Computing Counter

Physics

Accession Number: 2017.ph.757

Description:

This instrument consists of an enclosed electronics box, with front and back control and input/output panels. The two longer sides are perforated for ventilation; both sides have a recessed space in the centre where there is a handle.

The front panel has a Nixie tube display at the top left corner, and control knobs and buttons for display parameters, measurement time adjustment, and input modules.

The back panel consists of a number of connections, including clock outputs, frequency input and outputs, printer outputs, and power supply.

Primary Materials:

Iron Alloy, Plastic, Aluminum, Copper Alloy

Markings:

“5360A Computing Counter
Hewlett Packard”

“SPECIFICATION H24-5360A”

“NASA CAL/CERT
KSC Z57647”

“NASA property
Contract no. NA 5 9-11540
Customer no. MIT 26687
Raytheon I.P. No. NA 526687-3-4”

“Ontario hydro electrical approval”

Dimensions (cm):

Height:13 cm; Width: 50 cm; Length: 54 cm

Function:

This instrument could measure frequencies and act as a periphery arithmetic unit.

It was featured in the May 1969 edition of Hewlett Packard Journal:

“EVERYTHING ELECTRONIC COUNTERS have done before is done better -a hundred, even a thousand times better in some respects- by a new Hewlett-Packard digital instrument which will also do some useful things no electronic counter could do before. Really a new kind of digital measuring device, the Model 5360A Computing Counter makes extensive computation an integral, indispensable part of its measurement process. Among other things, it will
-measure frequencies from 0.01 Hz to 320 MHz directly.
-measure to 10 significant digits in one second.
-measure time interval with 1 ns accuracy and 1 00 ps resolution.
-measure pulsed carrier frequencies directly.
-compute a wide variety of things, such as ∆f/f, phase, or averages, under control of its programmable accessory keyboard.
-make sampled frequency and transient measurements, accept plug-ins, including frequency converters that measure to 1 8 GHz, and many new types to be developed in the future.”

Condition:

Very good. There a few small scratches on the surfaces. All the pieces seem present and intact.

Manufacturer: Hewlett Packard

Date of Manufacture: 1968 or 1969 (?)

Provenance:

Acquired by the collection in the summer of 2015, from the decommissioned lab of Prof. Derek York (1936-2007), a geophysicist at the University of Toronto.

York worked extensively on potassium-argon dating of rock, co-authored The Earth’s Age and Geochronology (1972) with Ronald M. Farquhar, and authored Planet Earth (1976). He also wrote for the Globe and Mail from 1980-1992, and published his last book in 1997, In Search of Lost Time. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Additional Information and References:

For more information on Derek York: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/derek-york/

A pdf copy of the full Hewlett Packer May 1969 publication can be found at: http://www.hpl.hp.com/hpjournal/pdfs/IssuePDFs/1969-05.pdf

Historical Notes:

Stickers on the front of the instrument indicate that it was used under NASA contract 9-11540, which refers to a project at MIT entitled “The Electrical Surface Properties Experiment”. Under MIT geophysicist Gene Simmons, this project, which produced a final report published on March 15, 1974, investigated the electrical properties of the moon’s surface from Radio Frequency Interferometry data collected during the Apollo 17 mission. Five scientists associated with the University of Toronto, D. Strangway, J.D. Redman, J. Rossiter, A.P. Annan and R. Watts, are mentioned as the authors of the paper produced.

While the label on the object does list MIT as the customer, it is possible that the counter–and possibly a good portion of the experiment–was always at U of T.

During the same period, Derek York, also a geophysicist at U of T, worked on Apollo experiments on the dating of rocks collected from the moon.