Multiple identical-looking VTVM's.

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by W1GUH, Sep 16, 2014.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    There were four 410Cs on the watery auction place, last time I looked. They seem to sell for about what the cost new 50 years ago!
  2. KB1WSY

    KB1WSY Ham Member QRZ Page

    One of the really cool things about getting into "vintage" gear is that you can more readily afford to buy stuff that, back in the day, you could only dream about. I assume that very few hams would have had top-end HP test gear, firstly because it was so incredibly expensive compared to the "workaday" ham-level stuff from Eico or Heathkit, and secondly because you really didn't need that level of precision or features. Nowadays, that top-quality vintage stuff isn't exactly cheap, but it's still an order of magnitude less expensive than it was 50 years ago when it was new.

    Recently I've been noticing how the top-end, non-digital, film-based photo gear has become relatively affordable, including cameras I could only dream about as a youngster. I was an avid photographer and had a home darkroom. You can now buy a complete traditional darkroom (enlarger, tanks, accessories) with top-brand vintage equipment for much less than in the past, after taking inflation into account. The digital cameras are really amazing, but there's nothing like a film camera, and the subsequent "dunking in the soup" and enlarging the traditional way. (Danger! Danger! Flashing lights! Don't start a new hobby!)

    Finally, the gap in price between the crap vintage stuff and the really good vintage stuff has shrunk. So, in some cases, for not much more, you can buy the really good stuff.
  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Good observation on the art deco aspect. Hallicrafters, of course, was strongly informed by art deco beginning in the 40s. Can anyone point out a rig of any kind made today that would be recognizable 50 years from now? I think not.
  4. KB1WSY

    KB1WSY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sometimes it's just a little textual curlicue, but a nice one. Viz., my Eico 'scope voltage calibrator...


    ... and the 'scope itself.


    That's not really Art Deco, it's more a 1950s "space age" thing, but I like it.
  5. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yup...more like orders of magnitude!

    I mean, in 1963, $300 was a month's gross pay for a lot of folks!

    The one thing that concerns me about chemical photography is....the chemicals. How much longer will it be possible to buy film, paper, developer, fixer, etc., at affordable prices? Or to buy it at all?

    In some cases, yes. And in some cases there's a real difference in quality. But in other cases, the added quality isn't all that great, unless you are doing really precision stuff.

    More important, to me, is the maintainability issue.

    A typical "ham quality" VTVM uses parts and tubes that are pretty common - the only things that are rare are the switches, the meter, and possibly the power transformer. And it's so simple that if anything goes wrong you can probably fix it easily and quickly. (This is why a ham needs two multimeters - otherwise how do you fix them?) And the popular ones, like the Heathkit V-7, are so plentiful and cheap that you can have parts units without breaking the bank.

    But as you move up the scale, there are more unobtanium parts, more rare parts, more complexity, and the practicality of a parts unit starts to go away. That can be a concern for the person who wants to actually use the thing.....

    One more point: IMHO, the very best test gear is military surplus. The TV-7 and TV-2 tube testers, the AN/PRM-10 grid dipper, the ME-297 VOM, to name just a few. Trouble is, some of them (mostly the tube testers) command very high prices.
  6. KB1WSY

    KB1WSY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Amazon alone has 61 stock items just for the Ilford brand, under "accessories : darkroom supplies : photo" but you probably have a point.

    At some point or other, companies such as Ilford might find their sales shrinking to such a low point that they go out of business or shift into a completely different business. Happened to Kodak (or rather, that's one of the things that happened to Kodak; other wounds were self-inflicted).

    But the chemicals are pretty simple, especially if you stick to B&W (which would be my intention).

    Mind you even finding simple chemicals can be hard for us "civilians." Remember the ARRL "clean your aluminum chassis" routine using "ordinary household lye"? Can't find that in any store around here. I've heard that Drano might do the trick, although it has all sorts of additional additives in addition to lye and that might not be so good. You can buy it online apparently ("Red Devil lye" for instance) because lye is used by hobbyists who make their own soap.... I don't know whether the lye-cleaning method for aluminum is worth it anyway, but I was interested in giving it a try just for fun.

