Inside a GE thin-film paperweight from the 1960s #History @kenshirriff

In the early 1960s, General Electric developed a technology called thin-film electronics. These circuits were built from thin films of material, much more compact than individual components. They were for weight-sensitive applications such as satellites and military equipment.

GE’s Light Military Electronics department built the paperweight above to showcase their “Space Age Electronics”. In the center is a thin-film circuit, next to a model of an early satellite. However, the paperweight contained a surprise: when picked up, the paperweight emitted a beep-beep-beep noise, sounding just like a satellite.

Ken Shirriff was given this item to examine it’s workings. He reverse-engineered the “Space Age Electronics” inside  explains how it works in a detailed blog post here.

The most visible part of the paperweight is the thin-film module. The idea behind thin film is to build resistors and capacitors as thin layers on a substrate, rather than using individual components. Resistors are formed from thin strips of resistive material, the vertical reddish-brown lines on the module’s surface. For higher resistance, these lines zig-zag back and forth. Capacitors are formed from two thin layers of metal (the plates), separated by an insulating dielectric material.

Thin-film transistors were not commercially practical in the 1960s, so the module has tiny discrete transistors and diodes mounted on top, connected by golden wires. (This must have been expensive to manufacture.)

Read more and see detailed pictures in the post here.

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 35,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — Moving manufacturing out of China

Wearables — Take control of your LED sequins

Electronics — Current limiting!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: CircuitPython Day Friday, Python Still #1 and much more! #CircuitPython @micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Detect Radiation, ML Baby Monitor, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — JP’s Product Pick of the Week — 4pm Eastern TODAY! 8/16/22 @adafruit @johnedgarpark #adafruit #newproductpick

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.