Upgrading ICS 8065 Firmware from 64-bit Windows 7

I got a pretty good deal on eBay for an ICS 8065 Ethernet GPIB Controller. When it arrived, I reset the network configuration by holding down the reset button on the back panel while turning on the unit and waiting 10 seconds. This set the unit to its factory default IP address of 192.168.0.254, so I could connect to it from a web browser on my laptop.

IMG_8272

Once in, I found that the installed firmware was years out of date, and set out to update it. Unfortunately, the firmware can’t be updated from a web interface. It is necessary to use a Windows utility. I’m not really a Windows user, though I have a Windows machine in the house. Using it would require more fussing around with network connections than on my laptop, which I plugged directly into the 8065 while using WiFi to communicate with the rest of my network, and browse the web.

I didn’t even consider running the software in WINE, opting instead to use a 64-bit Windows 7 virtual machine on my laptop. Unfortunately, when I tried to run the updater program in the firmware update ZIP file I downloaded from the ICS Website I was met with an error that comdlg32.ocx wasn’t registered.

After a bit of googling, I found a solution, which I’m sharing here for anyone else who runs into this. Comdlg32.ocx is somewhat dated software. I don’t know if it was part of earlier versions of Windows, or whether it was the responsibility of applications to distribute it as part of their installer package. What I do know is that the ICS Firmware updater doesn’t have a Windows Installer, that comdlg32.ocx wasn’t included the zip file with the firmware, that it wasn’t anywhere on my system, and that I haven’t installed many other applications.

From there:

  1. I found a place to download a zipfile with comdlg32.ocx it that didn’t seem too dicey.
  2. I scanned the downloaded zip file with Windows Security Essentials to check for known malware.
  3. Unzipped the file, and saved it to C:\Windows\SysWOW64. The SysWOW64 directory is only present on 64-bit versions of windows, on 32-bit windows, you’d save it to System32. Oh, also, your Windows system folder might be something other than c:\Windows, which either means you knew what you were doing and where to find it, or that something horrible happened during your windows installation that you may have to relive a bit of now, on your own, without my help.
  4. Ran “cmd” as administrator to open a command line. You can click the windows/start menu, search for “cmd” then right click on it in the results and choose “Run as Administrator”
  5. In the command window, I issued the following command: “regsvr32.exe C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Comdlg32.ocx”

Once I did this, I could double click and run the “M805_update.exe” program without error and update the firmware.

Dismal Ebay AVR DDS Signal Generator

Months ago, I bought a $15 AVR-based DDS signal generator kit from eBay. I didn’t have high expectations, but I thought it would give me a capability I didn’t currently have, and give me the chance to practice soldering.

It was immediately clear upon opening the package that it was at least half a failure, because it was fully assembled. For this, I got a partial refund, making it a ~$10 fully-assembled DDS signal generator.

It sat a few months while I acquired, refurbished, diagnosed, and ultimately repaired a used Power Designs TP340A three output bench power supply that I could use to provide the +15, -15 and +5V needed to power it.

Once I had it powered up and hooked to the scope, it took me 5-10 minutes to figure out how the thing worked. The digital controls are a little odd, but easy to figure out. The outputs and analog controls are a little fussier. Ultimately though, I figured out that the leftmost BNC is for a high-speed square-wave output. The right BNC is for the synthesized DSS output, the leftmost potentiometer is for amplitude, the right for DC offset.

IMG_8201

It didn’t take too much longer to see how badly this thing sucks. At first glance the 2 KHz  sine wave doesn’t look too bad

DS1Z_QuickPrint34If you look closely though, you see some consistent glitches. This thing generates an analog value by switching resistors using the AVRs GPIO pins. My guess is that this glitch is caused by one or more out of tolerance resistors.

DS1Z_QuickPrint33

Looking even more closely, you can start to see high-frequency noise. In his Youtube review (embedded below), Electron Update notes that this noise has a frequency of 1MHz and believes that this is probably noise from the digital section.
DS1Z_QuickPrint46

The 2KHz square wave isn’t too great. The rise and fall times are rather significant relative to the on/off times.

