Nice story. I kinda wish I'd worked in those days myself. Things were simpler, and engineers had more respect I think. Though finding a break in a transatlantic cable, armed only with an ohm-meter, probably was not that simple.
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Out FOR calibration is different than out OF calibration. The former means none available.
With all the emphasis on doing everything from a computer, I wondered if engineers were still being educated in basic measurements.
Using the same theory as Richardst, a couple of years ago I faced a short an unknown distance along about 50 ft. of co-ax. I connected a small 3-turn coil across the feed end and used a grid-dip meter to find the resonant frequency. From this I predicted the location of the short and that's where it was. All with just one active device (a triode).
The TDR was out of calibration? Bung it onto the 1000 ft cable and check it.
While a square wave or a pulse is easier, you should also be be able to do this with a sin signal generator. An open looks like a short at lambda/4 + n lambda/2. A short looks like a short at n lambda/2. Lambda = velocity-of-propagation (Vp) / frequency. For coax, take Vp as 2e8 m/s as a first try.
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