• mechanical counter with reset switch
  • array of springs, part of the "mechanical logic" block
  • Row of light bulbs to light up channel numbers (the era before LEDs)
  • kinda young for a tattoo? - Leino88
  • 12:00 - some things never change - just_a_guy
  • heh... Yesterday she said she wishes she had a robot. A "princess robot that can fly"
  • Is this child labor? - Alberto Reyes
  • She is not alone... '-} - Vanita
  • It seems to be playing something. - b139
  • Swithes for color? - b139
  • I'm pretty sure these controls are for the Tuner, not the color. - Teraforce88
  • Timer Programming Controls - Teraforce88


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Household appliances become less mysterious when you take them apart. In older consumer electronics gadgets, you can often find a treasure trove of wiring harnesses that make the component connections easier to decipher. The Disco Age was also the Golden Age of Wires. A 1970s Trinitron or VCR harbors an inner beauty. Modern multi-layer PCBs and highly integrated circuits are a black box of their own. The common VCR or an old hard drive is a wonderful starting point as they are full of electro-mechanical devices and actuators.

— From my GeekDad submission, entitled Peering Into the Black Box.

The mechanical counter alone is a gem… with all of its miniature workings are on display, lending to experimental play and reverse-engineering.

Automatt, ▓▒░JASE░▒▓, and 25 other people added this photo to their favorites.

  1. shawnhoon 97 months ago | reply

    wow geekdad looks really neat. The ant farm might be something to try with my 2 year old.

  2. shadow_of_me [deleted] 97 months ago | reply

    My parents made similar mistake - they were consistantly giving me techno lego (like the ones with real nuts and bolts) on every b/d and New Year.
    I took apart my first car engine and boosted it when I was just about to enter happy geeky adulthood.
    Then my parents kinda got surprised, sobered up and asked where did they go wrong with my upbringing - they thought they did everything to bring me up like a lady. ....

  3. RRNeal 97 months ago | reply

    this looks like an excellent activity for a dad to do with the kids. i'm going to find something to reverse engineer (that doesn't get me in trouble with my wife)!

    shawnhoon - i highly recommend the ant farm!

  4. Philosoap [deleted] 97 months ago | reply


  5. Todd Huffman 97 months ago | reply


    Dont get me wrong, newer electronics are lighter and more power efficient, and I love newer electronics styles... but much harder for an inquiring mind to decipher.

    I love taking apart older electronics. The transparency in functionality is much higher. Newer electronics embed a lot of fun computation in glue covered chips.

    Actually, you can get a related anecdote from my mother. Basically when I was six I took apart the television set, and couldn't get it back together. My mom decided not to replace it, and lo! my brothers and I were blessed with a television-free childhood. (She tells the story better)

    To any parents who see this, I highly suggest raising a child without television. I've met five other people raised without television, and all were college educated and three had graduate degrees. My brothers and I all made it through college, and two out of three have graduate degrees. Moreover, they were all interesting and sophisticated people.

    (I readily admit my analysis is riddled with bias)

    @Steve - you are doing a great thing playing with your children like this. This is the type of thing they will remember as adults, as well as nurture their curiosity about the world. I am glad my parents did similar things with me, and wish more people took so much interest in their children's intellectual development.

  6. jurvetson 97 months ago | reply

    thanks man! I have been without television (VHF or cable) for 22 years now, and can't imagine going back.

  7. AMagill 97 months ago | reply

    Wow, that takes me back. When I was a kid, my parents gave me an old first generation VHS VCR to take apart. It was very much like this- wonderfully complicated, but filled with discrete components you could actually look at and guess at their purpose.
    It's a shame most geek kids anymore won't get this kind of opportunity. Wonderful as new technology is, it's just not as fun to take apart when all you get to see is a PCB with a handful of ICs and a scattering of surface-mound compontents.
    A few years later, I even managed to repair a broken first-gen CD player and then later a laserdisc player. Both had long since been retired from use, but I was still quite proud of that accomplishment.

  8. OriginalGunner 97 months ago | reply

    I remember my father asking me if I wanted to cut some wires on an old TV, I must have been 3 or 4. Fast forward almost half a century and my daughter just came into my office the other night and said she wanted to "take something apart". We spent two hours taking an old computer apart. I quickly made a battery pack and stood by powering up all the motors and LEDs to make them twitch and light up (some to smoke and destruction). Her enthusiasm and focused intent to get every part apart lit me up with joy as I recalled this is why I love engineering.

  9. Leino88 97 months ago | reply

    yeah... i've been without cable or VHF for about 15 years myself.....
    .....nothing beats satellite tv.

  10. TomOwen 97 months ago | reply

    SJ: I LOVE all the little digits.. I mean the little hands connected to the young insatiably inquisitive minds taking this apart and learning with each turn of the screwdriver.

    @Oddwick, My wife and I had this conversation again tonight. We do have tv, but the most basic service available that doesn't require the antenna on the roof... She found herself 'defending' this lack of TV with a group of mothers on a school field trip today... My comment: Everything that is important, educational and entertaining starts with the people sitting around this table. Rather that a lot of TV, we have dinner together as a family. Bravo. Tom

  11. CatsFive 97 months ago | reply

    Love it! Thanks

  12. Vanita 97 months ago | reply

    It's like taking a factory tour where you can see the whole factory in a single glance!

  13. Telstar Logistics 97 months ago | reply

    *cough cough* Post this to GeekDad *AHEM! cough! cough!*

  14. jurvetson 97 months ago | reply

    Telstar: done... Now I have a mobius strip of links... This post was an excerpt from GeekDad borrowing from flickr..... P.S. Do you have a couple extra rocket stickers to bring to MakerFaire on Sunday? I have some new fleet vehicles....

    Vanita: yeah, a cubist perspective...

    Leno: touché... and sometimes a UHF signal comes through with no antenna, so I had to be precise. ;-)

  15. mashpriborintorg 87 months ago | reply

    Damned, I remember having disassembled one of these batamax when I was young... it just looked enormous to me, I even could hardly lift it from the floor ! So much screws to remove, so much cables to disconnect, and stuff to play with, I was a great time ! Now I'm almost 35 and I still love disassembling stuff, one day I bought a huge broken color photocopier in a second hand store... it have been my bigger disassembly until now !

  16. LoganGSD 80 months ago | reply

    A sony Sl 5400 i do believe!

  17. PugnoM 62 months ago | reply

    Thanks for making this CC-licensed. I'm using it in a presentation on copyright law, to illustrate some points about tech innovation and the impact of the Sony/Betamax case.

  18. Xeontory 60 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Gallery of Electronics, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  19. Teraforce88 59 months ago | reply

    This Sony Betamax is either an SL-5600 or an SL-5800. The only difference is that the 5800 had 4 heads and had variable-speed picture search ("BetaScan").

    It can't be the SL-5400 b/c there are 4 timer event presets in the timer section (A, B, C, and D), whereas the SL-5400 only had one timer event preset.

    Both the SL-5600 and the SL-5800 were introduced in 1980, with price tags of $1350 and $1450, respectively. Quite a lot of money for a VCR if you ask me, and that's in 1980 dollars! Imagine what those prices would be now!

  20. StepUpFinance.com 41 months ago | reply

    Great photo Steve, thanks for allowing us to use this on our Blog.
    Image credit has been given to you with an active link back to your site, trust this is OK.
    We look forward to seeing some more of your work.
    Regards from all at SUF.

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