When I was young I fancied technology. I could imagine, not the Internet, but some things such as they have become. There are surprising developments to come, I’m certain, most people simply have no idea. Unfortunately there is a great deal of menial technology in the world, and menial technology that yet needs to be developed for the fanciful future. One of these, maybe even the most menial type of things is power supplies.
And so first thing in the morning Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, 1994, Jim Hargrove calls me to come in for an interview. To date this is the only place I’ve ever worked the days between Christmas and New Year’s. Personally I don’t care about official holidays at all, if I could take time when I needed it that’d be great, thanks.
In those days, Analytic Systems didn’t make power supplies exclusively, but we only designed power supplies, so that anything that wasn’t a power supply would eventually go away. And we made many different types and sizes of power supplies. The main one was the true sine-wave inverter, which converts battery power to the what you’d get if you had access to a wall socket. Most of these were designed for marine applications, boats, but could also be used for RV’s or remote locations with only generators or solar cells for power. The first version was 600W, which was later increased to 1000W. Some time after I left they hired some a marketing person and called this the PureSine IPS600 and IPS1000.
We also made quasi-sine inverters, because they were cheaper. The sine-wave inverter was intended to power computers, to provide glitch free power which wouldn’t cause grief, sort of like a UPS, but you could use the quasi-sine for a computer. I wrote a Windows program in Delphi to display the status of the battery power, but there wasn’t really any other need for software there. You can see in the photos there are serial port connectors on the fronts of both the PureSine and quasi-sine models. I’ve always enjoyed writing software, as I do have a knack for it, but most of my career I have not had any opportunity to develop that talent.
We made DC-DC converters, AC-DC power supplies, and battery charger versions of both. The mainstay product was a DC-DC converter which, before the marketing, was called 7604 since it was one of the earliest products designed way back in 1976. The redesign of that product was the last thing I worked on in 1996 and it was called 9604 then. As I write this it is 2014, and at least on the outside it doesn’t look like any of the products have changed much, but I’m sure the electronics inside are all totally different of course. It just seems strange that my design work there left such a major legacy.
Most of the products were custom made for specific applications. Out of all the places I’ve worked, Analytic was the most prolific. We seemed to come out with a new product every two to three months. We did contracts for Samlex, Charles Industries, Soltek, and others. It’s funny because I occasionally see these products around, for example Xenex had an Analytic Systems brand converter, and RP Electronics sold Samlex brand desktop power supplies we designed in their store.
Some of the products were designed for the U.S. military. This little one was originally designed to power appliances in Hum-Vees. I remember one of the inverters was considered to be used on the international space station, but I don’t recall if it actually went up there or not.
I learned so much from this experience that I’ve carried with me throughout my career, I couldn’t possibly explain it all. But it is the core experience of a good engineer, to really solve problems, not try to cover them up, rather to look for causes in places where others tell you not to look.
After a half a year of this stalemate that you abhor,
a woman’s nuclear knife won’t work any more.
—Hober Mallow, Isaac Asimov, Foundation, p.290