DS1Z_QuickPrint45

At 20KHz, the square wave is a sloppy triangle. Note too that the peak-to-peak amplitude is only 6.56v vs the 18.2 it delivers at 2Khz.

DS1Z_QuickPrint41

The “high speed” 20KHz sine isn’t very good either. The waveform is nearly identical to that of the 20KHz square wave, and like the square wave, the peak-to-peak voltage of ~6.6v is a fraction of the 17.8v excursion at 2KHz.

Of course, 20KHz isn’t really high-speed at all. Its at the top end of the human auditory range. The device actually supports up to ~65KHz. It doesn’t get better.  The truth is, the waveforms go to hell before 10KHz.

IMG_8201

My device seems to be based on the AVR DDS signal generator V2.0 software and hardware from 2008, with minor revisions to the hardware for manufacturability.

Electron Update did a review/analysis of a similar device based on the same design on his youtube channel.

The design has some fundamental limitations, thought it isn’t clear if some of my problems are specific to my unit.

 

 

Power Designs TP340A Continued and Concluded

An update on the Power Designs TP340A bench power supply I’ve been restoring and repairing. I started by replacing a bad Sprague electrolytic capacitor. While I was at it, I decided to replace all the big electrolytic caps. That didn’t go so well, because I put two of them in backwards and caused them to vent. After replacing the vented caps, I noticed that the supply wasn’t behaving quite right, and found that some key voltages were out of spec. After some trial and error, I figured out which components to replace to get everything in spec.

I was pretty pleased with myself, but the next morning I realized that I’d been too hasty to write off some drift I encountered while calibrating Source B. I started load testing Source A & B, both separately, and in tracking mode while watching the output on a multimeter, and my oscilloscope in roll-mode:

It didn’t take long before the voltage of the output on Soure B started a random drunken walk over the range of a 0.5v or more.  After a while, it stabilized again and I left it to run a few hours without incident.

Before turning things off, I started fiddling around, connecting and disconnecting things, varying the current and voltage, trying to provoke another excursion and before long, it did it again. I really wasn’t sure what was going on, and figured I’d need to consult the schematics and start a long process of trying to figure things out.

Lucky for me, over on the Eevblog forum, user nanofrog, who’d helped me pick out replacement capacitors, checked in on my progress and I shared what I just described above. He replied suggesting I look for thermal-related issues, like a bad solder joint. That made sense! I didn’t have any obvious problems when the unit was running, just when it was heating up and cooling down.

I spent a good chunk of my 4th of July indoors, in a warm, dimly lit room, abusing the PCB of my power supply with alternating blasts of hot air from a hair dryer and cold spray from an inverted can of electronics duster while measuring things with my scope and DMM. I also loosened mounting screws so I could flex the PCB. I wasn’t getting the dramatic results I was hoping for, but eventually, with enough persistence, I was able to get bad behavior by focusing my attention on the lower part of the board near C211. From the schematics, I could see that C111 had a role in damping feedback going to the main voltage regulating op-amp. I inspected the PCB closely looking for a bad solder join on this capacitor, or any of the components in circuit with it.

After a good hour spent squinting and angling to get a better look I hadn’t found an obvious problem, but I saw a few solder joints that I was suspicious of.  So, I heated up my soldering iron, daubed on some RMA flux and made sure I had some leaded solder handy and got to work touching-up the questionable joints.

Then I started testing it again. I repeated the cycle of heating and cooling multiple times without obvious problems. This morning I got up and did it some more, then left it running for a couple hours before calibrating it again.

This time, I didn’t run into any drift during calibration, but having declared victory prematurely once before, I wasn’t ready to call the project done. I needed more convincing.

Earlier in the troubleshooting process, I had noticed some subtler behavior when the PSU thermal equilibrium. All though Souce B’s voltage was stable from second to second and minute to minute under a steady current, it had poor load regulation, with changes of ~30mv or more when between 0 & 1A of current. Moverover, if I used the statistics function on my Keithley 2700 multimeter to take 1000 readings of the voltage while the unit was under a constant load, I found that the Standard Deviation in reads was 10x higher for Source B compared to Source A.

First, I checked load regulation of both Source A & B between 0 and 1A at ~10V. Both had a total swing of ~3-4mv. According to specs, it should be ~2mV. My measured values are worse, but not dramatically so, and also pretty similar between channels, suggesting to me that I’d managed to fix the major instability issue.

