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Goodby 2013    Date: 1/6/2014
2013 won't be missed around here. It was a hard and sad year with the long illness and death of two relatives and an old friend who will be missed. The holidays are over and things are now getting back to what's normal (for us). This hopefully will be a better year.

I'm working on the second annual workbench contest which is still on schedule to start in February. Watch here for entry details and prizes:

Time and technology march on and I am working on the first real video for Steve's Antique Technology. Bet you can't wait to see my cheerful face doing equipment reviews, showing off antique testers, and giving workbench tips. It will be interesting (for me at least). I think videos will give me a better opportunity to pass along more details and information. There's a lot to learn to do it correctly but it's been fun learning the editing software and seeing what works and what doesn't. Watch this blog page or Facebook for the first one.

Date: 9/23/2013    Kutztown PA Fall Radio Show
Simpson 415 Signal Generator
Fall has arrived and the Kutztown PA Antique Radio Meet was as usual a great way to end the Summer and start focusing on the workbench and collection again.

I saw the front panel of this Simpson 415 signal generator at the show and had to add it to my fleet of vintage and antique test equipment. This Simpson should be an interesting winter project.

Date: 7/7/2013

New Section!
Summer is in full swing so other distractions are limiting my posts here. However, the new Non-Linear Systems section is now live and my be viewed here.

Date: 6/14/2013     NLS X-2 Digital Meter
Non Linear Systems X-2
A very interesting piece of test equipment landed on my bench this week. Non-Linear Systems (NLS) produced the first Digital Meter in the 1950s. This X-2 from NLS was manufactured around 1967 and has a Nixie Tube display. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the operations manual and calibration procedure from someone and hope to soon have this working. This is now the earliest digital meter in my collection. I am still searching for an example of the earlier digital display NLS produced that used individual lamps for each digit.

Date: 5/13/2013 by Steve Johnson     Back from Kutztown
Had a great time at the Spring Kutztown radio show as usual. Sold a lot and brought back some items for the collection including a Supreme oscilloscope, signal generator and a couple of units for parts. Wen and a HexAcon soldering guns will be added to the soldering collection soon.

A large lot of original factory service manuals have also arrived. Expect to see Bogan, Voice of Music, Webster - Chicago, and others to be added to the original factory service manual line up at soon. Speaking of which, I'm toying with the idea of changing the sites name to just "" as I also provide schematics for vintage test equipment, phonographs, amplifiers, and other related items. Not sure there is much of a marking advantage by changing the name at this point but it's worth thinking about.

Date: 5/8/2013
by Steve Johnson

Here's the latest "What's It Worth" article in Electronic Products on Early Home Computers: What's It Worth: Early Home Computers

Hope to see everyone at the Kutztown PA Antique Radio Show later this week!

Date: 5/3/2013 by Steve Johnson     
May has arrived and along with it the constant battle to keep up with the lawn and gardens. Summer is also the time for maintenance and updates to the schematic sites. I have a few thousand Canadian schematics I'm currently adding to the sites and I just added a bunch of 1930s Atwater Kent factory service files. There are several thousand more on the way from U.S. manufacturers and should arrive next week so this summer should see quite a few additions to the web site.

The Kutztown PA Antique Radio Show is next week. Hopefully there will be a couple of interesting finds there.
The sun is out. Back to the lawn...

Date: 4/13/2013 by Steve Johnson      Vintage computers
NLS Kaypro II
I finally got around to getting the Vintage Computers page up and running. Posted are several models I have from the early 1980s. Probably the most interesting is the Osborne 1, the first (not so) portable computer. The screen isn't much bigger than my cell phone.

I also have an early Kaypro II which was made by Non-Linear Systems. You might remember the name Non-Linear Systems as they manufactured the first digital meters. They manufactured Kaypro computers for about a year before they split it off and formed Kaypro Corporation.

Date: 3/31/2013 by Steve Johnson     Analog vs. Digital
Rigol Display Larger Photo
Although I'm an analog kind of guy, I've been checking out the pros and cons of digital scopes and watching the price drop by more than half over the past couple of years. For me the negatives have always been the screen resolution and the base price of a digital scope. A good used analog scope can usually be found for under $200 but since entry level digital scopes have now dropped to well under $400 I took the plunge.

I decided a combination of an analog scope for signal tracing and finding distortion, and a digital scope for storage, PC display, and waveform analysis might be a good combination to have on my workbench. I finally bit the bullet and sold one of my analog scopes and a tube tester and purchased a Rigol 100 MHz digital scope. At under $400 a new digital scope is now in the same price range as a good Fluke handheld DMM.

So far I'm happy with the Rigol. It is doing the job I purchased it for. Its mostly menu driven and with a little bit of browsing around the on screen menus you should be able to figure it out without using the manual. Good thing as the manual (which you have to download) assumes you already know all the terminology and ins and outs of using an oscilloscope.

