Not my father’s workbench, but similar. Photo courtesy of

by George Taniwaki

My father, who died in 2017, was a self-taught expert in electronics troubleshooting and repair. As a teenager in Japan before World War 2, Michio Taniwaki started his own radio repair business. He returned to the US after the war and began his career just as the market for color television and home VCRs took off. He worked for well-known television distribution and sales companies in Denver such as Ward Terry and Co. and Valas TV and Appliance. He practiced his craft at a time when most consumer electronic devices were quite fickle. They contained vacuum tubes that burned out and required replacement and analog components that required frequent repair and adjustment.

As consumer electronics began to incorporate solid-state transistors, the repair market declined. Michio took his skills to the nascent computer industry. His first stop was NBI, Inc. a leading maker of standalone word processing machines, second only to Wang Laboratories. However, after the introduction of personal computers, especially the IBM PC, the market for word processing machines collapsed. NBI could not make the transition and closed.

A group of former NBI employees, including Michio, went on to create Outbound Systems, Inc.  This company made laptop computers compatible with the Apple Macintosh. Apple licensed its Mac OS, but did not license the ROM BIOS chips needed to run the Mac OS. Thus, Outbound had to buy older Macs and cannibalize the ROM chips it needed from them to manufacture its devices. Eventually, Apple released its own line of laptops and notebooks and discontinued licensing of its operating system, causing Outbound Systems to close shop.

While cleaning out the garage and crawlspace at my mom’s house, I gathered up all the electronic test equipment my dad owned with the intent of selling it all on Craigslist. The pictures below show what I found along with some comments.

Analog test equipment

My father had a very nice collection of electronic test equipment. Most were made by RCA, formerly Radio Corporation of America. RCA was the leading producer of consumer electronics from the 1930s until the 1970s. They also made most of the test equipment used to maintain their products.

His most important tool was the oscilloscope which is used to display analog signals on a video monitor. His original scope failed a long time ago and is gone. I think it was made by EICO, not RCA. His latest scope was a Tektronix model (third row right) that he purchased from NBI after they closed.

Each RCA test device has a different function. But they were all designed to fit in the same steel case with leather carrying handle. The face of each device was an aluminum sheet with black engraving, a red RCA logo, and gray-blue knobs. The audio generator (top left) has a easy-to-read aluminum dial engraved with the frequency. The marker generator (third row left) has a clever design that includes a paper scroll with various frequency ranges printed on it. The knob on the left advances the scroll up-and-down to select the range while knob on the right moves a pointer left-and-right  to select a specific frequency within the range.

Sweep generators and marker generators were used to produce VHF and UHF signals to test television components and circuits. A sweep generator produces a range of frequencies within a band. A marker generator is used with a sweep generator and injects a high amplitude peak at a desired frequency inside the band. These signals are fed into the television circuit and compared to the output signal to confirm the circuit is working correctly. The input and output waveforms can be displayed using the oscilloscope.


RCA WA-44C audio generator (left), RCA WR-51A stereo FM signal simulator


RCA-WR69A television/FM sweep generator w/WG-295C video multimarker (left), RCA WR70A RF/IF/VF marker adder


RCA WR-99A crystal-calibrated marker generator (left), Tektronix 2213 oscilloscope


Simpson 262 multimeter with leads and RCA battery tester (left); Assorted test leads

Power supplies

My dad had several low and high voltage power supply units. He also had a makeshift 120V power supply made from a lamp cord with two alligator clips on the other end (lower left).


EICO 1050 battery eliminator and charger (left); RCA WP-700A power supply


Adjust-A-Volt (Standard Electrical Products) power supply (left); Unknown vendor high voltage power supply


Makeshift 120V power supply (aka, The most dangerous item in the house)

Cables and parts

Finally, every good craftsman has a junk cabinet. My father’s contained lots of cables, soldering guns, and spare parts. He also had an entire dresser filled with unopened boxes of RCA and Sylvania vacuum tubes of various sizes and types. There may have been over fifty total. Several years ago he (or more likely, my mother) tossed out the dresser and all the tubes. Too bad. Vacuum tube stereo amplifiers are now quite popular among audio aficionados and replacement vacuum tubes are now selling for $10 to $100 each on eBay.


Assorted audiovisual cables (left); Assorted soldering guns, desoldering pumps, and solder wicks


Assorted potentiometers, transformers, coils, and capacitors (left); Assorted resistors, varistors, transistors, switches, plugs, and light bulbs

All photos by George Taniwaki

Update: Added hyperlinks to references.