Category Archives: General

HP 8753C Network Analyzer: Serial numbers, options, EEPROMs

The HP 8753C comes with some software options 010, time domain (essentially, a built-in FFT function), and the even more useful harmonic analysis, option 002. These work without any further calibration, and used to be available as a code to enter to the instrument , with service function 56, to update the option status.

Thanks to a kind gentleman, such codes are available now, and normally you can add them to the 8753C without any expert knowledge and risk.

Unfortunately, for this instrument, the method to add options by code entry didn’t work. How come? As much as we know, the option code depends on the serial number, let’s check if the serial of the CPU board is the same as that of the instrument (ending in 00860). A first hurdle, how to read the serial – it is not showing upon startup for the 8753C, but you can get it by first executing service function 55, which will fail, and then go to Display-Title.

To my big surprise, the serial shown is incorrect, only 4 digits, missing the “8”.

Accordingly, we need to dig deeper, and the serial number and other information is stored on the U23 EEPROM, a 2kByte chip, Xicor.

It is a very long lasting device, no reason to believe that it will fail anytime soon, but there are always risks. First, I read all the coefficients via GPIB, and then carefully desoldered the chip.

Actually, desoldering went very well, even just with plain tools, a soldering iron and a manual solder sucker.

The programmer, put together from a few jumper cables, and an ATMEGA128A board. When reading, I hardwired the WE- write enable input to VCC, to make sure that no data are lost. There are also 6k8 pull ups directly on the ZIF socket, to make sure the input stays “High” even if the jumper wire is not connected well.

In the EEPROM, clearly there is the incorrect serial, it is not actually missing a digit, but has an incorrect character. Maybe it got modified when the CPU clock failed (remember that this board had a bad osciallator?

Now, we need to put in a single character, an “8”.

I don’t normally need to program 2816 EEPROMs, so rather than taking chances with some incompatible programmers, I made a small program, to just set a single byte, at a given address. In this case, writing an “8”.

With the serial number corrected, put the EEPROM back onto the CPU board – using a precision socket.

Using the secret code that only works with the matching serial – and with the write protection of the CPU board disabled – the option install worked perfectly fine.

Now, the 8753C shows the options upon startup, and the time domain and harmonic analysis functions show up in the menu as softkeys.

Afterwards, I checked the EEPROM contents again, there are only 3 bytes changed, in-line with what can be found in online forums. Also tried to activate the 006 6 Ghz option, not much use for me, but the option code is same as seen for the 8753D, etc. There are 3 bytes, right in front of the serial, with the upper half-byte bits all set (0xFx), and the lower half-byte encoding the options in a bit-wise fashion. With no options, the three option bytes are all zeros 0x00.

If you need any of these EEPROMs or related advise with the 8753x units, just drop me a line.

HP 8754A Network Analyzer: gold, sapphire and still low output

Some performance validation of the recently fixed 8754A revealed that the output is leveled at 0 dBm, but it doesn’t provide any more than 2 dBm, when you turn the knob to higher levels… it should provide at least +10 dBm leveled, and +13 dBm typical.

So, what is wrong? The signal source is mostly located on the A7 assembly, two VCOs, a mixer, and several amplifiers and levelers.

The osciallator is working, as we can see, but the amplifier circuit, a golden box, number 5086-7235, is not amplifying sufficiently. HP did not consider this field-repairable, so the manual only has some rough information about its contents.

To find out more, we need to crack it open – it is not welded, but glued with a generous amount of silver epoxy.

From right to left, the preamplifier, a filter (LC low pass to remove the VCOs and higher mixer products), and the power amplifier with detector and a -20 dB tap for the PLL-marker circuit.

I checked all the bias voltages and currents, these seem OK. The main amp substrate (sapphire?) has a crack, but is it not fully going through the material, and the gold layer is thick, and the crack is not cutting through the critical sections.

The filter inductances, gold traces on alumina, with some bonding wire. I assume, hand made… It is a pitty I don’t have a microfabrication facility at my disposal, and a wire bonding machine…

Various testing has been performed, to find out the power levels, using a 50 MHz precision source, and a fine tipped probe to check the levels on the substrate (using a microscope, and a steady hand to avoid damaging the bond wires).

