Sunday, September 28, 2014

'Nuther Post for RSS check; Jeeps & Studebakers plus robotics UPDATE

+George Strayline --most certainly at your convenience--this post is for RSS feed check.

A post in honor of your Jeep & all its troubles.

The brand name of Jeep did pretty well under its own military steam, and not too shabby when taken over by Rambler. When Rambler morphed into American Motors,  that was kinda the beginning of the end of Jeep as a practical, maintainable vehicle.  AM really got worse when Romney ran it, and then it was passed off to Renault, which did it no favors either.

And it amazes me no end when "historians" think they tell all there is to say about automotive history when they stick to the over-worn deeply-rutted roads of Henry Ford.

In terms of vehicular history, nobody's older than Studebaker because that was a company that made horsed wagons before it started making them horseless, and with the Salty Dog, ran rings around the competition on the race track.  Silver Hawk and Golden Hawk were the best in that category, while everybody remembers the Champion, not so much as a classic Studebaker but as The Muppetmobile.

Remember the big deal that the press made about the last VW Bug rolling off the factory line in Mexico?  That's where the last Studebaker Lark rolled off, too. Volkswagon got it from Studebaker.
Image scanned from a Total Performance tee shirt.

Found this nice pic of the Studebaker Champion, Starlight Coupe model, on the web. Yup, it's the Muppetmobile, but black. That sexy vehicle to the right of it is the Avanti, which went on to become its own brand after Studebaker went belly up and each Avanti was hand-crafted to order, with a Chevy engine under the hood.

I see a red Packard in the back, off in the distance.  That's what you'll see at the historic Studebaker factory in South Bend, IN, too. It's where the Avanti gets made by hand and you can watch.

My own Nellie Belle looked like this, vintage 1963, minus the radio antenna and minus the back 2 doors. Back then, radios were options to be sold separately, and Nellie didn't have one, and there was no place in the dash to put one if you bought a 3rd party radio, either. Nellie wasn't this fine looking either--I bought her with a salvage title and her brakeline was completely missing, as was the radiator. 30 days later I had her on the road, licensed, and headed to the ANARC convention in 1978--and that was in Montreal, Canada, at what was La Maison Radio Canada.  Lost tread on all four recaps on Queens Highway, too. Froze a wheel drum just outside Akron OH and that's how I wound up in Beautiful Downtown Burbank....Ohio.  Good times. I did a drawing of Nellie's back end with the caption MONTREAL OR BUST, and that's what made it to the cover of Glenn Hauser's Review of International Broadcasting in 1978.
Technical UPDATE: Here's where I talk more about Nellie Belle specifically, in detail about how I found it literally in scrapping process when I rescued the machine.  I knew the owner and attempted to buy it from the owner when I was informed that he'd lost the keys. I was waiting on word for when he found them, but apparently he never did and sent the car to the junkyard, where I've been known to frequent when I was shopping for other parts.  I didn't find out that it was in the junkyard until it was almost completely stripped of its guts.  I paid $60 for the hulk, towed it home, and proceeded to rebuild.  I found that the engine's head was cracked and in need of replacement, too.

Technical NPR UPDATE 2: NPR interview about MTI, machine shop for Studebaker

It took a trip to KY to get a replacement head and I had that reconditioned and properly milled at a local machine shop, so yeah--I even rebuilt the engine in it.

Thank goodness for Warshawski's/ J. C. Whitney mail order.  That's where I found stuff like teflon valve seals, chrome cylinder rings and other whatnots that would fit a Studebaker overhead 6 engine.  Yeah--the type of Studebaker engine that typically suffered from cracked heads when the tappets got out of adjustment, and they did that fairly frequently.  The Lark was an attempt by Studebaker corporation to cut costs in response to consolidated motor enterprises like what became General Motors, the latter of which also enjoyed government contracts denied to other automakers. Ford enjoyed such partiality too, and that's pretty much why the multitude of individual automakers either joined or merged with The Big Two or died.  Chrysler and Rambler survived by snapping up other popular but individual model makers but still were barely treading water because of the level of government favoritism toward the Big Two.