    In the old days, your local hardware or drug store was apparently a very dangerous place, by modern standards, huh?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2014
  7. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    True - but what about film and paper?

    Of course one could go all steampunk and use glass negatives.....

    Red Devil Lye is still available around here, last time I checked. It's pretty good stuff.

    However, what you refer to isn't a way of cleaning aluminum, but rather a way of etching it, to get a satin finish. I've done it, with lye, and while the effect is nice it's a matter of taste whether it's worth the trouble.

    For the ultimate in "don't do this at home" chemicals, check out hydroflouric acid. It cleans practically anything and will etch glass and quartz. However it is extremely dangerous - a small splash on your skin can kill you, and not quickly, either. Its "less dangerous" cousin, ammonium biflouride, was commonly used by hams to etch FT-243s, but is now better controlled - for good reason!
  8. KB1WSY

    KB1WSY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just for the heck of it, Mr. Google comes up with "making your own photographic paper": Lots of fun chemicals, of course!

    Film is a harder proposition, but I suspect that because 35mm film is (and always was) a derivative of professional movie film, it might be around for a long time even with the industry's move to digital.
  9. W1GUH

    W1GUH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Did exactly that with photography last summer. The prices for used MF stuff is way, way down, and I picked up a Pentax 67 for about the price of a low end DSLR. But as for a darkroom - scanning and PS(E) will do the same job and maybe even better. OTOH, they don't provide the blacklight and hypo odor experience!

    But there's a huge caveat there. I cannot say for sure that the Pentax gets better images than my Canon T3i. The only difference I've been able to discern is with the Pentax I get that "film look" that I can't really describe in detail, nor do I see it in every shot. The sharpness and resolution appear very, very close to each other and the bokeh of the Canon lenses stands up to that of the Pentax lenses I've got. And the Canon is obviously a LOT more convenient and easy to shoot with, so long as one is willing to be like all the other people shooting with a DSLR! Not to mention that using it costs nothing except for the electricity used to charge the battery.

    As for high-end test equipment. When we were specifying test equipment back in the early 70's, a 'scope cost more than a house -- IIRC, around 30 grand. Picked up a Tektronix 465 with a couple of specialty probes - one was a hall effect current probe - for $150.00 a couple of years ago, so I guess your "two orders of magnitude" is pretty close, at least before inflation is taken into account.

    But what you say about we don't really need that precision usually, particularly with hollow-state stuff is right on.
  10. KB1WSY

    KB1WSY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Quite the reverse. A few years ago, IMO, the digital cameras vaulted over anything that you could do with a traditional film camera. If you want the grain, you can always add it in PS! The most stunning thing, to me, is what you can now do in low light, with a digital camera. The flash, once an essential accessory, is barely needed any more. In fact I often find that I can get better results with indoor shooting by turning *off* some of the room lights: you get warmer colors.

    I'm not one of those people who constantly says the old stuff was better, whether in photography or anything else. Take ham radio. I love tube gear and especially building tube gear (because the components are large, discrete, easy to understand) but the modern gear just blows it away. In fact the modern gear is so good that, to me, it sorta takes away the challenges!

    I feel the same about film photography.

    In both cases, that feeling of "making something with your own hands" is just hard to achieve, with digital gear.

    You could say the same about a lot of hobbies that involve making stuff. In many of these hobbies, it is hard or impossible to achieve the performance of a modern, "manufactured" object if you build your own. Doesn't matter to me -- as long as you have fun doing it, and get some utility out of the finished product.

    Edited to add: Here's another thought. OK, the digital photos are better. OTOH, a few decades ago we were stunned by the great results of that Pentax! How quickly we forget! There are absolute standards, and there are relative comparisons. If you're always comparing A with B, it can get pretty unhappy....
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