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Electronic organ lore - sort of

A discussion forum for anything even marginally Hauptwerk-related.

Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby engrssc » Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:18 pm

"Jon Hammond"]Thanks for the memories guys.


Jon's memories comment http://forum.hauptwerk.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=16287 triggered the following strange recall. :roll:

The idea of "memories" brought to mind an "experience" I made many years ago. I was quite involved in a major sound system installation in a Jewish Synagogue in the Chicago area. They had a large 2 manual electronic that I admired (from a distance). Several times I met the tech who cared for the organ. The console was located in a second floor room (stage right) overlooking and open to the auditorium. The speakers were mounted face up in a top compartment of the Ark (on the front platform) where the Torah and other religious items were kept. The sound (for it's time) was quite impressive). The (electron tube oscillators using many 6SN7's) were mounted in many 12" deep racks with the oscillator panels mounted back to back in these 4.5 foot high racks. (The "custom" racks were 3 ft across) There approx 200 such oscillators and these racks were located in the attic basically over where the console (on the 2nd level) was located. So in affect, these racks were at least 4 stories above ground level.

Came the time when a donation was made by a member for a new state of the art Allen to be installed with the above organ being offered (to me) free, just for removing it. I could go on about the removal process which is a story all of it's own. But I won't.

The organ was interesting, esp the story behind it. It seems the design was of a very early Allen organ. Three persons decided to go into the electronic organ building business. As the story goes, these 3 went to a funeral where an Allen organ (this type) was installed. They hid in the church after the funeral, and when everyone was gone, they basically took this organ apart and copied the circuits after which they put it back together and left. No Idea how long that took, but apparently they got all the information they needed.

Then they started to build their own "version" using hand wound coils (inductors) with all the capacitors, resistors and electron tubes etc. As I said above, this organ (that they built for the Synagogue) used over 200 of these tube oscillators, 4 power supplies and 4 power amps each with 4 - 6L6's. Interestingly, that system drew lots of power. :o When I reinstalled it, I provided for a single 20 amp circuit for the osc racks and when turned on, immediately blew the 20 Amp breaker. Found I needed 2 - 30 amp circuits. When turned on, that oscillator room/area was more than toasty. As you can imagine, this organ was greatly unified. using many elaborate filters. The basic oscillators were mainly either sine wave or saw tooth generators.

Tuning was done by turning adjustable carbon slugs in or out of those hand wound coils and fine tuned by adjusting variable capacitors which moved 2 small metal plates toward or away from each other.

The other item of note (literally) was a note inside the console warning not to look at the blue ray coming from one of the tubes in the console's power supply. As suspected, when checked, sure enough x-rays were being emitted. That was quickly removed and replaced. Something else in the console was evidence that a selenium rectifier had been installed backwards. There was physical evidence, but also still remained that unforgettable smell of a burnt selenium, a kin, in my book, to road kill skunk. :shock: :mrgreen:

I commend anyone who suffered by reading all of this down to this point. .What a long distance we've come now having Hauptwerk.

BTW, only 10 of those "bootlegged" organs were built, before Allen's patent attorneys shut that "facility" down. I purposely didn't mention the name of that organ. If someone absolutely for sure has to know, PM me.

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby BachsFugue » Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:03 pm

Fascinating! Thank you for sharing your memories.
Cole Votaw -- Springfield, Ohio, USA
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby engrssc » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:36 am

This "add-on" post memory is a bit of a stretch of related to Hauptwerk, but .

After working at that synagogue mentioned above for a time, one got to know the maintenance engineer, Jim. who also was very interested in that (Allen) "copied" organ. Besides everything else, Jim made coffee each day which was always brewing in the kitchen of this synagogue's fellowship area. I remember commenting to Jim how good the coffee was that he brewed and asked his "secret". He used Hills Brothers coffee, but he never changed the grounds, at least not all of them. Instead every morning he would remove one (measuring) cup of the "old" grounds and add one cup of fresh H/B coffee to the "basket" and then add enough water up to the 40 cup mark of the commercial coffee maker. :o All this talked about doing some update work on the church H/W organ last night with a couple helper friends. (In the broadcast business we used to refer to such idle times as slow news days where the on air commentators had to stretch whatever "news" they had.) :roll:

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby Eric Sagmuller » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:26 pm

Thanks Ed. I am very familiar with the tubes you mentioned, during my early years of electronics work. Brings back alot of memories repairing TV's and stereo systems. Things have sure changed since then. Sometimes I'm not sure for the better though what all the electronics contribute to this day and age. Electronic organ wise though, yes the better for sure!

