Editor's Note: Following a "Retrospective" in which he described how he entered the electronics arena more than 40 years ago, Sven continues his saga with his first job as an electrical engineer.
Sometimes our lives take unexpected turns. This happened to me when it came time to apply for my first job. After I graduated from the Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, I started to look for a job to match my knowledge of microprocessors. There was just one problem: In those days, there was no company in Sweden using microprocessors in its products.
One of the largest companies in Sweden at that time (1974) was LM Ericsson, named after Lars Magnus Ericsson, who had founded the company in 1874 as a telegraph repair shop. The Scottish-American scientist, inventor, and engineer Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 and helped to start the Bell Telephone Company in 1877. Lars Magnus copied and improved the Bell telephone and started to make his own telephones in a small workshop in central Stockholm.
This is the company where I applied for my first position a century later. At that time, LM Ericsson was transferring from electromechanical telephone exchanges to fully electronic ones. As part of this process, it had started to purchase large quantities of integrated circuits, including TTL devices and memories. The quality of these first ICs was not so good, and many of them either were DOA ("dead on arrival") or failed after being mounted on a circuit board. To prevent bad devices from being mounted on to boards, LM Ericsson decided to inspect all incoming ICs.
Of course, testing ICs is not the same thing as testing nuts and bolts or any other raw materials used at that time. Not surprisingly, testing ICs required an IC test system. In 1973, LM Ericsson had dispatched a team to the US to find a suitable test system. The team visited Teradyne in Boston; E-H Research Laboratories in Oakland, Calif.; Fairchild Systems in Silicon Valley; and Tektronix in Beaverton, Ore. After a thorough investigation, the team decided on the S-3260 test system from Tektronix. This was the system that was delivered in 1974. (It was only the second such system produced by Tektronix; the first went to NASA.) If you are interested, you can click here to read a 1977 Ericsson Review article (PDF) titled "The Selection and Testing of Electronic Components."
My first job was to service this equipment. The strange thing is that I hadn't actually applied for the job. Someone in the human resources department had run across my resume and called to ask if I was interested in a job. I had no idea what this was all about when I went for the interview. When I was shown the test system, I was really scared, because I had never seen anything like it before.
But I ended up getting the job. In the following picture, we see a 20-pounds-lighter version of me in front of the test station. Note especially my bellbottom trousers, which (for younger readers) were very popular in the 1970s.
Sven working on the S-3260 test system from Tektronix in the mid-1970s.
The S-3260 IC test system
The S-3260 was an engineering marvel of that time. It incorporated all the latest and greatest high-tech equipment. The controlling computer was a PDP11-35 from Digital Equipment with 128KB of memory and two RK05 removable disks, each capable of holding 2.5MB of data. It had a magnetic tape station and a paper tape reader/punch. The computer terminal was the Tektronix 4010, which had both alphanumeric and graphical output capabilities. The system came with a built-in sampling oscilloscope with 10ps resolution, which only Tektronix could achieve at that time.
The test station provided interfacing to as many as 64 input and output pins of the device under test. (At that time, I could not imagine today's high-end ball grid array chip packages with thousands of pins.) The test station contained 64 sector cards, which could be connected to the pins of the DUT via software control. This photo looks down into the test station.
Looking down into the test station.
For more information about the S-3260 test system, click here for a PDF copy of the TekScope Magazine from 1973.
A big investment
The S-3260 test system was by far the most expensive investment made by Ericsson up to that time. The purchase price was around $400,000. For that amount of money, they could have bought 50 Cadillac Eldorados!
The Cadillac Eldorado
Tom's Pancake House
If you ever visit Beaverton, Ore., you should make a point of visiting Tom's Pancake House, where they have been serving wonderful pancakes and waffles for more than 40 years.
How did I get to know about Tom's Pancake House? In January 1975, my boss at Ericsson asked me if I wanted to go to the United States for a five-week training course on the S-3260 test system. This course was to be held at the Tektronix facility in Beaverton. Of course, I said yes. In early March, I boarded a DC10 heading for Seattle. After a short commuter flight from Seattle, I arrived in rainy Portland, where I rented a car and eventually found the way to Nendel's Inn in Beaverton.
Nendel's Inn in Beaverton, Ore.
Every morning on my way to the Tektronix office, I stopped at Tom's Pancake House for breakfast. During the five weeks of the training course, I tried every type of pancake and waffle and drank large amounts of the colored water they called coffee. During this time, I also learned every single detail of the S-3260 test system, down to the replaceable ICs on the sector cards. Yes, all of the components were mounted in sockets, which meant no soldering was required to replace a faulty device.
The Tektronix Vintage Museum
Did you know there is a museum of vintage Tektronix equipment in Beaverton? There is also a Webpage at www.vintagetek.org. The video gallery has a really nice selection of old Tektronix equipment, such as the Precision CRT from 1955.
My next step
I worked as a service engineer for a couple of years. Then I realized it would be much more fun to program this beast, which meant I would have to move to the component test department and become a test engineer. This will be the next part of my story.