Nash merged with Rambler early in American Motors history, and that's the firm that first came up with "unibody construction" with a minimal chassis: Nash-Rambler. Chrysler got Pontiac, and so forth. Studebaker remained defiant, as did Kaiser and so many others that eventually went belly up before American Motors did, and before Chrysler suffered its first bankruptcy crisis.  So yeah--I'm just as fond of Hank Ford as I am of Tom Edison. Meh and a half.

Anyhoo, back to Nellie Belle.  Yeah, I named my Stude after the vehicle driven by the sidekick on the Roy Rogers - Dale Evens show--and that was a Jeep--mainly because ole Nellie was just as temperamental as that particular Jeep was.

 But my Nellie was as non-stock as you could get, more suitably represented by Johnny Cash's song, "One Piece At A Time".

When I got the ole girl home, I had to find more parts.  I found an Impala radiator that fit nice until you got to the bottom of it.  Bolt holes didn't match down there, but they did up at the top, so I just drilled me some new ones and in it went.

From that point on, ole Nellie would cease to have value as an original stock vehicle--but she was MY Nellie.  Anybody stealing that gal for collectability would get a very rude awakening.  Nellie was mine and nobody else's and I was the only one on the planet that would know how she worked.  When she got temperamental, I'd be the only one who could get 'er running again.

She got all new brake lines, and the brake cylinder got rebuilt, as did the wheel cylinders. Knowing what models of auto that used the same equipment as Nellie came in handy in rebuilding the wheel cylinders, to which I also took a cylinder hone.  I did the same thing with the inside of the engine cylinders, too, by the way, and made a point of getting oversized rings from Warshawski's in that regard.  Also got some updated stem seals for the cylinder valves because if there's one thing Studebaker was notorious for, it was for leaving an oil slick on the ground where ever it was parked. Those stem seals pretty much took care of that.

One of the tests that collectors of old cars make is the Magnet Test--if a magnet don't stick to the body, then the body isn't pristine.  Nellie ended up about 1/8 Bondo and/or fiberglas and would have failed the Magnet Test miserably.  Look at the pic of the Lark again, and notice where the headlights look like they've got eyebrows.  That's the first part of a Stude Lark that rusts out badly, and Nellie was no exception.  But I think I did a damn good Bondo job on those areas that it would take a magnet test to detect that the metal was all gone. No, I did NOT break my arm patting myself on the back for that, either. :P

I put all new lines on the braking system, rebuilt the brake cylinders on the wheels, rebuilt the master cylinder, and all that. Rebuilt the engine with new! improved! non-stock parts via mail order. I fired 'er up, put 'er in gear, and discovered that gear shifting was a rough proposition, so I took the tranny out to see what the problem was.  Yup--it was old age.  It was a plain vanilla Borg-Warner 3-speed stick-on-the-wheel kind of arrangement, and as it happened, I could take an identical Borg-Warner 3-speed tranny out of any other vehicle and make it fit perfectly, which I did.  Tranny came out of a Rambler.

Long story short, I had 'er roadworthy and passing inspection at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles of Illinois 30-ish days later and thought that attending the ANARC Convention in Montreal would make for a great shake-down cruise.  It's what shook out that made that trip a real adventure, part of which was spent in Beautiful Downtown Burbank Ohio because a rear drum froze up.  But hey--I lived to tell about it, didn't I.

Note to the shortwave radio demographic of this blog's audience: Lawrence Magne (you got that right--THE Passport to World Band Radio Lawrence Magne) has a pic of me and Nellie after just getting back from that epic Montreal trip, after which he gave me a lift to the NUvention in Indianapolis...which provided fodder for one of my vintage Clara Listensprechen Reports.  I got the invite from Serge Newman, as it happens, and Larry really thought my Nellie was amazing.  After that trip to Montreal & back, so did I.

