Saturday, November 03, 2007

I know they're everyday bits...

...and I know I'm stupid for not knowing exactly what they do, but "klystron" and "thyristor" have always sounded so cool to me, like gizmos out of a '50s movie about bug-eyed monsters from Planet Ten. "Quick, Leftenant Johnson! Adjust the klystron and power up the thyristor! The Martians have been spotted by our radio imaging devices!"

For that matter, has anyone else noticed that American automatic transmissions have names that sound like Buck Rogers going to a 25th century laundromat? I mean, "Turbo Hydra-Matic", "Dynaflow", "Powerglide", and "Torque-Flite"? And would someone explain to me how exactly one works? How do you burn rubber by spinning oil with fan blades? It's just wrong.

48 comments:

JQ said...

My favourite should-be-sci-fi-but-isn't device name has to be 'cavity magnetron'. The fact that you get one in your microwave tarnishes it a bit, but the roots in early airborne radar add some necessary geek-cool. Still...

"Mr Cunningham! Engage the cavity magnetron, and let's show these damn Venusians who's boss in this solar system!"

As for the torque converters, you're on your own there. Cars have three pedals and an H-pattern box. Everything else is just transport.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's sorta technical. Don't you worry your pretty little head about, little lady.

Yeah, I dunno either.

Marko said...

I think that Klystron and Thyristor sound more like the names of those aliens.

"I am Klystron from Planet Zoltar, herald of your new Overlord Thyristor!"

Dr. StrangeGun said...

http://static.howstuffworks.com/mpeg/torque.mpg

If you can stand him he points out why a torque converter is frankly a god-damned brilliant piece of engineering.

Klystorn? Magnetron? Standard fare, here :) I did get a box of loose tubes off ebay though with a gem in it, a 1G3GT rectifier tube... little bastard will convert AC to DC up to around the 33,000 volt mark.

Roberta X said...

Yes, Doc, but at how much current? Poor little 1B3 is a baby tube. It's no 866A.

My dear little Hydrogen Thyratrons (used in the aptly-named crowbar devices on the 36,000 Volt supply rail) will handle some hundreds of Amps...for a very short while.

And they cost more than my car.

The boss becomes vexed when I blow one up.

Persoanlly, the Rhumbratron always freaked me out. Inductive Output Tubes (stupid, uncool name!) are the kewlest gadgets inside: about 4' tall, operating at insane negative voltages, wrapped in powerful electromagnets an' tuned circuits, they have a plasma beam as fat as a quarter and a yard long inside and if you run them wrong for more than fifteen minutes, they self-destruct from the inside out. They ought to be on a starship. They ought to be doin' something neater than spewing out "Who Wants T'be Amurrica's Next Fop Idler." But they don't. Doesn't anyone read E. E. "Doc" Smith any more?

CGHill said...

I, for one, welcome our new Zoltarian overlords.

And it should surprise no one that the best automatic transmission on earth, the Borg-Warner/VW-Audi DSG, is the one whose action most closely mimics that of a standard manual gearbox.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

Those are old transmission names, cooked up by marketers in days when people actually paid attention to that stuff.

Now-a-days you would get a TH-125, or the dreaded 7004R. OOooooooo.....

I can get you manuals on those if you like....

Myself, I am thrilled when the thermal vacuum switch regulates the exhaust gas recirculation device to reduce the production of Oxides of nitrogen. That always makes my day. That, and the whole role of sirium dioxide in the three way catalyst. The way it works with the rhodium and platinum is just riveting, as it produces and stores the oxygen for the oxidation stage.

But, its all good as long as it ain't rocket science.

B&N said...

Real cars have 3, THREE pedals damnit! And you are supposed to row your own gears.

Lazy bastards.

Will Brown said...

The thing is Carteach0, if your tranny or catalytic converter craps out during boost stage, your car rolls slowly to the side of the road. That same event happening in your rocket is why range safety packages were invented.

:)

I expect that's why cars get mechanics and rockets is still science. But what do I know, I still get lost guiding my wave.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

Aye Will, Aye, tis true.

But then again, if the Anti Lock HCU dumps hydraulic pressure at the wrong moment, Unauthorized rapid deceleration can be an issue.
While this seldom causes rapid oxidation of the internal atmosphere, it can rearrange the mechanical bonding of the vehicle outer perimeter.

Also consider, with rocket engines it's all pretty much 'on' and 'off', with Stoichiometric ratios left to their own devices.

I thought a 'range safety package' is when we all have our chamber flags in during a cease fire....

Dr. StrangeGun said...

You haven't lived until you've lost a launch vehicle to pitch-roll coupling.

