Winner, Name that Ware April 2022

The ware for April 2022 is part of a tx/rx module for putting video and audio over a single optical fiber. As noted by Don Straney, the contributor of the ware:

This was being used to remotely feed a video signal to a projector in an MRI setup, for neuroscience experiments (although these likely had many more uses than that). Usually the projector has to sit in an awkward corner somewhere, just outside the shielded room, to get the right angle to project straight down the scanner’s bore and off a screen or mirror in front of the subject’s face, while the researchers are sitting in the control room 40 feet or so away, with the entire shielded room between them and the projector – this makes for some long cable runs.

It was actually interesting to see the system that they were part of, because it looked like a very “cottage industry” low-volume sort of thing; seemed pretty professional from the outside, but the internals were a hacked-together combo of 3rd-party boards like these ones, with wires soldered on to tap into power and the any pushbutton controls, and a little bit of custom stuff to power all the 3rd-party devices from a common power supply and “press” their onboard buttons as needed to make it a clean self-contained system.

Interestingly, the name on the board identifies the manufacturer as “Communication Specialties, Inc.”:

However, Black Box seems like the type of company that would OEM many of its products, so maybe that’s just the name of the OEM or a company they acquired. So, I’ll give the prize to Matt for — somehow — figuring out where this design came from. Congrats, email me for your prize!

2 Responses to “Winner, Name that Ware April 2022”

  1. rasz_pl says:

    I have an amusing story about Fiber-optic video. “Interview with Joe Decuir (One of the designers of the Atari 2600)”

    >At the same time that we were designing the Atari 800, the Apple II was on the market, and popular. It had slots, and we badly
    wanted to have slots in the Atari 800 (then called Colleen).
    Atari was dealing with the FCC under the Part 15 Type I rules, for anything that actually generated TV channel RF. Those radiation
    rules were much stricter then the Class A and Class B rules that common computers must meet, so slots were out, and we ended up
    wrapping the electronics in a 2mm thick aluminum casting. The serial bus was our way of adding peripherals. (It was also a very
    expensive one. I think it sank the product.)

    Meanwhile, Apple was dodging the FCC, by not including the RF modulator themselves. You had to buy it from someone else and
    install it yourself.

    So, in early 1978, a TI salesman walked in to try and sell us a cheap fiber optic cable with a transmitter molded on one end and a
    receiver molded on the other. The idea that I had was: if we build a computer which is optically isolated from the TV, then we
    can just put the bundled fiber receiver and RF transmitter into the FCC for approval, make a really quiet fiber-to-RF converter.
    We could then do whatever we want in the PC including having slots. I told this application to the TI sales guy whose eyes almost
    popped out.

    Our engineering manager (Wade) said “No, the FCC would never let us get away with that stunt.” The TI salesman went off and told his
    people anyway, including the team we didn’t know about who were designing the new TI 99/4 home PC.

    TI went to the FCC in 1979 trying to use the same idea. The FCC said NO WAY. There was a big stink, because TI’s home
    congressional district was represented by the then Speaker of the House Jim Wright, a powerful man.

    Wade was jubilant. He said I could not have sabotaged TI better if I had tried. The result of the whole mess was the generation of
    Class A and Class B specifications.

  2. willmore says:

    Good job Matt!

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