"Core rope memory transformed software into hardware. When digital information is made material, it helps us to see the hands that bring technology into being."
~ Samantha Shorey & Daniela K. Rosner (https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cpo/vol7/iss2/4/)
Adjusting A Clock's Pendulum
Back in the mists of time, before people became obsessed with digital watches, clocks had things called “hands” which pointed at “numbers” on a “face” or “dial.” With these arcane devices, primitive man (say, anyone living prior to 1970) could tell what time it was with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Later versions of these clocks ran on electricity, but earlier versions ran through mechanical power supplied by either a spring (which had to be wound regularly), or a set of weights (which had to be raised regularly). As these springs or weights released their energy, the clock would run; the rate at which the energy was released was determined by a pendulum.
The pendulum was generally a fairly substantial weight located on the end of a stick, which swung back and forth below the clock mechanism. The slower or faster the pendulum swung, the slower or faster the clock ran. Pendulum speed was determined by the distance of the weight below the mechanism - shorten the distance (raise the weight), and the pendulum would swing faster; increase the distance (lower the weight), and the pendulum would slow down.
Making the actual adjustment was generally a hit-or-miss proposition, unless you were schooled in physics and wanted to pull out your slide rule and balance. You would adjust the pendulum to something that seemed reasonable, and then check it against some other timepiece (or dial POPCORN on your rotary phone) an hour later to see how much drift had occurred. Raise or lower the weight as appropriate to speed up or slow down the pendulum, reset the hands to the current time, and check again in another hour. A good adjuster could have the clock keeping reasonable time (no more than 2 minutes' drift per hour) after three adjustments.
An important part of the process is to level the clock. An out-of-level pendulum clock with sound “tick-TOCK” of “TICK-tock,” with unequal intervals between sounds. When leveled, the sounds (which are made by the escapement) are equal and regularly spaced.
Adjusting A Televisions Horizontal And Vertical Holds
Field: Adjusting televisions
Went Obsolete: 1970s
Made Obsolete By: Automatic adjustment
Knowledge Assumed: How to turn a small knob or wheel
When useful: If an old TV picture starts rolling around on the screen
Many old TV sets would sometimes lose their vertical (or horizonal) 'hold' with the result that the picture frame would begin crawling slowing across the screen from top to bottom (or, less frequently, from left to right). The solution was to slowly adjust the proper knob to bring the picture back into alignment again. One common problem was that when the adjuster stepped away from the set, removing their own EM field from the area, they would discover they had adjusted too far and the screen would begin drifting in the opposite direction. Another careful fine adjustment would have to be made….
When watching re-runs of the old tv series “Outer Limits”, this is what the introductory voice-over referred to with their famous “We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.”
A certain cheap Philips television had 3 adjustment wheels for this. One for horizontal columns that could be tilted, one for horizontal rolling, one for vertical rolling. During the time the TV got warmer this had to be readjusted. Older more expensive TVs? like Tandberg had this done automatically.
Adjusting A Televisions Color And Hue Adjustments
Field: Home Entertainment
Went Obsolete: Mid 1980s
Made Obsolete By: Improved circuit stability and systems such as VIR (Vertical Interval Reference)
Knowledge Assumed: TV menu navigation
When useful: Visiting your grandparents
The brightness and contrast controls are used on almost all monitors and they are not obsolete. They must be properly adjusted before the color adjustments are made. The brightness should be adjusted until the blackest parts of the picture are dark but still show some detail. Then adjust the contrast until the whitest parts of the picture are as bright as you like, but they too should show some detail and not change color as the contrast is raised Most people tend to set the contrast too high. LCD monitors usually have a backlight level control. Leave it low for viewing in a dark room; raise it for a bright room. Plasma monitors similarly have a power saving feature which should be on for a dark room and off for a bright room.
Modern displays usually offer a color temperature adjustment as well. It can be set warmer or cooler as the user desires.
Now for the “obsolete” part. The color and hue controls are used on a TV with analog broadcast or other composite input.
The color control adjusts saturation or the vividness of colors other than black, white and gray. The hue control ensures that the colors are properly decoded (E.G. red is red and not greenish or blueish) First adjust the hue until the flesh tones look natural- neither too red nor too green. Then adjust the color saturation control until the people are not too pale and not too cartoonish. Try several different channels and readjust as necessary.
Adjusting a Compass's Magnetic Declination Manually
Went Obsolete: Mid- to late-2000s
Made Obsolete By: Rise of personal, affordable GPS units
Knowledge Assumed: How to read an isogonic map, how to make simple mechanical adjustments using a screwdriver or similar
When useful: When using a compass and requiring a degree of accuracy (esp., when orienteering over large distances where small inaccuracies can cause large margins of error)
Adjusting drum brakes on a car or truck
Field: Automotive maintenance
Went Obsolete: 1970s
Made Obsolete By: Self-adjusting drum brakes, disc brakes
Knowledge Assumed: Basic mechanical skills
When useful: Working on older cars with stock drum brake systems, performing brake jobs on some newer cars with rear drum brakes
Drum brakes were standard on most cars until the late 1960s and early 1970s when disc brakes became more popular because of their increased stopping power. Drum brakes function by a hydraulic wheel cylinder pushing an abrasive drum shoe outward into contact with a brake drum, causing friction and deceleration. After a few thousand miles the shoes will begin to wear and require adjustment so they make full contact with the brake drum and produce maximum stopping power.