Done that with both cars and rockets, i suppose that's an accomplishment :) And in both cases, you still end up with the vehicle spinning madly around a major axis...

RE: 1G3GT amperage: Jeez, how much could I possibly want at 30KV, I'm working off a polyethylene folding table in what used to be my master bedroom :) If I can cause a few deuterium ions to go speeding towards each other in a Farnsworth-style inertial electrostatic containment cell hard enough to cause neutron emission, then it's done it's job :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I had something equally entertaining to share back with you but it's been a long day and only two things come to mind...

First, in reference to the old sci-fi film I must remind you to celebrate this year 1980 as the year a man first set foot on the moon.

Oh, and the year 1987 when NASA launched the last of America's deep space probes, Ranger 3.

Ben said...

That's irritating. Somehow my ident got cut to anon.

Roberta X said...

Doc, you be nice to your Farnsworth Fusor, now! (Wha'cha usin' for a vacuum pump?) Ah, Philo, we never loved ya enough.

36kV at a coupl'a Amps is No Darned Fun; you're not missing anything there. But please remember, even a little dab'll Do ya.

...I lost a motorscooter to pitch-roll coupling, does that count? They tend to land poorly.

Put me in the "real cars have three pedals (and if it's an MG, at least two of them are working)" camp. Slushomatics are niftola to the max but it's like a Dominique Aury novel: don't wanna actually go there!

triticale said...

Someday your left knees will wear out.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Vacuum pump? Nothing yet, I'm still assembling bits and pieces. And (collective Awwwwww) 1g3gt tested bad a few moments ago. I guess this is what I get for playing crapshoot and buying someone's 115-count lot of untesteds off ebay. Everyone I read so far is using hopped-up semiconductors in their power supplies and playing chicken with internal brakdown voltages... and here we've got technology from the 30's that can rectify simple transmformer output at that level with *one* device, no static sensitivity, no little arsenic-doped germanium mushroom clouds if it goes wrong...

I did try and make a light bulb the other day with a tonic water bottle and a mity-vac though. Worked until the copper filament sagged off the leads :)

Really though, my projects have a definite order to them and the fusor is low on the list. I;ve got a 1939 Fairbanks-Morse 8A to get working first, then there's an 8 watt SET amplifier I have an eye on making.

I have *really* got to figure out somewhere to post all the mad-scientist stuff I've been getting into of late.

Freddyboomboom said...

Yeah, then the Schuler's Loop went out, and all heck broke loose...

Standard Mischief said...

Real cars have 3, THREE pedals damnit! And you are supposed to row your own gears.

I always wonder about people like this. Are there die-hard double-clutchers out there that claim that synchromesh gears are for wussies?

Regardless, I don't think b&n is far off here, I first had serious car troubles when I strayed away from the rule: don't ever own a car that you can't push start.

I first had serious female troubles when I dated the one that broke the other rule, which is don't ever date a woman that can't drive a stick shift, shoot straight, and tell the truth (for the record, she broke all three parts.) She enjoyed the introduction to the .22, but balked at learning the third petal. Oddly enough however, she had no problems teaching herself how to drive and talk on the cellphone at the same time.

ibex said...

Driving a stick is fun, but only on a German autobahn with no speed limit - and only if there's no traffic jam.

In normal traffic, when you can't pretend to be a race driver, I see no reason to manually fine-tune the transmission.

But hey, to each his own. :)

Good point by standard mischief, though.

HTRN said...

You people are funny.

There's a reason why Autos and exotics(Like the Lenco air shifted planetary manual) dominate drag racing: They're consistantly faster. Of course, this is done by adding an air shifter that's hooked to an RPM shift - that shifts at the exact same point, EVERY DAMN TIME. They've made the cars faster by using transbrakes, delay boxes, air shifters, etc by eliminating or mitigating the inconsistancies of the "meat component".

Upper end amateur Roadracing is in a similar situation - they still used manual transmissions, but they're "clutchless"(No syncros - they use "dog rings") the only time the clutch is used in the car is starting the engine. Jericho is a prime supplier of them. F1, Indy League, etc type manuals are even wilder - they don't even use a gate pattern - the shifter is a on the steering wheel(paddle shifter), and simply shifts up or down(in a traditional gated shifter, you can choose any gear). They're known as "semi automatic transmissions", and they have more electronics stuffed into them then the 4L60 in my Suburban(so much for "manuals" being simpler, eh?).

