An Analog Life: My pilgrimage to the workbench of analog guru Jim Williams

An Analog Life
Last week, while visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, I had a chance to visit the Computer History Museum.

Surprisingly, I didn’t go there to see their impressive collection of vintage computers, although I highly recommend checking out the PDP-1, Babbage Engine, and Revolution, a tour of the first 2000 years of computing.

Instead, I went there to check out An Analog Life, a temporary exhibit at the museum. There, I got to see first-hand the famously cluttered workbench of the late analog guru Jim Williams.

Jim’s workbench holds an impressive collection of vintage test equipment, but Jim particularly loved old Tek scopes, and his 547 is on display:
Tek 547

There’s also a Tek 454 and a 576(?) curve tracer on the bench:
More test equipment

Jim worked on making efficient laptop backlight power supplies for many years, and there are a lot of artifacts from this long term project on his desk, including God’s Own Backlite Current Calibrator:
God's Own Backlite Current Calibrator

I’m not sure what’s going on with his desk phone, but it appears to be the recipient of some sort of hack:
Jim Williams' phone

There is so much stuff on the bench that it takes a while just to take it all in. Yes, there is a soldering iron somewhere in this photo:
Test jig bridge

Jim’s workbench (more photos) is impressive, and reason enough to visit the museum. But the freshly-remodeled museum is really breathtaking, and the new exhibits are excellent. Plan to spend a day here, or you’ll discover (as I did) that 3 or 4 hours isn’t enough time to see everything.

The Computer History Museum is located in Mountain View, California. An Analog Life runs through April 15th.

For more on Jim Williams, I recommend checking out Reading Jim Williams, a blog about Jim’s famously well-written (and sometimes humorous) app notes.

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