by Les Horn (remembering back to 1961)
During my finals at Southampton UK I heard from a fellow student about a company in Guernsey, Tektronix. At that time Tek’s only presence in the UK was through a rep company who also represented several other electronic measurement companies. I wrote to them and had an interview in London at one of the large hotels. Obviously the interview went well and I received a most impressive letter back. The letter was on graduated brown paper with an embossed TEK gold letterhead and a dark brown semi cursive Selectric typeface. I was bowled over. The offer was equivalent to $9 per week as a test and calibration engineer at the plant in Guernsey. I accepted. A couple of weeks later, in late spring 1961, I flew on a Dragon Rapide biplane to Guernsey and started work.
Work commenced at 8:00 AM and for my first week I was to learn how Tek built their ‘scopes. The only experience I had previously were British Telequipment ‘scopes which had 5Mhz bandwidth, obviously a lot to learn! During this first week I learned about how the ceramic strips were made, mounted, soldered to, and how precisely to silver solder to attach cable harnesses, components, and straps. The precision expected was impressive and the approx. 20 assemblers, all young females, were a lot of fun. Post assembly the ceramic strips were walnut blasted to give the solder a suede finish. During this week I was introduced to many of the staff and met my 6 cal and test colleagues. I was also introduced to the operation of the company. I was presented with a Tek mug painted with my name on and rapidly got to enjoy the coffee breaks at 10:00 AM and 2:30 PM complete with doughnuts! Lunch was in the cafeteria with the whole company present.
The second week I got my own cubicle. The test area was dimmed and each cubicle was kitted out with a 545A ‘scope with a CA plug in. Our kit was a complete toolkit with many unusual tools in nylon to ensure no magnetic influence, there was also a Variac and inspection lamp, soldering station several instruments and test probes and special brush to ensure that the soldering that was necessary maintained the suede finish. Any specialized “select in cal” components as well as additional valves “tubes” were at a supply station.
The second week I started on my first 545A under the guidance of the QA engineer and Cal lead Ken Heart. Ken was a British engineer and the other engineer I recall was a Guernsey man Joe Guerin. Joe was the organizer of the Scientific American circulation list, which I immediately joined.
The procedure on the 545A was to first do a complete physical inspection followed by a series of resistance measurements using the Avo 8 multi-meter (UK equivalent to the US Tripplet). Only after this was completed was the Variac set exactly to 240 Volts and the ‘scope plugged in with a hand on the breaker in case there was a problem. The next stage was to adjust all the power supplies to the correct voltage. Bit by bit the cal procedure was carried out per the manual. One of the more interesting parts was selecting the resistors for the high voltage for the CRT which when completed we “painted” with red VHT enamel to avoid any accidental arcing. Tricky parts of the process were balancing the 6DK6 valves which had to drive the delay line correctly. There were 8 valves in parallel and any unbalance was typically solved by changing valves. If not correctly balanced it caused a lot of problems when we were later manually tuning the delay line. To set up the delay line we had to insert a test precision fast risetime flat-topped signal and closely monitor the risetime and flatness with minimum ripple. The delay line consisted of an L shaped structure with about 30 components at precise intervals. each was a very small inductor which had to have its internal core to be precisely adjusted using a nylon driver. The driver partially modified the result so you had to allow for the presence of the driver to achieve both parameters. This procedure took about an hour. All told a complete cal took about 7 hours.
The team was great and although being many years younger they treated me very well and we did many things together in the evenings and weekends. During this time I did a lot of Sailing, Badminton, and got my first ‘ham’ license GC3MSG. I also bought my first car!
As time went on the staff grew and on one occasion Earl Wantland came to visit. Towards the end of my time we had a couple of Dutch engineers visit us for several weeks from Heerenveen Netherlands in preparation for them to start Tek Netherlands.
Due to a death in the family I eventually left Tek and Guernsey but always had great memories. Several years later Tek started a UK office and I worked there for a while as a repair tech. I wanted to become a sales engineer but the politics and operation brought over from the rep company that originally offered Tek products was nothing like the Tek I had known and I left. Over the years I worked for HP and found they were much more like the Tek I remembered but with a much wider range of instruments. With HP I worked in the UK, Colorado and finally Canada where I now reside. As a postscript I still own a Tek 485 scope.