Design electronics like it is the 1970’s at CERN

Linac3 was built in 1994 and generates almost all ions used in the CERN accelerator complex. Despite the construction date in mid 90’s, some electronic modules controlling the radio-frequency fields in the accelerating cavities date back to the 1970’s. It is pretty much all good-old analog stuff.

The first stage of the renovation process is cleaning (of old stuff). It is always a bit emotional to cut cables and remove fully functional equipment. You destroy work of your predecessors, whom you value a lot, but also reach the point of no return, when you have to deliver a new, fully operational system in due time. And this is what triggered creation of this post.

I found a digital module, which was put into operation back in 1977. This is the year I was born, so I wanted to keep this NIM module for nostalgic reasons. After opening the cover, I found very nice printed board with all the signatures of hand design. I immediately recognised the templates for power rails at the bottom side, and then the traces were hand drawn by a special pen and set of curved rulers to both sides. Those are TTL circuits which were introduced by TI only few years earlier (end of 60’s).

The article then explores how the engineers designed the circuitry and laid it out on PC boards.

See the full article and pictures here.


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