details: Bringing Out the Heavy Equipment!

Bringing Out the Heavy Equipment!

Posted by: The Mad Scientist

Nothing makes you feel more like a mad scientist than buying several enormous pieces of electronic test equipment out of the back of a guy's car trunk, and that's exactly what I did today!!! The man I bought the equipment from was a scientist from Fermilab who I met at the DucKon 14 Science Fictiion convention way back in June. At the convention he was one of the people running the "Build-a-Blinkie" workshops where you soldered together little blinking LED pins that you could wear, and he also gave a demonstration of his 400,000-volt Tesla coil that could throw 12-foot bolts of lightning in the Science Fiction convention's parking lot.

Being that it happened to be close to Fermilab, we decided to meet and do our exchange at of all places the American Science & Surplus store, which is like a mad scientists' paradise in and of itself! The pieces of heavy duty equipment that I bought from him for my robotics, radio, and electronics work were as follows:

  • Heathkit Laboratory Oscilloscope Model OS-01 from The Heath Company
  • Hewlett Packard Model 130BR Oscilloscope
  • Type 240 Function Generator from Exact Electronics Inc.

The function generator could use a little bit of soldering work in the form of soldering a new three-prong plug onto it so that it can be plugged into a wall outlet, but other than that the equipment I bought was said to be in working order. All three of these electronic devices are large, heavy, and use vacuum tubes, and two of them were designed to be rack-mounted. These tools have many uses in the field of electronics including many troubleshooting applications, and if worse comes to worse and I can't find a use for one of the two oscilloscopes, I could always hook it up to my stereo and watch the waveform of the music! In the meantime it has been a very long time since I used an oscilloscope, so I am going to have to hit the Internet to see if I can find the manuals for these puppies. Giving myself a refresher course on the operation of oscilloscopes and signal generators by reading through their manuals will get myself up to speed a lot quicker than the "Ooh! What does this button do?" approach!

While I was at the American Science & Surplus store I also picked up a few odds and ends for the electronics work that I have been doing these days or plan to be doing very soon. Unlike the last few visits to that tore that I have made, I didn't purchase very much this time. The big item that I picked up was a bicycle electroluminescent wire kit, which contained a small 2 "AAA" sized battery powered power-inverter and two foot-long blue electroluminescent strips that could be stuck to something with adhesive. I bought this as a cheap example of electroluminescent material technology that I can play with before I start moving onto building things with the more expensive professional-grade electroluminescent wire, which I plan to use with future robotics projects.

I also picked up a cheap laser pointer to use with some electronic schematics that I found on the Internet. These schematics showed how to send an audio signal through the laser with amplitude modulation from the headphone output of a sound source to the microphone input of a stereo system or computer sound card! While I don't plan to be building such a device anytime soon, I figured that I might as well buy a cheap laser pointer while I was at the American Science & Surplus store. Another thing that I bought was another mono-headphone because tons of my electronics projects call for wiring a device up to a mono-headphone jack, such as the above mentioned laser pointer data transmission device, my audio-pickup inductor coil, and my magnetic stripe card reader. What I do is just lob the headphone part off, toss that aside, and use the wires and the 3.5mm jack for my projects. It's always useful to have a few of these on hand since I seem to use them all of the time. Some other things that I picked up at American Science and Surplus were some battery holders that I can use to power my electronic projects, and plenty of cheap Alkaline batteries to put into them.

Along with the things related to my electronics and robotics work that I purchased today, I also received my brand new DIY Electronics K149 Version E USB Serial PIC Programmer kit in the mail yesterday! In an earlier blog entry I mentioned how the company had originally sent me an older version of the kit than the one that they advertised on their website, and I wanted to make sure that I had the absolute newest version of the kit available so I made them exchange it. To their credit, the people at did send me the correct kit after I asked for it, and reimbursed me for the shipping that I had to pay to send the older kit back to them. So at the very least this company showed that it valued customer satisfaction!

As far as my Replica I microcomputer wood case "practice project" goes, I will be purchasing my Apple II ASCII keyboard and encoder board a little later this week, and as soon as I get paid for some PC repair work and some artwork commissions that I am doing, I will start buying the wood and the power jigsaw that I need to start building the case with and teach myself the art of woodworking (and hopefully not chopping my fingers off in the process)! As always, I very much appreciate to hear any comments that you have about my projects, and thanks for reading!


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