The Toolbox

Part of the fun with Homebrewing and fixing old computer stuff is that you can play with tools. Tools Are Nice. Every man needs them. Below are the favourites I picked up along the way. There's no particular point to this page - but that's true for the wholy hobby so why start apologising for that now?

Tektronix 475A scope

You can pick these up for around $150 or so. I love it! New digital storage scopes in the affordable range (i.e., sub $250) are not much use as far as I know: their bandwidth does not allow you to see the quality of 20MHz signal transitions. Besides, the Tectronix is a beautiful, beautiful piece of engineering.

Salaea Logic probe

Old is not always better. Old logic probes are a pain in the butt as far as I'm concerned. The Salaea is an extremely competent little gadget, only $150 from here. It has saved me countless hours in trying to figure out what was going wrong with old micros. Besides, the software makes it fun to use!

Fluke 29II multimeter

For a long time, I didn't really care about quality in a multimeter. Until I started making mistakes because the $10 multimeter was giving way-off readings.

I don't know if Flukes are as magical as the electrical engineering professionals make them out to be. I do know that there's no point to find out alternatives - this is $60 for a good second-hand one.

Weller soldering station

I don't need temperature readouts and fancy things. But the Weller is well-built and solder tips last forever.

Desoldering pump

A very cheap one - good enough to undo most mistakes I make.

ZD-915ESD Desoldering Station

At last! These things have become very cheap now they are mass-produced in China! This one costs something like $65. Essential to remove ICs from their motherboards in a non-destructive fashion.

Willem 4.1 Eprom Programmer

Eprom programmers tend to be either very expensive or very troublesome. The Willem programmer is in its own unique third category: cheap, good, but alas, incomprehensible. At first. People are complaining a lot about Willems - but most of them just don't spend any time to understand the board and then, indeed, the settings remain an utter mystery. The problem is that the late, great, Willem was clearly a hardware man. Therefore, there is no such thing as a manual - just an, erm, document.

Never mind. Once you've figured out the settings this thing will program everything from a vintage 7216 to a 4Mbit Flash. By coincidence, I bought the rev. 4.1 board, and apparently, that one deals with old Eproms the best. Highly recommended. If you're looking for specific Willem Eprom settings, I have them - just need to put them online one of these days.

In short: a great tool for a great price. That's why years later, the Chinese are still selling dozens of Willem variants on the Web. But I guess, still without much documentation. Use your brain instead.



Gigatron - the computer without a microprocessor!