In Praise Of Old Meters

We are spoiled with multimeters today. Even the cheapest meter you will get these days is almost surely digital with a tremendous input impedance. But a few decades ago, meters were almost always analog affairs. To make a precise measurement, you needed a mirror under the meter to ensure you read the needle correctly. Moreover, a common meter wouldn’t have that high of an input impedance. If you spent more, you could get a VTVM and, later, one that used FETs to provide high input impedance. [Peter AA2VG] just picked up a vintage Micronta FET volt-ohm meter to join some of the other new and old meters in his shack. You can check it out in the video below.

[Peter] already has a Simpson and a more modern Fluke meter. The Simpson, however, doesn’t have a tube or FET amplifier. The Fluke is nice, but there is something about the needle on an analog meter. If you aren’t old enough to remember, the Micronta brand was a Radio Shack label.

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Heathkit IM-13 VTVM Repair

If you are under a certain age, you might not know the initialism VTVM. It stands for vacuum tube voltmeter. At first glance, you might just think that was shorthand for “old voltmeter” but, in fact, a VTVM filled a vital role in the old days of measuring instruments. [The Radio Mechanic] takes us inside a Heathkit IM-13 that needed some loving, and for its day it was an impressive little instrument.

Today, our meters almost always have a FET front end and probably uses a MOSFET. That means the voltage measurement probes don’t really connect to the meter at all. In a properly working MOSFET, the DC resistance between the gate and the rest of the circuit is practically infinite. It is more likely that a very large resistor (like 10 megaohms) is setting the input impedance because the gate by itself could pick up electrostatic voltage that might destroy the device. A high resistance like that is great when you make measurements because it is very unlikely to disturb the circuit you are trying to measure and it leads to more accurate measurements.

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