Logic Chip Teardown From Early 1990s IBM ES/9000 Mainframe

The 1980s and early 1990s were a bit of an odd time for semiconductor technology, with the various transistor technologies that had been used over the decades slowly making way for CMOS technology. The 1991-vintage IBM ES/9000 mainframe was one of the last systems to be built around bipolar transistor technology, with [Ken Shirriff] tearing into one of the processor modules (TCM) that made up one of these mainframes.

A Thermal Conduction Module from an IBM ES/9000 mainframe.

Five of these Thermal Conduction Modules (127.5 mm a side) made up the processor in these old mainframes. Most of note are the use of the aforementioned bipolar transistors and the use of DCS-based (differential current switch) logic. With the already power-hungry bipolar transistors driven to their limit in the ES/9000, and the use of rather massive DCS gates, each TCM was not only fed many amperes of electricity, but also capable of dissipating up to 600 Watts of power.

Each TCM didn’t contain a single large die of bipolar transistors either, but instead many smaller dies were bonded on a specially prepared ceramic layer in which the wiring was added through a very precise process. While an absolute marvel of engineering, the ES/9000 was essentially a flop, and by 1997 IBM too would move fully to CMOS transistor technology.

Over the years we’ve featured a lot of [Ken]’s work, perhaps you’d like to know more about his techniques.

SV Seeker Is Recycling Batteries

SV Seeker is a home-made boat currently being built by [Doug Jackson] just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s a bit different than what you might imagine as a typical DIY boat, though. You see, Seeker is a 75 ft steel boat, intended to work as a research vessel. Doug and his crew proudly refer to Seeker as “The boat the internet built”, and he’s our kind of people. We’ve covered them before, the first time way back in 2013. Doug’s Youtube channel does double duty, both teaching the rest of us all the skills he’s learned while building, and also serving as the eventual user and repair manual for the boat.
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History Of Closed Captions: The Analog Era

Closed captioning on television and subtitles on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming media are taken for granted today. But it wasn’t always so. In fact, it was quite a struggle for captioning to become commonplace. Back in the early 2000s, I unexpectedly found myself involved in a variety of closed captioning projects, both designing hardware and consulting with engineering teams at various consumer electronics manufacturers. I may have been the last engineer working with analog captioning as everyone else moved on to digital.

But before digging in, there is a lot of confusing and imprecise language floating around on this topic. Let’s establish some definitions. I often use the word captioning which encompasses both closed captions and subtitles:

Closed Captions: Transmitted in a non-visible manner as textual data. Usually they can be enabled or disabled by the user. In the NTSC system, it’s often referred to as Line 21, since it was transmitted on video line number 21 in the Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI).
Subtitles: Rendered in a graphical format and overlaid onto the video / film. Usually they cannot be turned off. Also called open or hard captions.

The text contained in captions generally falls into one of three categories. Pure dialogue (nothing more) is often the style of captioning you see in subtitles on a DVD or Blu-ray. Ordinary captioning includes the dialogue, but with the addition of occasional cues for music or a non-visible event (a doorbell ringing, for example). Finally, “Subtitles for the Deaf or Hard-of-hearing” (SDH) is a more verbose style that adds even more descriptive information about the program, including the speaker’s name, off-camera events, etc.

Roughly speaking, closed captions are targeting the deaf and hard of hearing audience. Subtitles are targeting an audience who can hear the program but want to view the dialogue for some reason, like understanding a foreign movie or learning a new language.

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You Need An Automated Overhead Camera Assistant

It’s 2021. Everyone and their mother is filming themselves doing stuff, and a lot of it is super cool content. But since most of us have to also work the video capture devices ourselves, it can be difficult to make compelling footage with a single, stationary overhead view, especially when there are a lot of steps involved. A slider rig is a good start, but the ability to move the camera in three dimensions programmatically is really where it’s at.

[KronBjorn]’s excellent automated overhead camera assistant runs on an Arduino Mega and is operated by typing commands in the serial monitor. It can pan ±20° from straight down and moves in three axes on NEMA-17 stepper motors. It moves really smoothly, which you can see in the videos after the break. The plastic-minimal design is interesting and reminds us a bit of an ophthalmoscope phoropter — that’s that main rig at the eye doctor. There’s only one thing that would make this better, and that’s a dedicated macro pad.

If you want to build your own, you’re in luck — there’s quite a lot of detail to this project, including a complete BOM, all the STLs, code, and even assembly videos of the 3D-printed parts and the electronics. Slide past the break to check out a couple of brief demo videos.

Not enough room for a setup like this one? Try the pantograph version.

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Magna Announces Simple Drive Solution For Electric Pickup Trucks

Thus far, the majority of electric cars on sale have been aimed at commuters, fitting into the sedan and SUV segments of the marketplace. Going forward, there’s a very real need for electrification to touch the whole spectrum of automobiles, and that includes work vehicles like pickup trucks. A company called Magna have recently thrown their hat into the ring in just this space, developing a simple drivetrain that can be readily installed in pickup trucks without major modifications.  Continue reading “Magna Announces Simple Drive Solution For Electric Pickup Trucks”

Sanity Check Your Engines With This Dynamometer

As you get ready to pop the hood of your RC car to drop in a motor upgrade, have you ever wondered how much torque you’re getting from these small devices? Sure, we might just look up the motor specs, but why trust the manufacturer with such matters that you could otherwise measure yourself? [JohnnyQ90] did just that, putting together an at home-rig built almost from a stockpile of off-the-shelf parts.

To dig into the details, [JohnnyQ90] has built himself a Prony Brake Dynamometer. These devices are setup with the motor shaft loosely attached to a lever arm that can push down on a force-measuring device like a scale. With our lever attached, we then power up our motor. By gradually increasing the “snugness” of the motor shaft, we introduce sliding friction that “fights” the motor, and the result is that, at equilibrium, the measured torque is the maximum amount possible for the given speed. Keep turning up that friction and we can stall the motor completely, giving us a measurement of our motor’s stall torque.

Arming yourself with a build like this one can give us a way to check the manufacturer’s ratings against our own, or even get ratings for those “mystery motors” that we pulled out the dumpster. And [JohnnyQ90’s] build is a great reminder on how we can leverage a bit of physics and and a handful of home goods to get some meaningful data.

But it turns out that Prony Brake Dynamometers aren’t the only way of measuring motor torque. For a disc-brake inspired, have a look at this final project. And if you’re looking to go bigger, put two motors head-to-head to with [Jeremy Felding’s] larger scale build.


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