As you can see from the display above, the actual waveform is grainy but it gives you just about every measurement of a waveform you could ask for at the touch of a button. Even the frequency function (top right) is surprisingly accurate. It's within .0017% of my Fluke and Tektronix counters. That's well within any accuracy range I would need. Time will tell but for now I'm happy with this cheap, entry level digital scope.

Darb Holiday Bicycle Radio Date: 3/6/2013 by Steve Johnson      Bicycle Radio History
And now the bicycle radio history page is complete. The darb below is included along with the pre World War II Motorola bike radio and others. Check it out here.

Date: 3/1/2013 by Steve Johnson
Fluke News tells my story this month and the latest What's It Worth Article is out.
Fluke News this month tells how I got started. You can check it out here: A tale of technical curiosity

In the latest What's It Worth article on I talk a little about vintage electronic wheel charts and slide charts.

The entry deadline has passed and the winners will be announced on the 15th of this month for my Up Your Bench contest.

Darb Holiday Bicycle Radio Date: 2/26/2013 by Steve Johnson      The Darb Holiday Bicycle Radio
One of the latest additions to the radio collection is this Darb Holiday bicycle radio from around 1956. It's a unique item and I have posted more information and photos here.

Long Live The Knob!

Date: 2/17/2013 by Steve Johnson     Collecting test equipment is a waste of time?

The discussion from Feb. 9th continues...
Some think that collecting is best left to museums and if there is something unique about an item, it gets a very limited audience when left in a private collection. While that may be true in many cases and private collections aren't typically shared, a large percentage of items in most museums collections are donations from private collectors or purchased with funds donated by private collectors.

I don't think I'll ever be in a position to donate large amounts of cash to a museum but I still try to share my finds. The easiest way I have found is to get background on every piece I can, both its historical and service information and post it on this web site. I try to post catalogs, advertisements, schematics and service manuals, data sheets, sometimes even patents if it's a first of a kind, and whatever else I may find on a piece of test equipment that makes it to the web site. It really would have been a waste to just let it all sit with just me looking at it. This method seems to be working as I get thousands of visitors to the site every month from all over and more email than I have time to answer. It's what I enjoy doing.

Something that I did not know before I started posting on this web site is that there are a lot of serious test equipment collectors out there, more than you might think. If you think it's crazy, dumb, or a waste of time just don't do it yourself. Myself, I think there's enough 555 timer circuits out there so I don't bother with them anymore but I don't go around telling someone else they are wasting their time experimenting with one, they are not.

I do hope if your interested in electronics you will find looking at some of the test equipment from the past interesting. When your pressing the buttons on that latest bench meter or the newest digital scope, it might give you a new perspective knowing how a piece of test equipment and a knob (those round things we use to turn) actually operated and looked like in the early 1900s. You never know what your going to learn from electronics engineers and their creations that preceeded us.

Date: 2/11/2013 by Steve Johnson     American Routes Music

If you haven't stopped by the American Routes web site and checked out the archive of past shows you can stream and listen to on line your missing out. What a great archive of past and current American music.

Date: 2/9/2013 by Steve Johnson     To collect or not to collect...

Someone complained on the EEVBlog electronics forum about the abundance of discussions about test equipment and that there should be more discussions about actual circuit design. It's been an interesting discussion and here's my reply relating to collecting.

Other than a new Fluke to check the accuracy of what vintage equipment I restore and maintain and a couple of newer soldering/rework stations, every piece of test equipment on my bench is 20 to 50 years old. Yes I could fill the bench with all the latest test equipment but for what I like to do it would be a waste. The old stuff works just fine. I suppose one of these days I will buy one of these new fangled digital scopes to play with but it's not required for what I mostly do now. Heck, until the later 1950s most service shops didn't even have or need a scope. I could get by with a meter, soldering gun, some hand tools, and a variac. The rest do make some things a little easier but I've been putting together my bench since the early 1980s so a build up of bench equipment would be expected.

As far as collecting, that's another story. My test equipment collection is not unlike someone else collecting vintage computers, calculators, pinball machines, cars, or whatever. It just depends on what you are interested in.

I have over 100 tube testers. Most are pre 1950. Do I use them all now? No, of course not. I use two from the 50s and 60s. I have an interest in their history and design though and keep them around as examples. Beats having them rot in someones basement, attic, or barn. Do they sit in my shop? Yes, and not many people see them. Is it a waste? I don't think so. The more interesting ones I post on the web site along with their data so others can see them and enjoy reading about their history.