From the data it is obvious that the preamp is not amplifying, but absorbing power. This is good and bad, because the final amp needs to provide clean amplification to avoid spurious, so I don’t want to mess with it, and there is also the detector diode, which is essential for the flatness of the unit, also something that is not easily fixed, if you introduce some parasitic resonances or the like.

The fix – scraped off the transistors and most of the gold from the preamp, and soldered a short wire across the substrate, I think it is about 50 ohms impedance. Then, I inserted a set of 2 integrated microwave amplifiers (a MSA-0505 and MSA-0386) to provide about 19 dB gain.

The maximum output +13 dBm at virtually all frequencies (a small dip around 1 GHz).

A test at various power levels, with a good spectrum analyzer (don’t have a calibrated power meter here, but this analyzer is pretty well calibrated). Amplitude is 1 dB per division. The 8754A is calibrated at 0 dBm and 10 dBm, at 50 MHz.

0 dBm leveled output, 1 to 1400 MHz… pretty good.

10 dBm output, also, great flatness.

Finally, at test at 5 dBm – it’s accurate and flat!

Now, we will let this run for several hours at maximum output, to see if the repair is permanent, then the amps will be sealed with epoxy (just plain epoxy, no silver epoxy).

Agilent 4352B VCO/PLL Signal Analyzer: a great find (hopefully!)

I found a great deal on a “totally faulty” 4352B, well, it is a bit a cat in a sack, as we say in Germany, you never know what you get. It shipped from Manila, even better! List price, I think it was close to USD 50k!

It’s a clean unit, except for about 100 stickers and seals!

All heavily shielded, many kinds of screws and metal plates to keep to good waves in, and the bad waves out.

The brain of the machine – quite sophisticated – Japanese engineering (this unit has been manufactured by HP Japan!).

After some study and test, it is clear, it is dead because there just isn’t any power. The power supply is a two-stage supply, first stage, a switchmode universal voltage to 24 Volt (190 Watt) supply, bz maker Artesyn, then a really top quality 2nd stage, made by Agilent. And guess what, the 24 Volt supply is faultly!

This supply uses power factor correction, and two IRFBE30 MOSFETs to drive the transformer – one of them is shorted shot. Otherwise, no damage to be found on the board so far, except the thermal fuse, which must have cut out immediately (even the primary fuse is OK – so there is hope that this will be an easy repair of the 24 V supply).

Ordered some spare thermal fuses and MOSFETs, quite common IRFBE30 type – low cost. Let’s see if this will let us get the power back, if not, worst case, we can always install a new 24 V 200 W supply – there is enough space in the case.

In any case, these VCO analyzers are a great deal – there is a 26.5 GHz (!! APC 3.5 !!) power splitter inside, value, still available today, EUR 1350, and a 13 GHz detector, value, 450 EUR. But let’s keep fingers crossed that this won’t become a parts unit anytime soon.

Moving to Japan: Busy times…

Recently, not so much activity in the workshop, for a simple reason – I was moving to Japan. Still keeping the German main workshop, it is only a temporary work assignment, but temporary can mean two or three years in this case. Anyway, Japan is a great place and this move is to the real Japan, Ube, Yamaguchi, not some expat community in a big international city.

With the help for kind colleagues and the big enterprise, all has been set up in the meantime and life is carrying on along the usual path…

The Japanese house, it is of traditional style, which means, it is hot in summer and cold in winter, but at least you get a better connection to nature, and it is a very healthy life to have fresh air and wind moving trough the big open windows rather than to sit in a hermetically close skyscraper.

Not to miss, the Japanese garden!

… Vegetable garden …

The temporary workshop – I can’t go to such far away places without at least a phase noise measurement test set.

My latest acquisition, an electro-mechanical device called “Toyota Aqua”, aka Prius C – very good fuel efficiency, thanks to its hybrid drive train. Sorry, no service manual for this one but it’s great to explore the beauty of Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Historic view of the workshop – Joh. Eisele Porzellan Grosshandel, Ludwigshafen

Found this great view of the current workshop (ground floor, left windows), dating back to before 1918! The building itself dates back to 1910, established by Joh. Eisele, who used to operate a major trading house for porcelain, glass, and stone ware, including a decoration workshop for such items.

While the back factory (with the railway tracks) is missing today (maybe bombed out it WW II?), the main building still exists today, in quite recognizable shape and form, even still with the name of Joh. Eisele in golden letters!