Next thing I did was take 1024 readings for each source with a constant load of ~1A, again at 10V. Both channels had a standard deviation of ~25-30uV, whereas previously, channel B would have been 10x. More evidence that I’ve indeed solved the major instability problem.

I haven’t checked transient response or ripple, or thermal stability or long-term stability, but  for the things I have checked, this PSU is very close to its original specs. Its also good enough for my purposes right now, so I’m going to call this project done and move on.

Power Designs TP340A PSU Troubleshooting & Repair

Previously I wrote about my clumsy efforts to refurbish a TP340A triple-output bench power supply I bought on eBay. The seller listed it as used, implying it was fully functional, but I was skeptical and opened it up to check it over. I found a bad electrolytic capacitor, and decided to replace all of them. In retrospect, I should have asked the seller for a partial refund, but I didn’t.

After I finished replacing all the electrolytic caps, things didn’t seem quite right. Source A seemed fine, but when Source B was set to track Source A, its voltage didn’t rise until Source A reached ~8V, at which point Source B jumped from ~0v to ~8v. It then tracked with Source A until reaching ~16V, and then started dropping off again.

So I started working through the troubleshooting steps in the manual and checked the regulated B+ voltages measured on capacitors C104 (Source A) C204 (Source B), and C304 (Source C) are stable and fall within 12.4v DC and 13.2v DC.

B+ Voltage
Source A: 12.61v
Source B: 12.26v
Source C: 12.04v

Clearly something wasn’t right, the values for Source B & C were out of spec. I continued by checked the voltages across the zener diodes VR103, VR203, and VR302 (nope, VR302 is not a typo).

VR103: 5.682v
VR203: 1.728v
VR302: 5.688v

Better here, in that two of the values are in spec (5-5.8v), but the value for Source B is WAY out of spec. Next steps, according to the manual, are to check for defective components, in order, capacitors C201-204, rectifier diode CR201, transistor Q201, VR201, VR202, VR203, and U101.

I’d already replaced C201 and C204, so I skipped that. I didn’t have great tools for checking components in place, so rather than starting to remove and test them, I first measured other components.

Main Source Reference Voltage

VR102: 6.31
VR202: 6.126
VR303: 6.010

These should fall between 6.26 and 6.52v. Only Source A is within spec.

VR101 5.629
VR201 5.639
VR301 5.619

These all check-out, falling in the range of 5-5.8v as they should.

I lifted a leg on C202 and C102 so I could compare the values. I measured them with my AVRTransistortester with some test clips on leads.

C102: 1093nF, 6.9Ω ESR
C202: 1085nF, 1.0Ω ESR

Different, but different enough to be responsible for the other symptoms?  I didn’t have any idea, soo, I ordered some 1µF, 50v Kemet Tantalum capacitors and replaced C202 and C203 with them. The result?  No obvious change.
VR202

Next I wandered even further off the troubleshooting guide. I pulled VR202 to test it. As it turns out, I tested it to failure. No problem, right? Zener diodes are cheap and plentiful. I thought I probably had a suitable replacement in a semiconductor assortment I bought a few months back. Nope, nothing for that voltage. Time for another cycle of selecting a replacement, ordering it, and waiting for it to arrive.

Well, it turns out, selecting and ordering a replacement was a little harder than I expected. According the the manual, VR102, VR202 and VR203 are 1N825 zener diodes in grades G through K. Type 1N825 zener diodes aren’t run of the mill parts, they are part of a family of temperature compensated 6.2v zener diodes.

The family is made by creating a zener and a regular diode on the same piece of silicon in opposite orientations. In operation the negative temperature coefficient of the forward biased diode helps balance the positive temperature coefficient of the reverse-biased zener. The diodes are then burned in, characterized, and selected for appropriate temperature compensation. The 1N825 has a maximum temperature coefficient over its operating range of 0.002%/C. The family has the following temperature coefficients:

1N821: 0.01%/C
1N823: 0.005%/C
1N825: 0.002%/C
1N827: 0.001%/C
1N829: 0.0005%/C

There are also parts with the A suffix apply, which means they have maximum dynamic impedance of 10 Ohms, rather than 15 for the other grade. These were state of the art when they were introduced in the 60s, and have had a long run (my power supply was manufactured in the mid 1990s), but they’ve been superseded by other voltage reference designs.

