Homage Tektronix Circuit Computer: Pen Plotter Version

A reproduction circular slide rule from the mid-1960s may not be the cutting edge of consumer demand, but the pen version of a Tektronix Circuit Computer came out pretty well:

Homage Tektronix Circuit Computer - green on white laminated
Homage Tektronix Circuit Computer – green on white laminated

A Bash script compiles the GCMC code with eight different parameter combinations to produce pairs of G-Code files to draw (“engrave” being aspirational) and cut (“mill”, likewise) the three decks and the cursor.

The CNC 3018XL with a Pilot V5RT pen draws the deck scales on white paper:

Pilot V5RT holder - installed
Pilot V5RT holder – installed

Better paper definitely produces better results, so I must rummage through the Big Box o’ Paper to see what lies within. Laminating the decks improves their durability and matches the original Tek surface finish.

The MPCNC with a drag knife blade cuts through a laminated deck like butter:

Tek CC - MPCNC drag knife
Tek CC – MPCNC drag knife

Setting the XY origin to dead center on each deck requires carefully calibrating the USB video camera, with the end result accurate to maybe ±0.1 mm around the entire perimeter. Both machines move equal linear distances along both axes, which was definitely comforting.

Having made half a dozen cursors from various bits of acrylic, none of which look particularly good, demonstrates my engraving hand is too weak for a complete slide rule:

Tek Circuit Computer - cursor hairline
Tek Circuit Computer – cursor hairline

With logarithmic scales in hand, however, adapting the GCMC source code to produce general-purpose circular slide rules with only two decks and smaller diameters may be the way to improve my engraving-fu, as a full-scale Tektronix Circuit Computer would chew up three square-foot plastic sheets.

A general-purpose slide rule would need multi-color (well, at least bi-color) labels and digits for red “inverse” scales to remind you (well, me) they read backwards. Some slipsticks use left-slanting italics, left-pointing markers (“<2”), or other weirdness, but they’re all different.

An early small-scale version engraved on ABS came out OK, modulo poor ink fill:

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

Engraving the decks on hard drive platters doesn’t count:

Tek CC - bottom deck - scaled to HD platter
Tek CC – bottom deck – scaled to HD platter

All in all, it’s been an interesting exercise and, as you may have guessed, will become a Digital Machinist column.

The GCMC and Bash source code as a GitHub Gist:

3 thoughts on “Homage Tektronix Circuit Computer: Pen Plotter Version

  1. My roommate in college (pre-HP35 era) used a circular general purpose slide “rule”, er, disk. Somehow, nobody ever wanted to borrow it.

    In keeping with the climate requirements of the Midwest, I used an aluminum Pickett. Most Post(tm) sliderule owners had fun* adjusting them each season.

    (*) For various definitions of the word.

    1. The rotors on my circular Pickett were always too hard to turn. I should see if a dose of modern dry silicone lube would improve its disposition. Ya never know when you might need a slipstick, but not having used the thing in nigh onto half a century, it’s not urgent …

Comments are closed.