There are more people collecting vintage test equipment than you think. I get a constant flood of emails from people looking to restore something and looking for parts and service information. It's taken many years to build up the collection and library of service information. It's what I like to do. I gave up designing the latest digital circuit years ago. So what. Many today don't have a clue as to how a tube works. Does that mean that that knowledge will eventually be lost? I hope not. Collectors actually help preserve the technology of the past. Think about that the next time you see an old vacuum tube voltmeter at a garage sale. It may not be the latest Fluke but it was still a great piece of test equipment.

As far as the guys buying all the latest and greatest test equipment that they probably won't use, that's their choice. Heck, I know people that spend a lot more on cars, boats, ATVs, and other crap that I'm not interested in and mostly sits in their driveway but so what. That's their money and their choice. I happen to like old test equipment.

Date: 2/8/2013 by Steve Johnson      "Quick-Shot" - Something completely different.
Quick-Shot A "Quick-Shot" Thermite Soldering Iron
That's right "Thermite" (as in Thermite Bomb). Thermite was used by the Germans in World War II to make bombs for burning cities and used as a trigger in hand grenades, it was also used to weld railroad rails for years, warm baby bottles, and to create heat in this "Quick-Shot" portable soldering iron. These Irons were sold to the military and over the counter in the 1940s and 50s.

The heat is generated by a chemical reaction but since I don't think I'll ever have enough items for a "chemical reaction" soldering iron section I've posted more information about it in the "Flame Heated Soldering Irons" section.

Date: 1/31/2013 by Steve Johnson     
The First Weller Soldering Station
Weller's First Soldering Station

This good working example of Weller's first soldering station (mid 1960s) just joined the fleet. Needed a little clean up but it works good.
More Info

Date: 1/29/2013 by Steve Johnson     The search is on

I finally got around to adding a search function to the new site layout. This time I also added the option to search the Photofact site and the factory service manual web site. It's available from the "Site Search" button at the left on most pages or you can try it out here.

Steve's Antique Technology
Sams Photofact Schematics
Factory Service Manuals

Date: 1/26/2013 by Steve Johnson     The Star Trek Future Is Here (sort of)
I can remember growing up watching Star Trek and being amazed at day to day items that might be available in the future like the little communicators they used, or the hand held tablets they used with all the cool apps to perform maintenance and peruse data. We've got them now. How about the phasers they set to stun. We've sort of got them now (Tasers), they just aren't wireless yet.

What impressed me the most was the machine with the little door that opened that made just about anything they wanted. That would be cool... How far off is that? My guess is not far at all for some things.

Many of you are now familiar with 3D printers. Those machines hooked up to a computer that will make three dimensional objects by printing one microscopic layer at a time. In just a few years they have gone from a large industrial size to the point now where you can purchase a table top version for the home.

So what's next? My guess is that not too far off many items you want will be downloaded. I'm not talking about music or movie files, I'm talking about downloading an object you can hold in your hand. How about a pair of flip flops, a plant pot, a gasket or new knob for an appliance repair, or thousands of other objects found around the house or office. Can you imagine going to Amazon, finding the knob you need for your stove, downloading the file, and printing the actual knob on your 3D printer? How about a new set of dentures? Just log onto your dentist's web site and download your denture file. The old ones were getting yellow so it was time to print a new set anyway. Don't laugh. It's not that far off.

Don't worry though, it's still going to be some time before I can print out a cheesecake that's as good as my wife's.     Or is it?

Update - Livin' the Star Trek future - Just installed Google Translator on my Android tablet. It translates text between 65 languages and reads it back to you. You can also just speak in English and it will actually speak the translation back in 17 languages. Klingon is not on the list yet but it won't be long.

Date: 1/16/2013 by Steve Johnson
New Arrivals

Hickok 121 Cardmatic
It was a busy day today with a few new arrivals.
Here are a couple of them.

First is a wide capacity printed circuit board holder by OK Industries which will handle a board up to 13 inches wide. You can also rotate the board to get at both sides without removing it from the holder. More Info

The second find is a Hickok Cardmatic tube tester. There are no dials or switches to set. Just slide the punched card for the tube you want to test into the slot. This one is in nice cosmetic condition and works electrically but will need to be torn down and rebuilt mechanically as it has been sitting unused for 30 years and the card reader is frozen in place. I needed another project anyway. More Info

Date: 1/13/2013 by Steve Johnson     
Godaddy Hosting Problems
To those having problems accessing my web sites and not being able to download larger files. My sites hosted at Godaddy have been experiencing problems since Thursday. The answer so far from Godaddy is no ETA on a fix and that I'm on a legacy system and I need to upgrade. There is no excuse for three days of Godaddy telling me I need to upgrade to avoid a problem on their system. If this is not fixed soon I will be forced to upgrade... to another hosting service.
I apologize for any inconvenience.
Update Monday 1/14 - Sites have been migrated to new servers. All seems to be working well now.