In my initial searching, I only found references to 1N825A parts, not 1N825G, 1N825H, 1N825I, 1N825J or 1N825K, as described in the Power Designs part list in the manual. I figured they were probably proprietary Power Designs designations, but I decided to dig around more just in case. To help in that effort, I looked closely at the actual markings on the diodes. It didn’t help much.

AP
1N
825

The only new information was the “AP,” probably a manufacturer code, and the absence of the A suffix. My best guess is that the manufacturer code might be for American Power Devices, which manufactured 1N825 diodes.

In my wanderings, II found someone who claimed, based on experience, that newer 1N825 zeners had more problems with noise. At least, I thought I found someone who claimed that. I can’t find the source now. In any case, based on that, perhaps imagined, information, I decided to go looking for new-old-stock parts, rather than new parts from Mouser or DigiKey. I found someone on ebay selling Motorola-made military-spec 1N827 parts on ebay in lots of 4 for about $10 with shipping. Given my poor track record of ruining parts, I decided to buy 8.

VR102

With the new diode in place, I was back to where I started. Time to do the obvious thing and check VR203, the zener diode that was running at 1.7v, rather than the ~5.6 specified. The part number for this in the manual is 3EZ5.6D5. Without much effort, I found this number in an old Motorola diode catalog. Motorola’s spec is Glass, 5.6v, 134mA test, 500mW, 480mA max, and they cross reference it with the industry standard 1N5014.

IMG_7084

Time to check the actual part. I desoldered it to check it and test it. This time I avoided ruining the thing, helped, perhaps in part, by the fact that it was clearly already ruined. Time to figure out a suitable replacement.

IMG_7186

I checked the diode for markings. My eyes have gone downhill quickly in the last couple of years, so I deployed some optical assistance to determine that the diode was marked with the following.

1N
47
34
A

There was also a logo, which looked a lot like an older National Semiconductor logo. That made it a 1N4734A zener diode, not a 3EZ5.6D5 or a 1N5014. The 1N4734A is also 5.6v zener like the 3EZ5.6D5, but the test current is only 45mA. I ordered some NXP (successor to NatSemi) 1N4734A zener diodes from Mouser and, again, waited.

A few days later, the package arrived. I soldered the replacement zener into place, and plugged the PSU in, powered it up, and checked the voltages again. Success!  Source B’s voltages were now in spec!  On to Source C!

With source C, rather than checking caps and whatnot, I went right to the component that was out of spec, VR303, which had a voltage drop of 6v, rather than the specified 6.2-6.5v. First thing I had to do was double check the schematic to make sure I was looking at the right component. Most of the components in this section of all three sources have similar labels to the analogous parts in the other sources (ie C101, C102, C103) but for some reason, they broke this convention with the main voltage reference for Source C, VR303, rather than VR302.

Apparently I’m not the only one who got confused. I had to check I was looking at the right  component, again, because while this was supposed to be a 1N825 like the others, it didn’t have the same thin black package and slender leads. In fact, it looked a lot like the 1N4734As I’d just dealt with. Once I pulled it out and got it under a magnifying glass, I saw that it was, indeed, a 1N4734A. I wonder who made the mistake? Most likely it was a botched repair.

Installed one of the extra 1N827s to fix the mistake, and decided to replace V102 as well, so all three channels would have similar parts of similar vintage and tempco for their main voltage reference.

This time, when I powered it up, all the voltages were in spec. I did a little load testing and things seemed to check out. No more strange behavior with Source B lagging Source A in tracking mode, and it was able to deliver full voltage and full current on all channels. I moved on to calibrating the meters, adjusting the maximum voltage, and correcting the tracking offset.

I felt giddy, I’d fixed it! I was done, or so I thought. The next morning though, the sun woke me up early. As I was trying to fall back asleep I thought of something that had happened while I was adjusting the PSU the night before. I wasn’t done.

