It’s A Humble ‘Scope, But It Changed Our World

A few years ago on a long flight across the North Atlantic, the perfect choice for a good read was iWoz, the autobiographical account of [Steve Wozniak]’s life. In it, he described his work replicating the wildly successful Pong video game and then that of designing the 8-bit Apple computers. A memorable passage involves his development of the Apple II’s color generation circuitry, which exploited some of the artifacts of the NTSC color system to produce a color display in a far simpler manner than might be expected. Now anyone seeking a connection with both Pong and the Apple II can have one of their very own if they have enough money because [Al Alcorn]’s Tektronix 465 oscilloscope is for sale. He’s the designer of the original Pong and used the instrument in its genesis, and then a few years later, he lent it to [Woz] for his work on the Apple II.

This may be the first time Hackaday has featured something from the catalogue of a rare book specialist, but if we’re being honest, for $135,000, it’s a little beyond the reach of a Hackaday scribe. The Tek 465 was a 100 MHz dual-trace model manufactured from 1972 to the early 1980s and, in its day, would have been a very desirable instrument indeed. This one is in pretty good condition with accompanying leads and manual and comes with a letter of authenticity and a hand-written annotation from [Al] himself on its underside. It can be seen up close in the video below the break.

As a ‘scope it’s an instrument many of us would still find useful today, but as the instrument which set in motion not one but two of the seminal moments of our craft, its historical importance can’t be overstated. We hope it will find its way into a museum or similar place where the story of those two developments can be told and that [Al] profits handsomely from its sale.

45 thoughts on “It’s A Humble ‘Scope, But It Changed Our World

    1. Same here. 90 € include shipping in 2012.

      It went into the scrap metal bin some years later, replace be a DSO that went into the scrap plastic bin and has been replaced by an even better mixed signal DSO. We live in wonderful times.

      1. Scrapping a scope, any scope, what a sin! There’s always someone around who hasn’t got one, has good reason to need one, and would be willing to pay something (even if only £10 plus shipping) for one. Especially the DSO, but old CRT scopes are still desirable for some buyers.

    2. Paid $2k for mine in 1978. One of the first things I bought once I graduated and started working. It never let me down. Excellent tool, used them for years at work. Mine smoked when I turned it on a year ago, and I decided that a 4-trace Siglent 200 Mhz one was a better use of my money than repairing whatever smoked. I still have it, though, and the manuals, and 3 probes.

  1. Those are rock solid instruments, and they’re much much better than similarly priced digital ones at faithful display of waveforms. I keep an old analog scope on the bench to show things, then may use the digital one to measure them, but the analog one is the 1st one I use, because it doesn’t lie.
    If you’re buying your first scope, a $50 used analog will almost always be a better buy than a $200 new digital one. Things are different with more expensive digital scopes, but low cost 8-bit low resolution ones all suffers from the same limitations.

  2. Yep, used this at work years back, sometimes it was the only piece of equipment that would do what I wanted (needed).
    Got a 2430A for $150 off ebay a while back. Love Tektronix, but finally had to buy a new ‘scope a coup e years ago, anc can’t afford a new Tek.

  3. I still use my 465M (military surplus from a battleship!) regularly when I need to repair PCBs from 80s arcade games that used vector monitors. The XY mode on a real analog scope is miles ahead of any digital model I’ve seen.

    These scopes are also still really good as teaching tools. The basic controls with instant feedback give an intuitive feel to the process that makes fiddly digital UIs easier to understand.

  4. I picked up a 485 on a scope mobile a couple of years ago for a song. I was working at an ewaste warehouse at the time and a pile of stuff came in from AT&T. Stuff so old they still had “Long Lines” asset tags in them. One of these days I’ll get around to refurbishing it.

  5. I always wonder if these things are the real things or just another faked thing with fake letters and fake signatures to make people just want to believe what they want them to be.

