Test Equipment Adventure Time – Tektronix 576

I bought a Tektronix 576 Curve Tracer on the second hand market some time ago. Unfortunately, the seller wasn’t able to ship it and he did not live in my region. The pick-up place was near the town of Düsseldorf – a 350 km distance from my place. Oh boy…

The problem with this particular curve tracer is its size and weight: it can’t be hand-carried for long distances because it’s a 35 kg (~70 lbs) chonker. Even if it’s carried by one person, one has to be very careful not to damage delicate parts and also for health and safety reason when carrying heavy instruments in a wrong posture. Shipping this curve tracer via regular parcel service is almost impossible or very expensive. Since I don’t have a car right now and car rentals are also very expensive, I tried to pick it up and bring it back home by train. The idea was to use a small hand truck for transportation in busses and trains. This way, it should be possible to treat it as luggage.

Well, it kinda worked out somehow! I started my journey in Braunschweig at around 8 am and headed towards the central train station by public transport. Luckily the connecting trains were on time so I reached Düsseldorf at 12 pm. The seller was very kind and agreed to meet at the nearest train station where he handed over the curve tracer with a manual. It took me about 20-30 minutes for packaging and securing the curve tracer with straps.

The journey back from Düsseldorf to Braunschweig was much more difficult and was delayed multiple times. However, time was not an issue and I managed to get back home with a 2 hours delay at 7 pm. The total price for travelling by train in both directions was around 70 EUR which is comparable to current gasoline prices for a ~700 km route.

I used some cardboard pieces and soft foam to protect the knobs and sensitive parts. Hard foam was used to protect the back side and a grey soft foam mattress was added for additional cushioning. The bubble wrap was used as thermal isolation and rain protection (temperature shocks aren’t good for electronic and plastic parts). The straps were used to secure the instrument so it doesn’t fall over. The blue masking tape is really useful for attaching the cardboard to the housing. The masking tape is very easy to remove without leaving tape residue or peeling off the paint.

After getting back home, it took me some time to unpack the Curve Tracer.  I’ve waited at least 24 hours to power up the unit since it had to acclimate to the ambient temperature. It’s not a good idea to power up a cold instrument which has been exposed to low temperatures for hours. I was very tired after the travel but everything seemed to work out very well.

I couldn’t find any broken or damaged parts. Taking a look inside of the instrument showed no signs of a transport damage. From my experience, such a delicate instrument needs to be handled properly, you can’t always trust the parcel service. Taking care of the transportation is the only way to ensure the instrument will “survive” the move from A to B. Who else didn’t experience the “Courier Transformation” at least once in their life?  By the way, it’s a nice pun to the “Fourier Transformation” 😉

As you can see, heavy instruments can be transported by train, at least here in Germany. However, this transportation method becomes very impractical as soon as the round trip times exceed 12-13 hours. Travelling 12+ hours by train is no fun for sure therefore it’s not always a viable method.

That’s it for today. The next blog entry will show some post-power up experiments and shots of the Tektronix 576 innards.