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Racal Recorders - the second time around

I re-joined Racal Recorders on the 3rd November 1985 (the same time as the link road from Totton West (Goodies Fish & Chip Shop) to the A326 towards Tavells Lane was opened) working as a programmer of the Zehntel ATE.


The Zehntel Automatic Test Equipment was an In Circuit Component Tester using Hewlett Packard 9000 series desktop computer running Hewlett-Packard Basic. This was an enhanced Basic with built-in HPIB (GPIB) 488 bus control (IEEE 488 bus). The computer controlled a switching matrix connecting test pins to instruments to allow the measurement of components on the Unit Under Test.

We were testing printed circuit board which were made in the factory and were checking for manufacturing defects. Each PCB type had an individual test interface box that connected the Zehntel’s test functions to each ‘node’ on the UUT PCB. This allowed the Zehntel to ‘look into’ the PCB and check that all the correct components were in the correct positions, the correct way around. This would all be done without the PCB being powered up. If ‘powered up’ tests were required, this could be added to the test routine. On average the Zehntel could check a PCB with 200 components in about one minute.


At various times we were in a position to take in sub-contract PCB build and test work from others within the Racal Group. I was in the privileged position of being the organiser of labour and test equipment for this influx.


After some reorganisation of departments and workloads I was taken in by the Test methods Department and went on to design test-boxes and write test specifications for the testing of PCBs and sub-modules of Racal’s Recorders.


We had started, initially with a VAX-VMS based Word Processor and then (thankfully) moved on the PC based Word Processors using Microsoft Word. This was the DOS based system, windows came later.

The IBM PC had arrived. I was quick on the uptake with this and very quickly learned how to use and program it. I used to run informal classes on the DOS operating system and how to tweak DOS to get the best out of the PCs.

This led me to starting my own business.


Work in progress…