Tektronix Circuit Computer: Layout Analysis

Following a linkie I can no longer find led me to retrieve the Tektronix Circuit Computer in my Box o’ Slide Rules:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - front
Tektronix Circuit Computer – front

I’m pretty sure it came from Mad Phil’s collection. One can line up the discolored parts of the decks under their cutout windows to restore it to its previous alignment; most likely it sat at the end of a row of books (remember books?) on his reference shelf.

The reverse side lists the equations it can solve, plus pictorial help for the puzzled:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - rear
Tektronix Circuit Computer – rear

Some searching reveals the original version had three aluminum disks, shaped and milled and photo-printed, with a honkin’ hex nut holding the cursor in place. The one I have seems like laser-printed card stock between plastic laminating film; they don’t make ’em like that any more, either.

TEK PN 003-023 (the paper edition) runs about thirty bucks (modulo the occasional outlier) on eBay, so we’re not dealing in priceless antiquity here. The manual is readily available as a PDF, with photos in the back.

Some doodling produced key measurements:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - angle layout
Tektronix Circuit Computer – angle layout

All the dimensions are hard inches, of course.

Each log decade spans 18°, with the Inductive Frequency scale at 36° for the square root required to calculate circuit resonance.

Generating the log scales requires handling all possible combinations of:

  • Scales increase clockwise
  • Scales increase counterclockwise
  • Ticks point outward
  • Ticks point inward
  • Text reads from center
  • Text reads from rim

I used the 1×100 tick on the outer scale of each deck as the 0° reference for the other scales on that deck. The 0° tick appears at the far right of plots & engravings & suchlike.

The L/R Time Constant (tau = τ) pointer on the top deck and the corresponding τL scale on the bottom deck has (what seems like) an arbitrary -150° offset from the 0° reference.

The Inductive Frequency scale has an offset of 2π, the log of which is 0.79818 = 14.37°.

The risetime calculations have a factor of 2.197, offsetting those pointers from their corresponding τ pointer by 0.342 = log(2.197) = 6.15°.

A fair bit of effort produced a GCMC program creating a full-size check plot of the bottom deck on the MPCNC:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - Bottom Deck - scale check plot
Tektronix Circuit Computer – Bottom Deck – scale check plot

By the conservation of perversity, the image is rotated 90° to put the 1 H tick straight up.

The 3018 can’t handle a 7.75 inch = 196 mm disk, but a CD-size (120 mm OD) engraving came out OK on white plastic filled with black crayon:

Tek CC bottom - ABS 160g 2400mm-min
Tek CC bottom – ABS 160g 2400mm-min

The millimeter scale over on the right shows the letters stand a bit under 1 mm tall. And, yes, the middle scale should read upside-down.

Properly filling the engraved lines remains an ongoing experiment. More downforce on the diamond or more passes through the G-Code should produce deeper trenches, perhaps with correspondingly higher ridges along the sides. Sanding & polishing the plastic without removing the ink seems tedious.

The Great Dragorn of Kismet observes I have a gift for picking projects at the cutting edge of consumer demand.

More doodles while figuring the GCMC code produced a summary of the scale offsets:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - scale angle tabulation
Tektronix Circuit Computer – scale angle tabulation

Musings on the parameters of each scale:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - scale parameters
Tektronix Circuit Computer – scale parameters

How to draw decades of tick marks:

Tektronix Circuit Computer - decade tick doodles
Tektronix Circuit Computer – decade tick doodles

It turned out easier to build vectors of tick mark values and their corresponding lengths, with another list of ticks to be labeled, than to figure out how to automate those values.

More on all this to come …

13 thoughts on “Tektronix Circuit Computer: Layout Analysis

  1. I’ve gotten good marking on laser engraved acrylic by flooding with acrylic paint, letting dry, then knocking it off. It removes relatively easily and gives nice sharp contrast.

    1. How much laser power do you need to engrave white(-ish) acrylic?

      A slightly charred trench would definitely grab paint better than the slick V-groove from a diamond drag tool.

      AFAICT, a 40 W CO2 laser is about the minimum for cutting acrylic. I keep lusting after a Lasersaur, but …

    1. If I were a pilot, it’d be even better!

      Engraving 0.2 mm lines in aluminum poses a challenge I’m definitely not ready to tackle. [sigh]

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