Power Designs TP340A Repair/Refurb

I picked up an old Power Designs TP340A bench power supply on eBay. The TP340A is a three channel (or “source) power supply. Source A & B have identical specs, providing up to 1A from 0-32v DC. They can be operated independently, or in tracking mode to provide positive and negative voltages. The third source only covers from 0-15v, but can deliver 5A at up to 6V and 2A at up to 15V. I bought it to power projects as I teach myself more about electronics. Little did I know what I was in for.

It showed up well-packed in great physical shape. There were a few scuff marks on the case where it had probably been pushed up against another piece of equipment, and some stickers and a few scuffs on the face plate, but otherwise, it looked nearly new.

When I took it apart, I found the insides were in similar condition.

On closer inspection though, I noticed something that wasn’t quite right

Bad C104 is Bad

The 100 uF 25V Sprague electrolytic capacitor in postion C104 looked like it had a bad inner seal. I decided not to power up the PSU until I’d replaced this cap.

The other two channels have the same type of capacitor in the same position in the circuit. They looked Ok, but I decided they should be replaced too, and while I was at it, I figured I’d also order replacements for the other big electrolytic caps. This decision proved to be a mixed bag.

The visually intact sibling 100 uF Sprague caps proved dead when I tested them after replacing them. On the other hand, the other electrolytics were still in spec. Which is more than can be said about some of their replacements.

After replacing all the caps, I powered things up and was greeted by a wretched buzzing metallic groan . I quickly switched the power off and gathered my wits, such as they were. Then I turned it on again for long enough to twiddle some of the knobs, things still weren’t right, but I had slightly more information. I switched it off again, thought for a minute, and switched it on again. This time the horible groan was joined by a ffffffssstPOPffffff. I switched it off, but there was another ffffffssstPOPffffff. I’d put two of the capacitors in backwards and they’d vented.

I replaced the vented caps with the originals getting the polarity right this time, so I could see if I’d done the thing permanent harm. Happily, the horrid groaning sound didn’t return the next time I switched the power on. It didn’t work though.

It didn’t take long to find them problem, I’d turned the voltage and current limit knobs the wrong way. After correcting that problem, I found that all the channels of the supply were fully functional, though things didn’t seem quite right. In tracking mode, source B didn’t respond at all until the voltage was up to about 8V and then started dropping off as it was turned up past 16v.

I started going through the troubleshooting steps in a PDF copy I’d found of the operating manual, but that’s going to be the subject of another post.

Tektronix Mainframes

I’ve been looking into old Tektronix osciloscopes and related gear lately, and I thought I should write-up some of what I learned.

Last year, I posted a few installments in my saga of figuring out what to buy for my first osciloscope. I ended up with a Rigol DS1074Z, and while I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of it, yet, when I have used it, its saved me a lot of troubleshooting time.

Recently though, I’ve been looking for ways to address some of the limitations of my scope. In particular, I’d like to be able to do low-noise differential measurements on one or more channels. In part, this allows more flexibility in using all my scope channels to look at power supply circuits. It can also be useful for looking at power supply output noise and ripple.

One approach is to use the math function of the oscilloscope to calculate a differential between two of the input channels. This has its uses, but suffers from slow-update speeds and the fact that some of the signals I’m looking for are already at the limit of the DS1074z’s resolution.

Another approach is external differential probes. Unfortunately, these are expensive. New they start at $300 or so. Used are a little better, starting at $100, but most seem targeted at high-voltage rather than high-sensitivity use.

This brings me to the Tektronix gear. I’m less interested in the 7000 and 5000 series scopes themselves, than in all the various modular “plug-ins” (particularly high-sensitivity differential amplifiers) Tektronix developed for them. Tektronix also sold a line of stand-alone chassis called the TM500 and TM5000 series, and an accompanying line of plug-in modules.

Now, the first thing you need to know is something I was lucky to figure out before buying anything on ebay, which is that, while the plug-ins for the 7000 series, the 5000 series, and the TM500 and TM5000 series all appear to have superficially similar form-factors, they are incompatible. You can’t use a module intended for a scope in the stand-alone TM500 or TM5000, or vice-versa. Nor can you use a module for a 5000 series scope in a 7000 scope, or vice-versa. There are other important distinctions too.