Eric
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby engrssc » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:25 pm

Eric Sagmuller wrote:Sometimes I'm not sure for the better though what all the electronics contribute to this day and age.


In that vein, some states are treating DUIE (driving under the influence of electronics) as if it were DUI. Even just holding a device in one's hand is considered to be breaking the law. (Akin to holding a beer bottle while driving maybe?)

Obviously being distracted is bad when driving. But yesterday the driver in front of me was driving looking at the passenger no doubt while talking for a long time and almost hit another car. :mrgreen: So far I haven't seen anyone distracted by trying to play an instrument while driving. :roll:

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby ChangedForever » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:03 am

Ed,

Thanks for the lore.

I started at IBM right AFTER their mainframes stopped using wire wrapped core memory. I remember dispatching one tech to refresh some wraps... after that call, we stopped supporting them. I think the LARGE room the memory was in held a whopping 256 Kilobytes!! Most computers I build now I always pop 32 - 64 GB in them. Memory is so small and so cheap now-a-days...

Just sharing,
Mark
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby jonr » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:58 pm

Hi Ed,

Your description reminded me of my first organ, an Allen W3, which used a lot of 6SN7s. I bought it used in 1974, and was told by the Allen service rep that it was manufactured in 1947. The organ you described sounds much larger.

The console was excellent, MUCH better than the Allen system 122 that I traded it in for in 1977. Sometimes I wished that I had kept the old console.

There were two distinct features of the W3 that I remember. All the stops were of 8' pitch. The organ had many inter and intra manual couplers, which could result in a nice sounding chorus.

The other unusual feature was the tremolo. It was mechanical, and consisted of two comb-like structures. One was stationary and the other moved back and forth, causing the tremolo (or more accurately vibrato I believe). Occasionally it would get stuck, which resulted in a celeste effect (sometimes pleasing - sometimes not).

In any case I have fond memories of the W3. Thanks for sharing your story.

Jon
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Re: Electronic organ lore - sort of

Postby engrssc » Fri Aug 04, 2017 7:38 pm

The organ I described had a quite involved mechanical keying system. When you pressed a key, it moved (or better said) rotated a crank type (gold plated) rod which when it rotated, made contact with one or more fine silver "wires" or not depending if that row of silver wires were positioned (to make contact.) I referred to these silver wires as cat's whiskers.

There were small, thin square wooden movable 'rods/strips' across the width of the console with 61 holes to accommodate these (61 per row) cat's whiskers. At one end of each square rod was a solenoid which when energized, positioned a particular row of 61 cat's whiskers such that when the "crank" was turned by pressing a key, these silver wires would come into contact with the crank. The row of silver wires for the 8', 4' and 2' registers were normalled to "play without their solenoid being energized. When "their" solenoid was energized, it moved these respective cat's whiskers out of position to avoid making contact with a rod.

A diode matrix would probably have simplified this setup.

In other words, this mechanical system served as the couplers..The silver wires were connected thru a huge "umbilical" cord to the individual oscillators. So when this B+ voltage "arrived" at a particular (tube oscillator circuit) that note would sound. Connected to each oscillator were filter components which 'shaped' the sound.
That "umbilical" cord ended up being approx 105 feet long as the console was installed in the front of the church and the oscillator racks were located in the attic at the rear. To accommodate these wires, we installed PVC conduit outside which ran the length of the church under the eaves. The length of this cable (telephone company PBX cables) wasn't an issue as the low current voltage drop didn't matter.

For the most part, altho it was quite the "contraption", it worked quite well. Occasionally, a silver wire needed some very slight adjustment. For this adjustment, I used small, tiny (for lack of better word) tweezers which I actually got from a dentist. I never had to clean these silver wires as they were passing enough voltage plus the wiping "action" kept them clean.

I don't know if this was the "factory" prescribed method for making such adjustments, but it worked as in you do what you gotta do.

I'm guessing the completed console was purchased by these wannabe organ builders as the console was relatively well made.

Working our way up from those days gives one an appreciation of what is available today which of course includes Hauptwerk.

Rgds,
Ed
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