    1. If it’s a place that’s experienced with antiquities and collectibles, then I’d bet they have done their homework and have a sufficient documentation of the chain of ownership. But it’s good thinking. Of course it is scripted but still, if you watch Pawn Stars (and read stories about it online) you learn that there are a LOT of fakes of all kinds of weird stuff out there, that even experts make mistakes sometimes, and that the burden of proof required by the highest level of experts and auction places is pretty darn high.

      1. Mistakes like insisting that the famous baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson couldn’t have signed a baseball glove because he was illiterate. Nevermind the fact that he did learn to sign his name and many items with his authenticated signature exist.

  6. I still have and use the 465B that I inherited from my dad. I didn’t know it was quite that old TBH. After moving to Norway I always use it with a transformer so far; I think it has selectable line voltage but I haven’t dared.

  7. Not about the scope, but about the Apple II. I still remember that schematic because of that color generation circuit. As I recall, it was only a couple of invert gates and was able to use the propagation time to generate the phase to create the color-burst signal required. I don’t remember the exact details, but the ingenuity and simplicity has stuck with me ever since!

      1. That’s true. Though NTSC Artifact Colors existed since the 80s on PC. Quick Basic even has a CHR$ statement for PAINT command that can be used to trigger colors on a Composite video monitor. It’s not limited to CGA in reality, I believe.

        Tandy/PCJr could do that, too. Not sure about other graphics cards, because of colour burst signal. But technically, the patterns that trigger those colors are not bound to CGA exclusively.

        Speaking of CGA, many early CGA titles used NTSC Artifact Colors, in addition to hacked text modes to give those 160×100 like graphics. Those from NTSC countries, at least. That’s why some CGA games had stripes (jail bars).

        In Europe/Australia, users often merely had monochrome CGA (crisp, at least) or RGB/RGBI CGA (RGB monitors or SCART TVs). Their games rather made good use of different CGA palettes/intensities (on ISA VGA cards, a supplied ‘mode utility’ could be used to set true CGA mode with Motorola CRTC emulation).

  8. Great scope, I have two 464’s, very similar but with storage (and one has the DM44 option). You may wonder, why two. I bought a spare for parts, cheap. Then, I fixed it :) The only thing wrong with one of them is that the 1x/10x lamps are burned out (common on all high hour TEK scopes of that era). They are beyond nasty to replace and only the very daring or very confident do it.

  9. I had a similar one which could store the image on the screen (secondary emission). I sold it and bought a smaller digital one, since it was too heavy and took up too much space.

  10. Every comany I worked at had one of these in at least one lab. Makes me wonder how many amazing things were worked on using one of these and was later scrapped when a newer DSO came in the door.

    I picked up a few Tek scopes over the years. My last was one sitting on a dusty shelf that had been dead for 10 years. A new engineer saw it and wanted to fix it so I helped him disassemble and diagnose it and with a little googling, we found it was just a bad diode in the HV section. Replaced and it worked, but the scope never got used. I got it for nothing when they needed the shelf space and now it sits in my home lab.

  11. I still use it since 1979. It was down, but now is in perfect condition after I replaced few tantal capacitors. Mine is Tek465B – with a multimeter on top. Great machine!

  12. Dang. I’ve spent hours, and hours in front of one of these. Later I had a 475, a little bit better. I think there are a lot of these available on Ebay. The 465 trigger can be a bit cantankerious at times.

  13. Tektronix made some absolutely wonderful test equipment. I still have my 485, 7834, 7904,7934, and 7104 and plug-ins, along with a 576. Beautifully designed and manufactured, still running after 50 years with maintenance.

  14. I still have a 465 sitting in my office closet. I should see if it still powers up ok. I dragged that beast around the world in the ’80s and it never let me down.

  15. I lived with a 465 when I was designing and using radar test equipment in the 80’s & 90’s. And an HP Spectrum Analyzer in the 10 GHz range – Maybe an 8563. I could troubleshoot anything with those two handy tools. I need to get me a 465 to mess around with.

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