The standard method of adjusting drum brakes requires raising the front or rear tires off the ground (whichever end or side is to be adjusted). A brake drum adjusting tool or a long screwdriver are also required. With the selected wheel in the air, locate the adjusting access hole in the rear of the backing plate (often covered by a rubber plug). Inside is a “star” adjuster that can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise with your adjusting tool in order to move the brake shoe closer or further away from the brake drum. Proper adjustments vary but a good rule of thumb is to adjust the shoe until it drags ever-so-slightly. It is important to adjust both sides of the car equally so the brakes don't pull to one side.
Many cars and trucks are still equipped with self-adjusting rear brake drums which are often never replaced. However, sometimes a mechanic will need to adjust the rear brake drums “all the way in” in order to remove the drum. After replacing the shoes and hardware, the mechanic only needs to adjust the brakes close and the self-adjusters will do the rest.
Adjusting rabbit ears on top of a TV
Went Obsolete: 1990
Made Obsolete By: Cable TV
Knowledge Assumed: Familiarity with a given setup
When useful: When receiving an OTA signal
In the days of yore, when TVs? had Antenna jacks in the back, one would attach “rabbit ears” (or coat hangers, or wires) to the jacks and wave them around until the picture came in as clearly as possible, then try to get them to stay where they were set. This would change for each channel, with the weather, etc. Sometimes the only way to get a clear picture was to hang on to one or both of the rabbit ears, including oneself as part of the antenna, in which case how one was standing would matter.
Note that only the VHF antenna was actually shaped like rabbit ears; the UHF antenna was a loop (generally about 10”), but similar procedures applied.
However, this skill is making a comeback as over the air HDTV can be received with nothing more than a tv with an HDTV tuner and some good ol' rabbit ears.
Adjusting The Antenna Of An AM-only Radio
Went Obsolete: 1980s
Made Obsolete By: Popularity of FM radio
Knowledge Assumed: Able to listen for a strong signal
When useful: Still used in adjusting the AM portion of most AM/FM radios and any other time a loop antenna is used such as for radio direction finding.
To adjust the antenna you must actually turn the radio unless the antenna is an external loop. The signal will be strongest in two directions as both ends (90 degree rotation from where the wires are) of the antenna have gain. Once the antenna is adjusted for maximum loudness, you may turn the antenna or radio 180 degrees to position it better to hear the speaker, adjust the controls etc.
Adjusting The Dwell Angle On The Spark Distributor Of An Engine
Field: Automotive Repair and Service
Went Obsolete: Depends on your point of view… 1987 Hyundai Pony still had breaker points… Some folks like old cars that still use breaker points (but many at least upgrade to an electronic distributor)
Made Obsolete By Advancements in Electronic Engine Controls and advanced ignition systems
Knowledge Assumed: Ability to read a dwell meter, to use hand tools, an understanding of the system at hand
When useful: Replacing points, troubleshooting a poorly-running engine, when performing a tune-up, when stuck at the side of the road because the points had burned and the engine will no longer run…
Adjusting dwell allowed the breaker points of an ignition distributor to remain closed long enough to permit the ignition coil to fully saturate (i.e. allow the current through the coil to reach its maximum) to create the longest spark.
This required patience, skill, determination and the ability to read a dwell meter or the ability to set the point gap with feeler gage. (An excellent write-up is here: http://home.earthlink.net/~goodspeeds/POINTS.HTM(approve sites). Dwell varied according to the number of engine cylinders and is related to breaker point gap.
Dwell and point gap changed as the friction components of the distributor (the rubbing block of the points and the point cams) would wear.
Dwell and point gap would change as the engine ran, so periodic adjustment would be required even between point replacement.
Adjusting The Head Azimuth Of A Commodores Datassette
Field: One of the First Home Computers circa 1977
Went Obsolete: Early 1990s
Made Obsolete By: When Commodore 64s and other 8-bit micros became obsolete.
Knowledge Assumed: The concept of centering the adjustment between spots that the sound of the data deteriorates.
When useful: Best caseing an adjustment that has a range of operation
There was sometimes trouble reading programs into the computer that were stored on a audio cassette. A small jewelers Phillips head screwdriver could be inserted into a hole in the top of the cassette player and adjustments made for the best case data transfer by listening and adjusting.
This skill was not limited to Commodore machines, but any which used domestic magnetic audio tape decks to store data on. A related skill came from identifying the type of machine a tape was intended for from the distinctive sounds of the data due to the different mechanisms used by each manufacture to modulate bits into audio streams.
Adjusting The Levels And Song Layout For Recording To Audio Tape
Field: Home recording
Went Obsolete: With the introduction of CD ripping
Made Obsolete By: Software and digital source media
Knowledge Assumed: The knowledge needed to perform the skill
When useful: When this skill could still be used in the real world
You had to listen to select passages of your source media and monitor the left and right signal levels on your tape recorder (either cassette or reel tape). An average level or peaks that were too high would distort the signal and a level too low would allow the “tape hiss” to be more noticeable because the relative level of the signal was lower. If you were copying to cassette tape, there was an extra step of arranging the songs in a manner that you did not leave too much blank space but also not cut a song in half when the tape ran out. Some tape recorders had an ALC feature (automatic level control) but this often resulted in a copy that had less dynamic range as the lower levels were increased and the upper levels were decreased. Similar to listening to FM radio. Lower end tape recorders had no manual level control and only had ALC.