Retrotechtacular: Fire Control Computers in Navy Ships

Here is a two-part Navy training film from 1953 that describes the inner workings of mechanical fire control computers. It covers seven mechanisms: shafts, gears, cams, differentials, component solvers, integrators, and multipliers, and does so in the well-executed fashion typical of the era.

Fire control systems depend on many factors that occur simultaneously, not the least of which are own ship’s speed and course, distance to a target, bearing, the target’s speed and course if not stationary, initial shell velocity, and wind speed and direction.

The mechanisms are introduced with a rack and pinion demonstration in two dimensions. Principally speaking, a shaft carries a value based on revolutions. From this, a system can be geared at different ratios.

Cams take this idea further, transferring a regular motion such as rotation to an irregular motion. They do so using a working surface as input and a follower as output. We are shown how cams change rotary motion to linear motion. While the simplest example is limited to a single revolution, additional revolutions can be obtained by extending the working surface. This is usually done with a ball in a groove.

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Building a Yagi-Uda antenna

[Tommy Gober] built this Yagi-Uda antenna that has some handy design features. The boom is a piece of conduit with holes drilled in the appropriate places. The elements are aluminum arrow shafts; a good choice because they’re straight, relatively inexpensive, and they have #8-32 screw threads in one end. He used some threaded rod to connect both sides of the reflector and director elements. The driven elements are mounted offset so that a different machine screw for each can be connected to the appropriate conductor of the coaxial cable. The standing wave ratio comes in right where it should meaning he’ll have no trouble picking up those passing satellites as well as the International Space Station.

Drilling perfectly centered holes

If you’ve ever been caught in the situation of needing to drill a clean straight hole down the center of a bolt or rod, you’ve probably tried and ended up with a broken bit or tilted hole, and a ton of cursing to boot.

[Vik] let us know about this nifty trick for drilling ‘down the middle’ using a simple hobby drill press and vice. He claims it’s ‘physics guiding the bit’ but in reality its just crafty use of a chuck. Either way the quick trick works, and will hopefully save a lot of hackers some headaches in the future.

Let us know in the comments if you have any simple quick tips that you use when you’re out in the shop.