Retro Devices

A true story. As always.

With money from my father, I bought an electrical multimeter. It measures resistances, voltages and currents, AC and DC, in broad ranges very accurately, for AC frequencies up to 50kHz. It has a rugged, compact screwless plastic housing with rounded edges and corners, and a swiveling, large LCD display. Its receptacles are built in a way that it is virtually impossible to get an electrical shock when plugging or unplugging the instrument cables. The on/off switch of the device has been designed and positioned in such a way, that when the display is folded in, the device is switched off, the display protected against mechanical impacts. It is powered by a 9V alkaline cell that lasts many operating hours, and when its energy is critically low, a large symbol appears on the display. The manufacturer guarantees 2 years life time, free from firmware updates.

The instrument I am writing about is a BBC GOERZ METRAWATT M 2030. I bought it 33 years ago. Looking at it from a nowadays perspective it was hyper modern at that time. Even today’s latest devices in the equivalent price range aren’t easier to operate, more user friendly or accurate.

Since I haven’t opened it yet, I don’t know what ‘processor’ runs under its hood. Given its age probably none. Probably just an ASIC. Bug-free. (I hate to admit that.)

Yesterday, I dropped it to the concrete floor. Not for the first time in history I must confess. But maybe for the last time. One segment of the LCD display broke. The device is still usable and working, but well, I am considering buying a new one now. The time might have come.

I wonder if we – with all our mighty tools and gigatons of processor power – still manage to manufacture a virtually maintenance free instrument of this quality and timeless elegance.



Merry Christmas!