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How printed circuit boards were made in 1969

A few weeks back, Tim Iskander, one of Critical Link’s senior engineers, sent me this link to a video that Tektronix made in 1969. The video, which Tim found on the Museum of Vintage Tektronix Equipment, demonstrates how circuit boards were designed and manufactured back then. As Tim commented, things are a “wee bit more automated these days.”

I’ll say.

Plus I will note that engineers no longer wear high water pants and white socks. (For the most part.)

The process in the video is a bit before my time –  I was a bright enough kid, and I was always going to be an engineer, but in 1969 I was thinking building blocks, trucks and Tinker Toys, not circuit boards. So I don’t have a lot of direct experience with some of the way things were done nearly a half century ago. But I did use graph paper.

This is a long video. I didn’t time it, but it took over a half hour to get through the whole thing. So you may want to view it over lunch. (These days, not only are the processes faster, so are the videos. This would be chunked into shorter pieces for the YouTube generation.)

A couple of things struck me. One was the background music, which was a combination of health class film, old detective shows, weird sci-fi, and Bambi. I think that this was pretty standard for industrial films back then, but, sheesh, this was the same year as Woodstock?

Another thing I found very interesting is how the process of both schematic design and layout are handled concurrently during the design process. The electrical engineer not only defines the interconnects between the various components, but also identifies the routes for the traces (both top and bottom layers) at the same time. Today, of course, we perform these steps almost completely separately.

Back then, the components were big, the traces were thick, and the layer count very low. But, you can see the origins of some of the fundamental processes still performed today, in much the same way. The way the vias are plated and the use of screens for the copper plating process, to name a couple.

The design process is even performed at a 4x zoom over the finished board size. Of course today, we zoom in and out with ease, but they actually drew the design on transparent film 4x the size of the finished product.

What an interesting look at how it used to be done!

Here’s the link to the video.