In 1946 as Howard Vollum was wrapping up the design of the 511, the Directors of Tektronix decided to introduce a smaller and less complicated product to be able to more easily ramp up a brand new manufacturing organization. Howard had designed a square wave generator to test his oscilloscope so they introduced this as the Type 101 Video Calibrator. They built a total of 10 instruments and sold none! Tektronix first product was a flop. However, it served its purpose to get manufacturing ready for the Type 511 oscilloscope. Later the Type 101 Video Calibrator was replaced by the Type 104 Square Wave Generator which had modest sales.
This photo is of Howard Vollum with the Type 101 Video Calibrator on the left and the Type 511 Oscilloscope on the right. This is the first version of the 511 as noted by the external graticule light and the single sweep speed knob.
The 511 was very well received and the small Hawthorn facility had to add a swing and grave shift and even with 3 full shifts running the lead time stretched out to over 6 months.
The 511 was designed for medium and high frequency work but did not effectively work with frequencies below 60 Hz. Other weaknesses included lack of sufficient vertical gain, the inability to see the trigger portion of the waveform, and the lack of voltage regulation. The first enhancement was to add a delay line which could be installed as an option. The second enhancement was to add voltage regulation to the power supply. Improving the lower bandwidth and more vertical gain became the basis for the follow-on Type 512 Oscilloscope.
At the museum we have both the Type 101 Video Calibrator and the first version of the Type 511 Oscilloscope operational and prominently displayed as you enter. The serial number of the Type 101 is 11461 which represents November 1946 #1. This is the very first Tektronix product manufactured! The serial number of the Type 511 Oscilloscope is 441 so it was the 340th product manufactured.
At the museum we also have a front panel for a 511 that appears to be hand drilled with a serial number 101. Supposedly SN 101 was sold to Dr. Archie Tunturi (yes, the man with the 50 channel oscilloscope) and was traded back to Tektronix in 1960. Maybe this was a practice panel, or a manufacturing defect, or perhaps from the real first 511 scope manufactured.
However, these two early photos with notes from Frank Hood cast some doubt on whether the original SN 101 was returned to Tektronix (note the Ser # 101 ? writing on the right top edge of both photos).