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 (The Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, I started to look for job to match my knowledge about microprocessors. There was just one problem — in those days, there were no companies in Sweden that had started to use microprocessors in their products.
One of the largest companies in Sweden at that time (1974) was LM Ericsson. This was named after its founder, Lars Magnus Ericsson, who started the company in 1874 as a telegraph repair shop. The Scottish-American scientist, inventor, and engineer Alexander Graham Bell had 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 job almost exactly 100 years later.
At that time, LM Ericsson was transferring its production of electromechanical telephone exchanges into fully electronic ones. As part of this process, the company 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 were either already dead on arrival (DOA) or failed after being mounted on a circuit board.
In order to prevent bad devices from being mounted onto boards, LM Ericsson decided to implement a 100% inspection of 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 — in order to test ICs they (not surprisingly) required an IC test system.
In 1973, LM Ericsson had dispatched a team to the US to find a suitable test system. This team visited Teradyne in Boston; E-H Research Laboratories in Oakland, Calif.; Fairchild Systems in Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Tektronix in Beaverton, Ore.
After a thorough investigation, the team decided on the S-3260 test system from Tektronix, and this was the system that was delivered in 1974. (This was only the second such system produced by Tektronix; the first system went to NASA.) If you are interested, click here to see a PDF of the Ericsson Review magazine from 1977 for more information on “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 (HR) department at LM Ericsson had run across my resume and called me to ask if I was interested in a job at LM Ericsson. I had no idea what this was all about when I went for the interview, and when I was shown the test system I was really scared, because I had never seen anything like this 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.
The S-3260 IC test system
The S-3260 was an engineering marvel of that time, and it incorporated all of 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 graphics output capabilities. The system was also equipped with a built-in sampling oscilloscope with 10ps resolution, which only Tektronix could achieve at that time.
To read the rest of this blog, go to: “A big investment.”
Sven Andersson started his career in the electronics industry almost 40 years ago working for LM Ericsson in Stockholm. For the first 15 years Sven worked as an electronic component test engineer testing everything from 7400-series devices to microprocessors like the MC6800 and MC68000. In 1990, he moved into ASIC design, starting with the Motorola H4C (0.35µm) and now working with today's 28nm processes. Over the course of the last few years, Sven started to work with programmable devices. Today, he works as an ASIC/FPGA designer at his own consulting company, Zoocad Consulting in Stockholm.