Within the 5000-series of scopes and modules, there is a distinction between “slow” (~2MHz bandwidth) and “fast” (50MHz bandwidth). You can use slow modules in fast scopes, but you can’t use fast modules in slow scopes.

Within the 7000-series, which cover an even wider range of bandwidths from 25MHz all the way up to 1GHz, most scopes are compatible with most plug-ins, according to Tektronix.

For the stand-alone mainframes, modules for the TM500 will work in the TM5000, but the reverse isn’t always (usually?) true.

My inclination is to get a 4-slot stand-alone chassis like the TM504 to save space and minimize shipping costs. Unfortunately, it seems that the AM502 differential amplifier module is rather rare and relatively expensive. There is just one on eBay at the moment and only a few in the available history of past sales, and the prices seem to start at $100.

Meanwhile, there are multiple examples of the equivalent 7A22 or 5A22N modules for the 7000 and 5000 series scopes, with prices starting below $50. The necessary scope and chassis can be had for as little as $100 or so more, about 2x what a TM500 chassis might go for, with the downside of added shipping costs and the (possible) upside of a second scope. Moreover, there are apparently pass-thru outputs so would still have the option of using any modules I acquire with my existing digital scope. I’m also interested in other modules, like function generators.

The smartest thing, at this point, would be to put this project on hold and finish up the half-dozen Keithley 197A multimeters I’m in the process of restoring and repairing, or the Power Designs TP340A I’m in the middle of fixing (destroying?). If wisdom prevails, I’ll have this post to remind me of what I’ve learned, should I ever come back to the idea of buying some old Tek modules.

To that end, here are some of the resources I found useful in researching this:

USBHV, because why not have a USB-powered 2000V source?

In the last 5 years or so, USB has emerged as THE standard power source for portable electronics, and a host of other low powered devices.

GNEMCO_05Today, I happened to stumble upon an early example called the USBHV on eBay. The USBHV is a USB powered high-voltage source from EMCO High Voltage, released in 2009. The USBHV was positioned as a compact, USB-programmable (and powered) high-voltage source for research use. From what I’ve been able to tell, there was actually a line of products, differentiated by positive or negative voltage, and maximum voltage, with the option of 200V,  500V, 1000V, 1250V and 2000V at up to 1W of output (USB can deliver 2.5W). My guess is that they had a board with a USB controlled AD/AD converter for setting and reading back voltage, and mounted one of their standard high-voltage power modules.

The present-day EMCO High Voltage website only has one tiny reference to the product, a link to a generic form for information on off-catalog products, so no datasheets, manuals or software.

Keithley 2000 RS-232 Serial WTF

My Keithley 2000 DMM craps out during serial communications with a PC over RS-232.  When it does, the voltages on the TxD (yellow trace) and RxD (blue trace) lines look like this:

19.2kbps Fail KE

There are a few things wrong here.

  • The idle voltage of the RxD line should be -7v or so, similar to that of the TxD line, rather than the -1.7v it starts at.
  • The obvious decline in signal quality before the RxD locks at the ~1.2v shown at the end of the trace.
  • RxS locks at 1.2v, rather than returning to it’s idle voltage.

I came across someone who had trouble with the RS-232 level shifter IC on the similar Keithley 2015, so I carefully checked it out. It seems to be well under-spec on the output of its internal -10v power supply, which can only deliver a sustained 6mA. The +10v supply, on the other hand, can provide much more. I also diligently checking of voltages and current delivery of all the signal lines both the multimeter and the USB to RS-232 adapter its connected to.

It appears that the PC is trying to drive the RTS line to +7v. At the same time, the multimeter is trying to drive the RTS line down to -9v, and its loosing. As a result, it can’t drive the RxD line below -1.7v, and eventually, while transmitting, it gets stuck at +1.2v.

But why is the the DMM trying to do anything on the RTS line. That’s the job of the “data terminal equipment” or DTE for short. I checked the reverse-engineered Keithley 2000 schematic, and it shows that the RTS line is connected to one of the transmit outputs of the level shifter IC, something I confirmed by doing a continuity test. This makes no sense to me.

