How where circuits drawn during the 80's

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Robin Mitchell, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. Robin Mitchell

    Thread Starter Distinguished Member

    Oct 25, 2009
    Hi everyone,

    I have always wondered how this was done before computers where common place. How where schematics and PCBs designed before the use of computers?

    If schematics where drawn by hand then where stencils used (like symbol outlines)? Where PCBs routed by hand and every pad draw with pen on some transparent film? How was it all done :S ?

    All the best!
  2. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    This past week I was looking at an electronics design handbook from the 1960s with lovely drawings and text that was right justified.

    Similar thoughts of how did they do this in those days came to mind.

    As far as I can tell, all the drawings, labeling and math equations were drawn by hand using Leroy lettering templates or similar.

    My guess also was that the typesetting was done by hand using lead blocks (in reverse imaging!).

    And I did not notice a single typo error!
  3. nigelwright7557

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 10, 2008
    You could by stencils for digital gates etc

    We used hand drawn schematics and laid pcb's out using film and tape.
  4. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    By hand was how I did it in college, pencils being the first word processor. You developed a knack for drawing back then.
  5. crutschow


    Mar 14, 2008
    When I went to college (well before the 80's) I had to take two semesters of mechanical drawing where you used T-squares and templates at a large drafting table, perhaps 4' x 5'. You used mechanical lead pencils where the lead was sharpened by hand with fine sand paper to give just the right line width (incorrect line width reduced your grade).

    When I first went to work at an engineering firm there was a large room full of draftsman, just to generate all the drawings needed. You'd give them a rough drawing and they would convert it to the neat drawings you see on vellum paper. Some did mechanical drawings and some did electrical and PCB layout. Of course they always loved it when they had completed the drawing and then you made a design change. They all had motor powered rotary erasers for that task. For some neat, permanent drawings they used black ink with Rapidograph pens. You didn't want to make a mistake when doing that. ;)

    So be thankful you can do all that with computers now.
  6. bertus


    Apr 5, 2008

    At school we used to draw using a drawing template like this:


  7. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    Rub-on stencils. Place over hard surface and rub the back with a burnishing tool or pencil.

    From my collection of "vintage" (old) crap. Note, "printed in Holland" to see the age. I am guessing early to mid- 1970s.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  8. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
    I have laid out PCBs using rolls of thin black tape and individual self stick pads applied to mylar. For complex layouts, we used a 4x scale in the layout and reduced it photographically to make an image for the PCB.

    ETA: I was a mere child at the time. :D
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2013
  9. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    This is a project from Elektor magazine from 1974. They probably used a stencil/template and had some schematics expert/artist making them. Notice the PCB. You do not see this style used anymore these days. This complete done by hand. Much like drawn like cartoons was made in those days, and still are made to day. Pure artwork again
  10. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    Think about it. Before computers were invented, everything was drawn with a pencil. Even my transformer guy used a mechanical counter and laid the wires in nice and parallel with his thumbnail.

    Once upon a time, I did a 1/4 inch, round, PC board that pretty much filled up an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper. Then my friend with a print shop reduced it to 1/4 inch and printed about 400 copies per page on a transparent substance. I used that to make a contact print on photosensitive circuit board.

    Most of my old stuff was black resist pen on a copper clad board. Dissolve the extra copper off and go to the drill press to put a bunch of holes in it.

    I am glad I took 2 semesters of Mechanical Drawing in High School. As recently as 4 years ago, I was able to save $3000 by doing my own drawings for the building inspector. It took me about 2 weeks, but it sure plugged up a cash leak.
    Metalmann likes this.
  11. Papabravo


    Feb 24, 2006
    2-layer PCBs were layed out at 4:1 using red and blue tape for the top and bottom layers. The layers were held in place with a device called a pin bar that registered and aligned the sheets of mylar. The 4:1 "artmaster" was shot with a camera to produce 1:1 negatives which were used to expose photo resist on the board which then went into an etching solution. Nowadays the "gerber" plots make the 1:1 mask directly
  12. Metalmann

    Active Member

    Dec 8, 2012

    Yeah, I still have quite a bit of my old drawing sets, and tools. Kinda miss those days when everything was done without keyboards and software.

    Anything I design and build nowadays, is still drawn out on paper, since I do not understand things like Corel. My Buddy gave me that program several years ago, and I still don't get it.:D Probably never will.;)

    Something else, nothing quite like opening a large cabinet full of fresh blueprints. I can still smell it.
    shortbus likes this.
  13. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    #12, I've had the same experience. Did a lot of detailed drawings for community theater sets. Also, drew a set of elevations for an addition I wanted that was useful in negotiating with contractors. And, like you, drew up the plans for the inspector/contractor when building my summer home.

    The basic skills are still useful, even when using CAD tools, because you can figure out how to draw something complex.
  14. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
    I'm not sure why it was right justified. Books in the 50's and 60's were probably offset printed in a similar way to books today, and would have used negatives and optically exposed printing plates.

    Manual typesetting was used in some small town newspapers (to allow fast time to press) up until the 70's or so, but would have been very rare in books.

    Also if manually typeset, you start with the first char on a line anyway so it would have been left justified. Why set each line and then move it to the right?

    Yep, we used that in the college in the 70's and 80's, the stencils were double sized (2:1) and when the artwork was done and checked on a light box it was exposed to PCB using a 2:1 optical reducer.

    Actually most stuff in a drawing office was done in ink, they had technical drawing pens with black ink for many decades before computers. ;)
  15. Dr.killjoy

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013

    Where Can I get one of these???
  16. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
    Mine's older than yours: no IC's.
    absf likes this.
  17. KL7AJ

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
    The hard way! :)
  18. absf

    Senior Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    The exact one - I dont think you can get it anymore...

    But there are quite a few on eBay under "electronic template" & "collectibles"

  19. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    I like the tube filament in the bottom left.

    Interesting that your template is model #401. It makes me wonder which symbols were on the earlier versions ...

    model 100
    model 10,
    model 1 (includes only key and kite symbols?)
    shortbus likes this.
  20. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    Rapidograph pens, in various thicknesses from (as I remember) .35mm to .7mm. You had to clean them religiously after each use, or they would semi-permanently clog.

    Sometimes, you would place scraps of drafting tape under the stencil to prevent ink bleed. Drafting tape was a less sticky version of masking tape. Some stencils had dimples to raise themselves off the paper for this purpose while others had slight undercuts on each symbol. It depended on your student budget what you had.

    Besides the electric eraser, one would also have a fine horse hair brush to brush off the rubber bits, and something like a rosin bag (cloth bag filled with powder) to pick up the fine graphite left on the page.

    A parallel rule helped create parallel horizontal lines while a triangle was used for parallel vertical lines (relative to a horizontal baseline). A compass was used for measurement, such as when you wanted an evenly spaced set of parallel lines; to evenly space logic gates on a schematic.

    There were also lettering stencils, but most hand labelled between two guidelines.

    For an important school project, I would lay it out in pencil before doing the final drawing in ink.

    Some 40 years later, I still have some of the drawings on file (pack rat!)