For you old NASWA old-timers who remember the "Clandestine Corner" that Larry wrote for FRENDX, you should also remember the masthead artwork I did for Larry's column. It morphed into "Clandestine Cranny", but here's ya a piece of NASWA history for ya.  Yup, I'm the same person who doodled up David Walcutt's column's Log Report masthead, too. We used to be neighbors in Carbondale, and that's how I wound up buying his Barlow-Wadley XCR-30 machine.

So yeah--I'm an electronics technician and I'm a mechanic, which turned out to be the big surprise at Motorola when some of the guys who didn't believe a woman belonged in their shop assigned me to work in the mechanics shop out of the electronics technician shop. Much to their consternation, I mastered that, too, ha.  I'm just as much a heavy-industrial-machine mechanic as I am an electronics technician, but they had no idea about that.  I haven't stopped gloating over it, either.  I was now a silicon ingot saw meister. All of this snit was noticed by the engineering department in QA, and so they adopted me as their favorite technician, and so I stayed on, and in the process picked up skills with robotics.

I actually did work on, repaired, calibrated and programmed actual industrial robots. For real. And an assortment of automated production and test equipment. For a living--got paid to do that, actually in actual fact, believe it or don't. A former co-worker on Facebook (Dennis Gatten) can verify what I claim here in the industrial area.

Okay, I got a question about availability of Studebaker parts & where did I get 'em. Well, as you can see, I used parts designed for other vehicles but I was able to get factory-genuine parts from the old Studebaker plant in South Bend via the on-site vendor, Newman & Altman, who was still making both glass and plastic versions of, say, tail light lenses and such.  Recent of vintage but made with the Studebaker manufacturing equipment. I also relied heavily on mail-order for stuff, too, mainly J.C. Whitney. Plus I did a lot of shopping at junk yards.

I think I forgot to mention what types of robots I worked on/with, and I have to draw a line somewhere between robots and automated manufacturing equipment although the line between the two is rather blurry.  I worked on U. S. Robotics and PUMA "peanut picker" arms, in the main, but the list of automated manufacturing equipment is a very long one, I'm afraid. It should be noted that it's via the automated robotic-like equipment that I became fluent in "speaking" hexadecimal. You could say that I "speak robot" and be quite correct about that.

Okay, you skeptical programming geeks out there, check out this Boolean hexadecimal joke:


HAH!  I hear you laughing from 'way over here. :P :D

Tuesday Mini-UPDATE: I got another chuckle when I saw this posted on Facebook, and then Shared it:

Ya, what I said at the top of the Share was that I'd seen Microsoft's earlier efforts at robot programming but what I hadn't said is that I encountered Microsoft's RBASIC at Motorola's EPI department when working with other automated machinery which includes the aforementioned PUMA et al.  Unless RBASIC is just an programming interface with writing assembly (machine) code, it's the most useless and clueless approach to serious robotics.  Microsoft couldn't find somebody to steal from and so it floundered.  Here's a reminder that Microsoft got started with MSDOS which was swiped from CP/M, and Windows was swiped from Apple.

Here's a link to the IEEE article.

What's interesting is the last paragraph, the author's note in italics.  Nope, that doesn't surprise me, either. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tom Edison was the Bill Gates of his time, and Bill Gates is the Tom Edison of ours.

I've been reconsidering mentioning the automated equipment I worked on besides robots because there's not a whole lot of difference between an industrial robot and automated manufacturing equipment. If the criterium is that equipment can't be taught and robots can be taught, then such equipment as the Kulike & Soffa die and wire bonders, and wafer saws,  are robots.  Hard to imagine, that. I've heard a few Motorola co-workers refer to a particular type of wafer polisher as a robot, but it wasn't teachable.  It relied on simple limit switches and variable resistor values to determine its position and whether or not it would pick up a wafer to transport it to the polishing turntable.

