[Matthew D’Asaro] was recently entrusted with an entire classroom fleet of fourteen broken Tektronix TLA5202 logic analyzers — a pile of equipment that once was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. His task: Fixing them. He fixed them all, and on the way documented a number of common failure points in these old but still great devices.
[Matthew] found that Tektronix’s portion of the electronics took the ravages of time and classroom use quite well, only the embedded desktop PCs inside the machines simply weren’t built for the ten-year. Some of the hard-drives had to be replaced, but most units wouldn’t even make it to the power-on self-test (POST). A closer inspection of the generic Intel microATX motherboards quickly revealed that some of the e-caps already bit the dust, leaving behind a spill of leaked electrolyte and a blown SMD fuse. Replacing both restored functionality on these boards.
The sweet victory of repairing a piece of top-notch equipment is not always so close. In one of the analyzers, the mainboard couldn’t be fixed, it had to be replaced. [Matthew] was able to source an identical board, to which he transplanted the logic analyzer’s customized BIOS IC. Another analyzer was plagued with a dim power indicator LED, caused by a cracked trace in the flexible silver-ink PCB it was mounted to. A drop of silver epoxy and a bit of superglue solved the problem.
Based on fourteen units, [Matthew’s] writeup covers a big chunk of what can go wrong inside electronic devices after a decade of service, and what to check first when a quick fix is in need. What do our readers look at when a device shows signs of fatigue? Let us know in the comments!