Very well said Glen. This is a universal problem. One solution I have considered is to build a basic "pigeon-hole" type shelf arrangement on one side of my bench to hold all my test gear. But some time ago I was getting all the comms gear out of a room at work and I came across a wall mount for an old CRT TV and a video recorder. It struck me that this could hold quite a bit of test gear - the CRT shelf for a scope and maybe something else (my scope is still an old CRT clunker) and the video shelf below (which is adjustable) could probably hold 4 other things, though it might need another shelf built onto it to avoid the very problems you raise.
I recently got hold of a bunch of old Music-on-hold boxes that stack fairly well, though not as well as the heathkit stuff you referred to. These would be good for building my own stuff in.
I did this some time ago with some old modem cases - I put a small breadboard on the one, and a pulse generator in another, and the breadboard sits on top of the PG nicely.
And thanks for the warning about Atten scopes - which you have raised before - I nearly bought one that was on special some time back but didn't because of your advice. I'm still on the old CRT clunker.....
Hi David, And thanks for the warning about Atten scopes
Funny, just went to the Atten website and no scopes are listed anymore. Too many complaints, maybe?
Since my scathing review on (now terminated) Scope Junction, I've found several more bugs. A couple of them are shown in the photo; if nobody spots them will reveal the answer in a few days.
One bug (that eventually led to a stunning surprise, later) was that in normal trigger mode, the screen display does not indicate when the scope actually triggers. I needed to see about 80 seconds worth of input to an ADC during a power-on self test of a piece of telecom test equipment, so I had to sweep at 5 seconds/div for 18 divisions. For 89.8 seconds the display continued to read "Ready" whether or not the scope actually had triggered. At the end of the capture it flickered to "Triggered" for about 0.2 seconds, then back to "Ready". I really don't need to be told long after the fact that the trigger was succesful, I needed to know at the beginning of the capture period.
But now for the stunning surprise. The specs say this scope has 40K of memory, so I figured there was no sense using the "Record" function for another telecom test set that had a much longer time duration of power-on self test. But I did peruse the user manual (remember Max's recent blog about user manuals?) and saw this little statement in the "Record" section that the scope can record (and then play back) up to 6MB worth of waveform data when in the "roll" mode at slow sweep speeds to either a USB stick or internal memory. Almost like a continuous-roll chart recorder.
"Must be a typo" was my first thought. Nowhere else in the user manual or data brochures did it mention 6MB of storage capability. But I decided to try it anyway. Even though the operation instruction were horribly written, I managed to muddle through and figure out how to get the thing to work in this mode.
Lo and behold, a window popped up showing 10 minutes worth of recording capacity at 500msec/div sweep speed when using both channels. No control over the sample rate unfortunately, the rate and recording time seems to be fixed, but nonetheless it was almost perfect for my application. I have since made much use of this function in my reverse engineering endeavours.
Now the question - why wasn't this feature included in the specs and advertising blurbs? Maybe whoever designed this part of the scope got laid off and nobody else remembered this function when they wrote butchered the user manual.
Moral - read your test equipment user manuals. You may find some gem you never knew you had.
Following David's ideas on pigeon hole shelves an idea came to me. As is seen in your photos, most of the instruments have roughly the same face size. If one measures and comes up with the dminesions of say 80% of the instruments, one could then create a stand that would fit over the instrument with a shelf above that would hold the next instrument and you could stack them. I envisage something like this Rubbermaid StepStool except that the legs don't slide down but ride on the upper platform.
An enterprising designer might even create 3 models with the platform level, sloping up and sloping down and a mechanical designer with sufficient aptitude may design one with and adjustable platform.
If someone can sell a low volume product like a ground plug adapter (as discussed elsewhere) for $7, then surely one could sell this "bench stacker" (you heard it here first!) for $20-$30.
Time to get a 3D printer, although it will need to be a larger one!
Been there done that : take a sheet of 1mm (=20g) or thicker steel (or alum), cut to size and fold into a U shape.
For your variant you'd need to laser cut slots and feet so they stack properly.
Helps if you have a mechanical workshop on site!
We did this in the bad old days of dot matrix printers so you could keep the fan fold paper under the printer. Then the "stackers" starting popping up all over the lab, A lot of instruments have a separate controller box meant to sit alongside, but it's more compact with neater wiring if you put the controller under the instrument.
And with the old CRT monitors you could slide your keybaord under the monitor.
On a related note, I've just picked up some expanded stacking steel mesh In-trays from Kmart for ~$2 each , I've wired 4 together and screwed them to the side of a convenient bookshelf, thus freeing up a square foot of bench space! What's more you can stick magnets to the side of them, and stick foldback clips & keyrings with heatshrink, screwdrivers, whatever to the magnets.
This may be a deliberate design feature when heat dissipation or ventilation would be impaired by stacking enclosures on top of each other. I tend to think of it as just a band-aid though because the cooling was insufficient to start with.
I like that my old test equipment stacks to one degree or another though and it is one of the reasons I have held off on buying a new oscilloscope.
I promised to spill the beans (not Max's cool ones) of the Atten scope bugs if no takers, so here they are.
First, the obvious glitch. In the final photo of the scopes, they are both set to reverse video. This usually means the background is white instead of black - much better for printing a hardcopy on paper. A black screen background wastes printer ink and makes the paper curl up.
Usually in normal video mode the scope displays/prints Channel 1 yellow and Channel 2 as blue. But some dum$#!+ interpreted the inverse video specification as "reverse the colours". So now in reverse video mode, in total opposition to the front panel markings of Channel 1 Red and Channel 2 Blue, the screen displays Channel 1 Blue and Channel 2 Red! That's why the coloured sticky labels - when having to keep track of the colours of all those probes, the last thing I need to have to keep track of is that the red trace is the blue knob, and the blue trace is the red knob.
The less obvious glitch is the menu and time base visibility. The lower scope has the menu visible - so is the time base setting along the bottom of the display. The upper scope has the menu turned off to enable visibility of the entire screen. Where did the time base setting go? Even though I turn the menu off, I still need to know the timebase setting.
A scope designed (rather, copied from Tektronix) by those who have no clue what a scope is for...
Why not build your own Bench Stacker. Not with a 3D printer but with a laser cutter.
I have designed a number of small projects and cut them out of 1/4" MDF, baltic birch plywood or acrylic. Material is cheap and you can customize it to your exact needs. I use box joints for the joining material and simply glue everything together. No nails or screws needed.
If you do not have access to a laser find a local Hackerspace. A lot of the local trophy stores could even do it for you. That is who I used before buying our own.