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xiphmont

SOOOOPER MACK

I have no excuse for owning this. But how can one resist the vintage moxie of an alleged piece of test equipment that not only purports to be, but in fact quintessentially is the 'Super Mack'. It says so right there on the panel.

This charming little piece of 100% 1970s Americana Snake Oil is a 'CRT restorer'. The idea was that it could bring dead, dim, dying, worn out or blurry picture tubes back to life. There were a whole slew of lower-tier American test equipment manufacturers that pumped these things out from the 1950s through the 1980s and several offered a bewildering array of models. CRT restorers were apparently Sencore's one big hit and they made at least ten different types.

I guess to call it 100% snake oil isn't quite fair. Electron gun cathodes are a consumable and they can source a finite number of electrons before they're used up. These CRT 'restorers' would overheat and burst a much larger-than-normal electron current from the cathode to temporarily spur whatever cathode surface remained into giving up electrons more readily. That actually works. But the improvement is short lived, and it doesn't change where the cathode is on its long, exponential decay into inertness.

Still ya gotta love the effort and attention to detail that went into making money off of consumer America's never-ending love for the cheapest-possible short-term solution to whatever ails it. Why buy a new tube that will last 20 years when a technician can charge $25 to keep the old one working for another five weeks? We want to believe!

[For the record, these buggers are used today to milk any last remaining usable time out of vintage and irreplacable CRTs that can't be had for love or money. And in that sense, they do work... when they don't fry the tube. I originally bought it to keep a nearly dead CRT in an otherwise perfect 1970s HP spectrum analyzer going while I waited for a junker with a good tube to pass by. I had honestly expected to have to wait several years, as it was a low-volume model with a custom CRT. Then a replacement tube fell in my lap six days after buying the Super Mack. It almost makes a man superstitious.]


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