[time-nuts] old freq standards

Robert Lutwak Lutwak at Alum.mit.edu
Sat Oct 15 06:59:35 EDT 2005

Symmetricom purchased (exactly) two products from Agilent:  the 5071A cesium 
beam frequency standard and the 5087B distribution amplifier.  They have not 
announced discontinuation or discontinuation of support of either of them.

As to the larger question of providing support for obsolete products, keep 
in mind that obsoletion of components is the principal reason that products 
go obsolete.  These days, in the commercial electronics industry, typical 
product cycle lifetimes are 1-2 years.  The component manufacturers cater to 
these high-volume applications, not to the low-volume long-life frequency 
standard industry.  Hobbyists may be able to keep things going for a few 
years by scavenging components but probably not with the same level of 
performance and reliability one expects from manufacturer service.

Try getting a 5-year-old DVD player repaired before you start demanding 
support on a 35-year-old mercury ioin standard that never made it into 

Note that I do not speak for Symmetricom management, nor am I privy to any 
future plans for product obsolesence.

As TVB points out, that rack of Mg+ electronics was probably for a 
prototype.  Eventually, about a half-dozen pre-production units were built 
at HP, about the size of a 5061.  Most of them ended up at USNO.  If one of 
those ever shows up on Ebay, it might be worth the trouble to try and get it 
working, but only if it comes with manuals and schematics.  The biggest 
issue will be the vacuum integrity of the physics package.  If it's lost 
vacuum or the ion pump won't fire, you're probably dead in the water.


Robert Lutwak, Senior Scientist
Symmetricom - Technology Realization Center
34 Tozer Rd.
Beverly, MA 01915
(978) 232-1461   Voice           RLutwak at Symmetricom.com   (Business)
(978) 927-4099   FAX             Lutwak at Alum.MIT.edu  (Personal)
(339) 927-7896   Mobile

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jeffrey Pawlan" <jpawlan at pawlan.com>
To: "Tom Van Baak" <tvb at leapsecond.com>; "Discussion of precise time and 
frequency measurement" <time-nuts at febo.com>
Sent: Friday, October 14, 2005 7:30 PM
Subject: Re: [time-nuts] old freq standards

> Since Symmetricom has recently purchased the entire line of frequency and 
> time
> products from Agilent, Symmetricom has already announced that they will
> discontinue support of most of them. They are notoriously unhelpful even 
> for
> current products they manufacture. Other old manufacurers have already 
> discarded
> all documentation and spare parts. So my advice is to avoid buying all 
> older
> atomic standard units made by Varian, Trak, and HP unless you have more 
> than one
> to use for parts.
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