Well, when I get around to it, I'll go ahead and post the long list of automated equipment I've been responsible for keeping in good repair, calibrated, and taught, but don't hold your breath for that.  I'm sure I'll have left something out by simply forgetting.

Yes, I have been a teacher. To robots. So, basically, yes, I do speak robot.

UPDATE 2: I tried to google up some of the equipment I used to work on an it's just too antique for teh interwebz, alas.  There was an equipment company named Kasper that made both photo aligners (photographed circuitry on bare wafers) and wafer scrubbers. I built a machine-code test box to test each of the scrubber's modules with and it would have served as a good example here of how I spoke to automated equipment so that I could test for functionality.  I could find a modern Kasper aligner, but made by Eaton, but there's no sign of the wafer scrubber.

Some of the equipment was in-house engineered, like the polisher arm I just mentioned as not being a legit robot as such, so there won't ever be pics of that anywhere, ever.  There was one of those polishers that was giving the entire maintenance office conniptions day in and day out, and I named it The Boogie Beast and did up a cartoon of it in a book where I kept a bunch of cartoons poking fun at situations like Khartoumb Book.  I'll have to find that and post the thing here sometime.  Here's a sample page out of it, and keep in mind that, at the time, there was a best-selling motivational book that Motorola liked to recommend,  called "In Search of Excellence":


Semiconductor Sector
Artifacts of Antiquity

(a work in progress, subject to change without notice)

Me & a co-worker (hi, Dennis!) tried to come up with a list of all the equipment that Equipment Maintenance was responsible for maintaining, and neither one of us thinks the list we came up with was complete.  I added on stuff from previous employment and it's still overshadowed by all the stuff I had to deal with at Motorola.  Here goes...

In looking over the stuff I got in my Khartoumb Book, I noted my transition from Bubbles to Epi/EMO (Electronics Materials Organization) and most of what's in there is from Bubbles (Bubble Memory facility), so the Boogie Beast isn't in this one; I started a new book with Epi and can't find it at the moment.  The Oft Quoted Quotes in Bubbles sound like those in Epi, although I've got separate sections for those.  The cross-over quotes:

"I can't find it. It's around here somewhere."
"You cleaned the shop and now I can't find anything."
"This machine is a piece of junk. Got any dynamite?"
"Heard any rumors about what our incentive bonus is dropping to this month?"
"Sure, it's obsolete and we don't use it.  We're saving it for parts."
"Please get the board out of the temp cycle oven. It sounds like it's dying."
"We need to inventory this equipment we can't find."

When I talk about "Bubbles", that's what the factory which made bubble memory chips was called.  They had a softball team called "Tiny Bubbles" and when we got the notice that corporate was going to close the facility, I drew a khartoumb picturing the Titanic going under with lifeboats still moored to the top, with each labeled "IOS", which stands for Internal Opportunity System. We were told that we couldn't transfer out of Bubbles and couldn't use the IOS.  The softball team captain (Joel) liked it so much he had tee shirts printed up with that image on it.

Here's what a bubble memory chip looks like...

Bubble memory chips were diced from a processed garnet substrate wafer that looks like the following, after it has been laser-marked with a traceback lot number.  It's hard to see on the following pic but it's etched on the upper side, where the "flat" is.  While a crystal is still in ingot form, the ingot is x-rayed to determine the layout of its crystal lattice and then a "flat" is ground on the ingot before it's sliced into wafers, for the purpose of indicating how the crystal lattice is laid out internally.

After circuits have been etched into the substrate (basically chevrons and lines in a bubble memory chip, unlike other types of integrated circuitry), the wafer gets diced up and each die gets mounted on a lead frame.  The following is a pic of a lead frame in which a garnet chip is mounted but the wires haven't been bonded on yet.

Oh gee, this is Motorola property--what the hell am *I* doing with it? Well, when Bubbles got scrapped, nearly all of this stuff got put on the back dock to be scrapped, and I actually asked if I could save some of it as souvenir of something that was about to become history.  I was told that would not be a problem, and even though all Motorola facilities were fenced and guarded, the guards knew what was going on with Bubbles and basically didn't care either, as long as we covered their asses with proper paperwork...which looked like this....