By the way, one of the things that Autos(at least Automatics like the Turbo 400 and the 727 Torqueflite) have an advatage over manuals is strength - that the strongest manuals, aren't nearly as strong as the strongest Autos. Finding a manual that can take 1200HP, means going to the likes of Lenco or Jericho, neither of whom offer anything like a "factory Manual". Meanwhile, a variety of companies are offering performance rebuilds of the GM 4L80E(a 4 speed electronic version of the Turbo 400) that meet this level of performance.

Dion said...

The turbo automatic twists the drive shaf on two when you thrown the lever into drive at high RPM after being in reverse. A saginaw 4 speed only drops reverse on the ground.
Slush-o-matics are certainly tougher.

BryanP said...

Time to out myself as a heretic.

I prefer automatic transmissions.

There, I said it.

At the time and place I was learning to drive the only vehicle available to me had an automatic, so that's what I learned on. Later I drove a stick just long enough to say "Okay, if it's an emergency I could get you there, but it won't be pretty."

One of my best friends thinks sticks are The Bestest Evah. Oddly enough, our situations were reversed on motorcycles - he had one of those oddball automatic transmission motorocycles to learn on. As such he doesn't like clutches on bikes and I just look at him like he's crazy.

Anonymous said...

While I enjoyed reading about EGR valves, and catalytic converters etc. There is nothing like running a hybrid and not having any shifting at all.

Get out and try one some day. It will redefine your terms of power off the line if you get one of the all-wheel drive ones out.

I know I can easily smoke most "normal" cars stoplight to stoplight with one. When you shift you loose power, I am still accelerating. Also I have no turbo lag and nearly 100% torque at 0 rpm.

Now back to the high science part of the thread. When my boss and I sat around trying to think up a name for our new technology, we went through a lot of them before we found a good one. It is much harder then you would think to get something patented and trademark. I just got another patent into the system so only 9 more to go. High science is a blast really!

Roberta X said...

For me, a conventional manual transmission is simply more fun -- and tends to help keep me on task. With a manual, one thinks twice about telephoning from an automobile, even with a cordless headset. Dear Dad made me learn to drive using a three-on-the-tree Falcon that was almost my age, for which I shall be forever grateful, especially since I was not at the time.

Double-clutching? My present disposomobile was purchased for a song because "the transmission is hard to get into second." Yeah, d00d, they're like that when the synchronizer's been lunched. Double-clutched for about a month 'til I could afford to get a rebuild put in. The only difficult part is making the action reflexive.

Big science, do not look at me; it's all applied technology here and a lot of the Home Edition is 1930s tech. It looks cool and it's dangerous!

Rustyvth said...

I know I can easily smoke most "normal" cars stoplight to stoplight with one. When you shift you loose power, I am still accelerating. Also I have no turbo lag and nearly 100% torque at 0 rpm.
Perhaps, but my rumbling V8 still sounds better idling than your high pitched electric motor ;)

And when I'm bumping it through the gears (Semi-auto Chrysler trans)and nailing 45MPH in 1st gear? Fuggedaboutit.

OA said...

"There is nothing like running a hybrid and not having any shifting at all."

Yeah. And hey, why bother with the work of sex when you can just masturbate!

"High science is a blast really!"

What's your high science tell you about those lead-acid batteries in hybrids?

Anonymous said...

How do you burn rubber by spinning oil with fan blades? It's just wrong.
I know what you mean, it's right up there with water spray to make more power.

Shard said...

"How do you burn rubber by spinning oil with fan blades? It's just wrong."

Think of it in terms of a gas operated semi-auto. You take energy that would normally be wasted and put it to good use.

Hence we have automatic and manual vehicle transmissions and automatic and manual firearms.

I like both. Celebrate diversity people!

mostly cajun said...

Thyratrons! Mercury vapor thyratrons bigger than washing machines, complete with their own vacuum pumps and water cooling systems, pumping out 750 volts DC at 7500 amps apiece, and we had a line-up of them.

They had SOUL, unlike the silly little hockey pucks of silicon that have long since replaced them.

MC

mostly cajun said...

And 230,000 volts AC at 1200 amps is FUN!

Welcome to the world of high voltage electrical power transmission

MC
(good from 0-500kV)

CGHill said...

Every so often the dealership lets me wander off the premises in a G35 with one of those so-called manumatics, which will do the shifting for you if you leave it alone but which will allow you to stir the lever yourself should you so desire. It's not quite the same as having three actual pedals, but knocking the lever seems a bit quicker than stomping the gas and waiting for the electronic brain to do the math.

I once had a Toyota Celica with a five-speed turned four-speed: third had somehow disappeared. (Actually broke the gear itself somehow.) The repair wasn't as horribly expensive as I'd anticipated. Conversely, anything you do to an automatic seems to cost a thousand and up.