Date: 1/11/2013 by Steve Johnson     
New Year, New Items
New Additions
Early January brings a couple of new items to the web site. The first is a Readrite (Triplett) Model 712A Set Tester. It's from around 1934. At first look you would think that some of the meters have been replaced. Actually, the meters are all original in this model. In the early 1930s Triplett was beginning to use the Triplett name and moving away from using the Readrite brand name. The second thing that throws many is thinking it's a tube tester. After all it's got four tube sockets. In reality it takes circuit measurements by removing a tube from the radio and placing it in a socket on the set tester and plugging the set tester's cable into the empty tube socket in the radio. It also had pin jacks for test leads just in case the radio is dead.

The second item is actually a tube tester. The Weston 685 Tube Checker was also included as part of the I-56-A military test set. Fortunately I received the operating instructions and tube test data with it and they are posted for download on the Weston page along with the 685. The tube data sheets for it are from April 1939.

Remember to get your entries in at the Up Your Bench contest for your chance to win a new Fluke 87V DMM or one of the new soldering stations.

Happy New Year!

Date: 12/30/2012
by Steve Johnson     

2012 is winding down and the snow is piling up so it's a good time to get some of the Winter projects done. We have around 15 to 20 inches of snow on the ground now (love that lake effect).

I recently picked up a few original SAMs Photofact four drawer filing cabinets so it's time to make room for them in the service manual library and get the trailer unloaded.

I also have several large binders of vintage factory service manuals that need to be indexed and added to the schematic sites and a few thousand factory service files that are already digitized that still need to be added to the instant download server. Good projects for cold Winter days.

Entries are coming in for the Winter Up Your Bench contest so remember to get your entries in for a chance to win a new Fluke 87V DMM, Weller Soldering station, a X-Tronic rework station, gift certificates, and more.

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas and has a Happy New Year.

Date: 12/20/2012 by Steve Johnson     Duracells suck
Duracells Suck

This Fluke clamp meter worked fine two weeks ago. If your going to use batteries and expect to have them sit for any period of time get Energizers. Do not make the mistake of using Duracells in any electronics that doesn't get used daily.

In the past year Duracells have leaked in two meters, a voice recorder, an MP3 player and a flashlight. All things that sit for long periods of time unused. I'm done with those POS batteries.

Date: 12/18/2012 by Steve Johnson      Smashed in shipping
Flash Soldering Gun

A "Flash" soldering station arrived this week with two different wattage guns. Unfortunately they were not properly packed and one gun was smashed by the heavy transformer. They look to be from around the 1940s but I can't find any information about them anywhere.
More Info and Photos
Flashed Smashed

Date: 12/16/2012 by Steve Johnson      BANNED!
The Electronics Point forum banned me as a spammer for posting that the "Up Your Bench" contest entry forms were now available. Seems you can talk about the contest but you can't tell anyone that the forms are now available? I did not realize that giving stuff away is the same as selling stuff for profit. Oh well, guess their members will just miss out on a chance to win some nice equipment.

If you have not entered yet here's your chance to win a Fluke 87V DMM ($400+ value), a X-Tronic rework/soldering station, a Weller WES51 soldering station, gift certificates, and more. Head over here to check out the prizes and enter.

If you are looking for some good forums to read or join here's a couple I would recommend:

Electronics in general:
All the way from down under comes the EEVBlog. Lots of great reading, discussions, and reviews. (Dave even has a "Contest" category).

Here's a couple specifically for Antique Radios and Vintage Test Equipment:
ARF (Antique Radio Forum)
Tube Radio Forum

Date: 12/10/2012 by Steve Johnson     
Site Rebuild Is Done!
American Beauty T-6
Rebuild and upload of the site is done. Yea! Well, not actually done as there are still some new sections to populate over the next couple of weeks.

If you find any dead links or files missing please let me know. The rebuild consisted of sorting through over 2,000 files so there's a pretty good chance I have missed a few things.

««« Here's a new addition today to the soldering section. An American Beauty Model T-6 Micro Soldering Iron. This thing is small. Check it out here.

Date: 12/9/2012 by Steve Johnson      Site is being reloaded this evening. Some pages and data may not be available until tomorrow.

Date: 12/7/2012 by Steve Johnson      The Up Your Bench contest starts next week (Firday 12/14/12). Make sure you send in your entry. Prizes include a new Fluke 87V DMM, X-Tronic 6040 Rework/soldering ststion, a Weller WES 52 soldering station and more. Check out the details at

Date: 12/5/2012 by Steve Johnson     Site-wide Update
I'm currently working on a site-wide update. This new site has additional sections for some of my collections along with this new blog section, new navigation, and a equipment review section.

Since I've had to embrace social media you may also find updates, news, and announcements on the Facebook page.


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