This particular property pass was obtained so that I could move my tools from Bubbles on Price Road in Tempe to Epi on 52nd St. in Phoenix--in this particular case, my soldering station supplies.  Speaking of forms, here's a maintenance equipment report for the area that grew silicon crystal ingots from scratch:

The entry GATTEN_D is the aforementioned co-worker who was maintenance, not actually an operator.
The "CZP" were called "CeeZaps" and the MKVs were Motorola-brewed ingot saws using wires to saw wafers with. Some of those were Mark Vs and some of those were Mark VIs.Collectively: "midsaws"

Here we go--found some instructions for setting up the Mark V wire saw. This is just the last page of it...

I was the first female to be hired in that long-standing good ole boy shop, but having worked among all guys back at the power plant, that part didn't bother me a bit, but it clearly bothered some of the folks in the shop. I eventually got bad peer reviews, all interpersonal relations-based, but the engineers in the Quality Assurance dept. saw what was going on and despite all the efforts (which included shuffling me from the electronics tech shop to the mechanics shop, where I was expected to fail but didn't) I was appointed chief technician over QA equipment as well as the person responsible for training the other guys in both shops, ha.  I got a raise in spite of hell & high water, anyway. It wasn't much of a raise, but it wasn't what the good ole  boys were shooting for.

Don't get me wrong--being the only petunia in an onion patch had its challenges even back at Illinois Power Co.  Nobody had a high opinion of me at the start there, either.  The first thing I was told to repair was a Leeds & Northrup transmitter that I found out later nobody else in the shop could fix. Sure, I'm gonna tell you I fixed it because I did, but I can tell you exactly what I did--what the guys before me overlooked--to get the thing running again.

In testing the input compared to the output, it appeared that a transistor had gone bad.  But it also appeared that it had been replaced by somebody who worked on it before I did. Well, what also appears to have happened is that people before me used The Shotgun Method of troubleshooting: replace a lot of parts and you're bound to fix the bad one.

Apparently, the Shotgun Method was a failure in this case, and so I got the problem.

So, what I did is look for the suspect transistor in the schematic to see what else might be dragging that part down, and I found it.  When you look at the transistor in the context of its neighbors, you could see that it was part of what's called a push-pull amplifier and the other transistor it's supposed to work with, pushing and pulling with, needed to be a MATCHED opposite number and what I was looking at on the circuit board was a pair of mismatched transistors.

The old transistors were obsolete, and so the opposite number couldn't be replaced as a matched set, either.  So I proceeded to look up transistor specifications, located a matched npn/pnp set of completely different but usable transistors, replaced both of them, and the thing worked again, much to the amazement of my new co-workers.  When I was asked to explain how I did it, and I attempted to relate the above story, I was interrupted with grunts of "whatever".  Kinda like the verbal equivalent of eyes glazing over.  Anyhoo, that broke the ice, as it were, with the shop and I was accepted a bit more.

But not entirely because it was also presumed I wouldn't take up a fight with the administration when it came to union contract negotiations.  I was presumed to be stereotypically weak.  After I got to the point where I was fighting for proper promotion and the backpay that the union told me to forget about, and WON (much to the astonishment of the union and the co-workers), I was finally accepted as one of the guys.

And to this day I think that, even if it was a dirty job, it was the best damn job I ever had.

Now you know how I got to be the way I am, like John Wayne toilet paper. Rough, tough, and won't take no shit offa nobody. And besides that, perfectly qualified to operate and maintain my own time machine.

Well, remember I mentioned a "Boogie Beast"?  Motorola home-brew wafer polisher, known more formally as the "friction mount polisher".  Here's one of the drawings that maintenance had to go by when troubleshooting the animal:

 Kinda brings home the saying "A woman is expected to do twice as well as a man to prove that she's his equal--but fortunately, that's not difficult".

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