Bob Hawkins said...

Just wait until quantum annihilation lasers show up in consumer devices.

Gewehr98 said...

I've actually got a couple bigger Klystrons, with huge accompanying magnets, in my vacuum tube collection. They were part of the final output stage for a couple radio stations back in the day. I even sold a few more over the last year or two on EvilBay.

I'm partial to the smaller tetrodes and pentodes, though. My living room is heated by a bunch of GE-designed, Russian-made 6550s. Heck, I bought a new FatMan iTube amp for my iPod and computer audio last week. Sweet! (Reminding self to post pictures on the blog later...)

Regarding slushbox trannies - my pro-stock blown big block 510 inch S-10 used a vintage 2-speed Powerglide slushbox with a manual shift setup. My left leg couldn't handle the pressure plate and throwout bearing stresses for long otherwise, because 1000hp through the rear spools and on to the rear wheels required some serious leverage. Otherwise, I prefer stirring my own gears and using the leftmost pedal, as Gawd intended.

HTRN said...

Gewehr98, Re: Clutchs for high output motors;

Most normal High performance(IE single disc) clutchs with a 2800lb release are good to about 700HP or so, beyond that, it means Multidisc clutches like the Crowerglide, but that brings it's own problems, like clutch adjustment.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record: the IRL (the league sanctioning all Indy car races) will be going to paddle shifters NEXT year. Up till now all the cars have used sequensal shifting with a small lever on the right side of the cockpit.

They've just completed two test sessions after the '07 season ended to make sure paddle shifters would work and paddle shifters have now been approved by the IRL.

All the Best,
Frank W. James

Jeff said...

Funny thing is, I ripped apart a CVT for a car that's not on the market yet, and I'll be damned if the oil pump in it wasn't almost identical to the one GM put together in the 50's. Don't get me started on hybrids, and auto's are for geriatrics or drag cars.

Will said...

Combining 'cavity' and 'high voltage' does not bring warm memories to the fore. Spent some time building/tuning a flowing gas co2 surgical system. The cavity mirror mounts were hot, about 20-30kv. 65-70w output. Used an allen wrench w/insulation to tweak the alignment, and occasionally it would throw me across the lab. I don't think it ever occurred to them that a left hand should not be used to do a hot tweak! Only good thing about them was neurosurgeons loved the beam quality.

BTW, the Dyna-Flow when disassembled looked to have maybe 3 trans worth of parts inside.

Early auto trans cars could be push started, up to early-mid '60s I think. When they stopped putting rear pumps in them, which is also why you can't tow them with the drive wheels on the ground. Without that rear pump, no oil moving, fries the guts.

Will said...

I kind of miss my last car with an auto trans. Only one I didn't rip out for a stick setup. 'Course, it would spin both tires till just short of the timing lights on the primaries. The secondaries would then do it through the lights. Really needed wrinkle walls for the track!
One of a handful with the auto. '71 Mustang 429 SCJ(Super Cobra Jet), with the Fairbanks modified C6 from the factory. Ram Air and 4.11 Detroit Locker. So rare I've only seen the auto mentioned once in the mustang books/mags in 30 yrs. Original buyer only had one arm. (bean thresher accident)

Oldsmoblogger said...

Yeah, but do you have an interocitor?

phyphor[thr] said...

Yea, the torque convertor is similar to two fans, one powered by the engine, one powered by hydraulic pressure. Which is the same hydraulic pressure that powers things like your brakes and a lot of clutch setups in modern cars.

The major reason a automatic can accelerate like a bat out of hell is the stator element inside the torque convertor. It directs oil that would normally 'bounce' off of the turbine blades into the incoming flow (thus disrupting that flow and losing power) back agains the turbine blades and finally, to a position where the impeller can pick it up and send it back again. This causes torque multiplication at lower gear ratios, which eventually evens out. Of course, unless the convertor is a locking-type, you're going to lose some power to slippage.

And yea, since the loss of the rear pump capability, there's no longer any way to push start an auto. They gotta cut costs, you know.

Me, I prefer an auto for in-city driving, but can handle a stick just fine. After all, how the hell is a stick shift any fun to drive if all you wind up doing is just floating from first to second between stop signs every block?

Sigivald said...

Automatic transmission means a free gear (the torque converter acts like one), and the ability to drive in slow traffic sensibly.

Standard: I bet there are still people out there who think Real Drivers adjust their own timing while they drive, like in the Very Old Days.

Me, I prefer to spend more time driving than convincing the car to do what it ought to do.