If I disconnect the DMM from the RTS line, everything seems to work fine. The DMM drives the RxD line to -9v at idle, and sustains signal quality throughout a transmission.

RxD is in much better shape when RTS isn't connectedI can’t imagine I’m the first person to come across this. I’m surprised though that I can’t find any mention of it online.

Update:

I posted about this in the EEVBlog Forums and a few users provided some details of similar issues they’ve had with RS-232 communications on the Keithley 2000 DMM. None of them have gone as deep as I have, but their descriptions are explained by my hypothesis.

I’m interested in whether later versions of the firmware leave the RST pin floating. So far no one with more recent firmware has checked for me, but one user remembers someone getting a similar problem fixed with a firmware update.

I’ll probably try doing a firmware update on my own. One user reports that he figured out he could use some Flash chips replace the EPROMs, which is attractive because I can re-use the chips and I don’t have to buy a legacy device like an EPROM programmer.

In the meantime, I picked up a straight-through male-to-female DB-9 cable and clipped off the RTS pin (#7). With it in place between the USB RS-232 adapter and the DMM, I ran a test querying the DMM with “*IDN?” every second for an hour or so. The DMM remained responsive for the whole time, and the responses it sent were complete, and uncorrupted. Previously things crapped out within a few minutes and only a few commands.

Update 2015-07-20:

I now have a unit from ~2007. It leaves the level of the RTS pin to the DTE, as it should. Upon closer inspection I found that the board has been revised so the RTS pin is no longer connected to the level shifter IC at all.

Keithley 2000 “Repair” Tip

I won an auction to buy a Keithley 2000 6 1/2 digit multimeter on Ebay for ~$250, a pretty good price. The seller said it had some scuffs, but was “tested and ready for work.”

When I received it, it was clear that it was a little worse for wear than claimed. It had a cracked rear bracket, and a yellowish/brown tint, rather than the shades of grey of a new machine. At first I thought it might be yellowing due to sun exposure, but the yellowing seemed to afflict the painted metal case as well as the plastics.

It did power up, and when I tested it with a voltage reference I have, its readings came in pretty close to the expected value, so I didn’t worry too much about the physical condition beyond trying to wipe the outside down well with cleaner and isopropyl alcohol.

Once I’d done that, I decided to look inside, to see if I could get an idea of the manufacture date. As soon as I removed the case, it was obvious where the yellowing had come from. It stank of old tobacco smoke on the inside, though fortunately, there wasn’t an obvious film. As I looked around, inside I could see a number of components with date codes for mid 1995, which matched well with the date of the first and only calibration, November 1995. It was almost 20 years old.

In the process of looking at the insides, I noticed that he input wires seemed a little close to some metal projections from the input selection switch, which seemed a little sloppy. Then I realized the board seemed a little slanty, and was out of its mounting tracks, possibly it had been jarred loose in an impact. On the opposite side of the chassis, I saw that some wires to the front panel and the power transformer weren’t routed through a retaining clip. Someone had taken this thing apart, and done a poor job of putting it back together. I loosened some screws so I could slide the board back into position and noticed a gouge in the PCB when it had been forced into place during a previous reassembly. Fortunately, it only damaged some solder mask, and not the trace underneath.

Once I had it back together, I ran the self-tests and was discouraged when it reported a number of faults for tests 100.1, 101.2, 101.3, 200.1, 200.2, 201.1, 201.2, 300.1, 301.1, 301.2, 302.1, 302.2, 303.1, 303.2, 304.1, 400.2, 401.2, 402.2, 403.2, 500.1, 500.2, 600.1, 600.2 and 601.2. That’s most of the self tests.

I tried to work through the troubleshooting in the repair guide, but it was dismal, it didn’t even describe the signals on the half-dozen or so test points on the board. I found a reverse engineered schematic and dove in.

I was working my way around the A/D chip trying to orient myself to the various signals, when I noticed…something. At first I thought it was a stray line on the silkscreen, but on a closer look, it seemed to be a fiber, cat hair? Dog hair? I flicked it away with my gloved hand, and then blew the area clear with some canned air.

I reran the tests and they all passed! One tiny fiber in the wrong place was enough enough to through the A/D converter out of spec cause a cascading failure.