ELECTRONICS / CONSTRUCTION


ELECTRONICS

Electronics has been my hobby since I was about 12 years old.  Like all in this field, I had to begin by learning to crawl before I could walk, so to speak.  -You can do this, too!  (If you are interested, that is.)

If you do have an interest, or desire to learn about electronics and the construction of small devices, I would suggest that you look in your local bookseller store, for electronic hobbyist magazines.

Also, check in a Radio Shack store for a selection of books dealing with electronics theory and construction of simple projects.  They also sell some "learn by reading and building" sets.  These have written theory, followed by instructions (on the assembly of the project just described) for hooking up the unit.  These can be fun as well as highly instructional.  (-Even USEFUL!)



-The following are some pictures of my shop, which will give you an idea of the overall layout.

Click on any of the following pictures below to see a few somewhat large rimage; -The chosen image will be too large to fit on your screen: The full images are about a MEGABYTE in size!

-After the image downloads, the full image will be displayed, but it will be in a "compressed" form. You can then CLICK on any spot on the picture to ZOOM INTO that portion of the image. -Click again, to ZOOM OUT again. Use your cursor to SELECT, then ZOOM INTO the different places on the picture; -Eventually you will be able to to view the full span picture.

(When you are finished looking at the linked image, just use your web browser's BACK button to return back here.)

Click on any the above pictures to see the large images, then use the BACK BUTTON to return here.




The next image shows the NEWEST addition to my shop's "ham shack," the Kenwood TS-590. More information on the TS-590 is in the LINK.

The TS-590 is an extremely good radio, when one considers what it can do vs. the price tag.

The TS-590 is in the foreground, with the TOWER OF POWER stack behind it. The TOWER OF POWER is normally installed in our camper, but I have decided to move it to the basement shop for the winter seasons.

The TOWER OF POWER consists of an Icom IC-7000, an AMERITRON ALS-600 and an LDG AT-100 ProII automatic antenna tuner..




ELECTRONIC CONSTRUCTION

As an example of some of the stuff I enjoy tinkering with, I'd like to tell you about an ELECTRONIC COUNTER system that I designed and built.  This took place several years ago (1977, to be exact...).

The unit had an 8-digit display, and an upper frequency range of 1 Ghz. It had 15 PC boards. I used a proportionally-controlled crystal oscillator as the time-base. I placed the oscillator as well as the oven temperature controller and a secondary voltage regulator into the oven, also! I had the oven running at about 50 degrees Celsius, which is just over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. (The system was very stable!) I designed the unit so that the RF was not routed to or from the front panel, so the signals were well controlled by my use of ICs that acted as conditioners and/or routing devices. I was told that the system had at least four patentable designs, but the costs were just too high for me to consider funding any patents.

I drew the PC boards out at four times the size, then had the local newspaper shoot the negatives needed for production of the printed circuit bards. I used ink pens, with a large WIDE tip to create the lines. An error would mean that I had to start the whole drawing again. (I was using India ink on large sheets of paper, using a drafting set, Tee-square, and the like. -No computers, back then!) The PC boards were made up from these negatives by a company in Iowa.

It was my first attempt at actually producing a product to the general public, in that it was offered as a "kit", of sorts.  Included were the fifteen printed circuit boards (drilled and solder-plated for ease of construction) and a construction manual of about 50 pages.  The manual offered such items as theory of operation, general use, normal operational procedures, construction hints, PC board layouts, schematics of the PC boards, overall hookup and interconnection suggestions, places to purchase the components, a drawing of a suggested mechanical layout of the chassis and case, parts list and checkout procedure. (Yes, even the hand-bent case was home-made, primed and painted, labeled, all in keeping with the general "theme" of being home-made!)

I developed this kit as this was something that I had always thought about; Producing a product.  It was fun, as I mentioned.  I sold just enough units to cover my costs, no more!




COMPUTER CONSTRUCTION

I enjoy modifying and construction of Macintosh computers.  When I say that I "construct" Mac computers, I mean that I use a Macintosh MOTHERBOARD and mount this in various cases, add the required items that are required to make the unit work as a complete computer.  (These "required items" would consist of a power supply, a video output device, a disk drive, a hard drive, keyboard and mouse.)

Most of the systems that I have made up have some sort of "value-added" features.  As an example, I often used various accelerator boards which are hooked to the motherboard.  This makes the basic motherboard faster, or able to handle more memory, as an example.

One of the most challenging systems I ever made up was a PORTABLE MACINTOSH.  I called this unit TOTERMAC, which stands for "tote-able Mac."

I completed this project about four years before Apple produced its first portable, the MACINTOSH PORTABLE! Not only was my system four years ahead of Apple's, but it was a LOT faster and had a pop-up keyboard and pop-up 800 Kbyte disk drive, etc. The following paragraph lists a few of the major points of my TOTERMAC as compared to the MACINTOSH PORTABLE computer.

  • TOTERMAC had a 68020 microprocessor; Apple's had a much slower 68000 CPU
  • TOTERMAC had a 68021 MATH CO-PROCESOR; Apple's had NO co-processor
  • TOTERMAC had a 40 Gb hard drive; Apple's had a 20 Gb drive
  • TOTERMAC had a pop-up full-sized keyboard; The Apple had a smaller "chicklet-key" keypad
  • TOTERMAC had 4 megabytes of RAM (memory); Apple's only had 1 Megabyte of memory
  • TOTERMAC had a 2400 Baud modem built in; Apple's had a 300 OPTIONAL modem
  • TOTERMAC had a PLASMA display; Apple's had an LCD screen

    I do recall that it was very difficult to fit all of the components into the Zero-Halliburton case, keeping the lines of the carrying case unblemished by hardware! The TOTERMAC computer system worked VERY well, but weighed 24 pounds!  (I must admit, Apple's first portable weighed in at "only" 16 pounds. -But mine was a PROTOTYPE!) I even had plans to enter into PRODUCTION with this system at one point. I made several trips to Japan, conferring with the manufacturer of the plasma display, as this was a major hurdle for me. (It's a good thing that I worked for a major airline; -My tickets were very reasonable, as a result!)