Anonymous: There are non-hybrids with CVTs (like the Mini) and some hybrids do shift, depending on where the electrics are and if they're parallel or series hybrids, so...

Will: Depends on the manufacturer. Saturns can be flat-towed, and Mercedes made autos with rear pumps at least as late as '76 - and I think they continued until at least the mid 80s.

comatus said...

"Me, I prefer to spend more time driving than convincing the car to do what it ought to do."

See, now, that is pretty much my definition of "driving." So you would be, what, "steering"?

Studebaker's automatic had a no-nonsense name that would still be right at home aboard Rodger Young: Automatic Drive. "Helmsman, Bridge. Engage Automatic Drive." Set mixture full rich, advance the timing as in the Very Old Days, and set the controls for the heart of the sun.

B&N said...

"Someday your left knees will wear out."

Already there, sir, and at only 35 years of age, next week.

I still do 63 miles, round trip, every day in my plain vanilla Nissan pickup, and I wouldn't have that drive any other way. I simply curse the rest of the drivers out there without the skill to drive properly.

Ask me how I know this.

B&N said...

"For me, a conventional manual transmission is simply more fun -- and tends to help keep me on task"

Ayup. And I don't see any reason to change any of it. In fact, that last bit is the key to keeping the idiots off of the road, outlaw the automatic. Let's face it, automatics are equipped in about 90% of the new vehicles sold (Effing free-market), since the new-age sissies simply can't do it the right way. I'm going down with the ship too; I'll be driving a stick for the rest of my life, even if I must rebuild old vehicles to do it.

Make everyone learn on a stick and they'll be better drivers, I say. No more driving with BOTH feet in an automatic.

comatus said...

b&n, Detroit makers have never offered a "free market" (I know you were joking); many customers' long-term prejudice against them stems from just that. They do the damnedest things with what is offered on the lots. In the 60's, when four seemed like a lot of speeds (I'm a T-10 man myself), they saw to it that manuals would be hard to get--because the marketing department was given responsibility for long-term vision, and the guys with enough pull to stay in marketing formed their taste when the automatic was new and exciting. A certain kind of sexism comes into play, there, too, "for the ladies." And for the longest time, virtually every 4-speed was a three with a stump-puller, designed for trucks. Our engineers knew how to make a 5-speed; the front office decided we didn't need it. I feel bad about all the gas that was wasted (a small-block with OD easily gets 25; imagine that in 1965). Of course, if we hadn't burned it, where would it have gone?

Studebaker's overdrive unit made a nice compromise. It made stoplight-to-stoplight in traffic click-click easy, didn't have any hydraulic losses, and got such good mileage they wouldn't let them in the Economy Run anymore. And yet...Stude couldn't give them away.

I'm afraid Cruise Control has to go, too. It's responsible for a lot of the long-swoop formation flying you see on the Interstate.

B&N said...

Yes, and let's get rid of those damned interfaces in most every new car that allows one to plug in their gawd-damned cell phone...and while we're at it, can we take away all of that damned stability control horseshit too?

I mean, if I want to hang the rearend out in the other lane, I want the full cooperation of the vehicle.

I've been tempted to disable the anti-lock pump on my truck for years because I feel it's too intrusive.

Funny you should bring up Studebaker. I've been doing a lot of reading lately on the "other" American car makers, with Studes being the most researched. Lots of stuff out there if you really want to know about them. Sounds as if you are of an age that you might still remember them on the road. What a shame they had to go the way of the Dodo bird.

The Hawks were actually kinda pretty cars, with a flair for more of a European GT than most of the other stuff at the time. The Lark seems like it was way ahead of its time too. The Avanti, of course, needs nothing said about it.

It looks as though the Studebaker name and rights to produce vehicles under that name has recently changed, and they have a website, though it's extremely disappointing. Lots of talk and no real product to speak of. They seem to be wanting to go green too, with the descriptions almost universally being "ecofriendly" in the rundown of each model.

I think it's studebakermotorcompany-dot-com, if you are at all interested.

If it wasn't for my interest in doing a wagon resto-mod on a 60's Falcon, a Lark of similar vintage would be neat as hell.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

"I've been tempted to disable the anti-lock pump on my truck for years because I feel it's too intrusive."

I appreciate mine... even though it scares the hell out of me. *shhhBRWAWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNT*. You'd think they'd noise-insulate them a bit better...

reflectoscope said...

FWIW torque convertors (AKA viscous couplings) were used to transmit power from the parts-err, power recovery turbines on the big radial aircraft engines back to the crankshaft. As for their use in cars.. blech.