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Interesting blog entry about switching power supplies and Steve Jobs

Started by Joel Koltner March 8, 2012
Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped 
off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple 
II.  Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting 
article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: 
http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html

Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course.

---Joel
Joel Koltner wrote:

> Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped > off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple > II. Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting > article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: > http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > > Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course.
Switching power supplies were used in computers when Steve Jobs was likely still in diapers. I worked on a switching supply out of an SDS computer that was probably built before 1965. IBM 360's had an innovative sort of a switching supply. They had a huge box in the back of the 360/50 and 65 called the converter/inverter. It took 208 3-phase power, converted to DC and then ran an SCR inverter at 5 KHz. Then, 5 KHz pseudo sine-wave power was run to all the local power supplies, like 5 V 100 A, which had minimal regulation due to regulated input. I'm sure there were other systems that also used switching regulators quite early. The PDP-11/45 had a bunch or switching regulator modules to produce 5 V and memory/aux voltages, not sure exactly when that model came out, but also pre-Apple, i suspect. Jon
On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 16:23:51 -0600, Jon Elson <jmelson@wustl.edu>
wrote:

>Joel Koltner wrote: > >> Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped >> off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple >> II. Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting >> article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: >> http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html >> >> Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. >Switching power supplies were used in computers when Steve Jobs was likely >still in diapers. I worked on a switching supply out of an SDS computer >that was probably built before 1965. IBM 360's had an innovative sort >of a switching supply. They had a huge box in the back of the 360/50 >and 65 called the converter/inverter. It took 208 3-phase power, >converted to DC and then ran an SCR inverter at 5 KHz. Then, 5 KHz >pseudo sine-wave power was run to all the local power supplies, like >5 V 100 A, which had minimal regulation due to regulated input. >I'm sure there were other systems that also used switching regulators >quite early. The PDP-11/45 had a bunch or switching regulator modules >to produce 5 V and memory/aux voltages, not sure exactly when that model >came out, but also pre-Apple, i suspect. > >Jon
TDK credits NASA with developing SMPS designs for spacecraft in the early 1960s.. and they say they and the predecessor to Lambda started manufacturing them "about 1970". Of course, the original 1976 Apple I had a linear supply (60Hz transformer not supplied). http://xeobits.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/apple-1-advertisement.jpg
Jon Elson wrote:
> IBM 360's had an innovative sort > of a switching supply. They had a huge box in the back of the 360/50 > and 65 called the converter/inverter. It took 208 3-phase power, > converted to DC and then ran an SCR inverter at 5 KHz.
Cool. Any idea what current PC power supplies' switching frequency is? I've read that the good quality (power efficient) ones these days have moved to resonant architectures, which I remember for years being told was one of those technologies that was too complex or fiddly to ever take beyond the lab and into full production -- particularly for consumer electronics! I mean, I'm still astonished when I see a regular PC-sized power supply and the specs on the thing are that it can put out a kilowatt at a guaranteed minimum efficiency of 80% and peak efficiency of 95% or so. ---Joel
On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 14:02:14 -0800, Joel Koltner
<zapwire-usenet@yahoo.com> wrote:

>Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped >off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple >II. Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting >article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: >http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > >Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course.
Car radios had switching power supplies in the 1950s: http://www.vintagecarradio.com/store/popup_image.php?pID=133&image=0 -- John
On Mar 8, 5:06=C2=A0pm, JOF <qu...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 14:02:14 -0800, Joel Koltner > > <zapwire-use...@yahoo.com> wrote: > >Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped > >off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple > >II. =C2=A0Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interest=
ing
> >article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: > >http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > > >Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. > > Car radios had switching power supplies in the 1950s: > > http://www.vintagecarradio.com/store/popup_image.php?pID=3D133=E2=84=91=
=3D0 Even earlier switch mode power supply: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Model_T_Ford_ignition_circuit_%28Montagu,= _Cars_and_Motor-Cycles,_1928%29.jpg
On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 16:23:51 -0600, Jon Elson wrote:

> Joel Koltner wrote: > >> Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped >> off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple >> II. Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting >> article that provides a well-researched history of what really >> happened: >> http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html >> >> Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. > Switching power supplies were used in computers when Steve Jobs was > likely still in diapers. I worked on a switching supply out of an SDS > computer that was probably built before 1965. IBM 360's had an > innovative sort of a switching supply. They had a huge box in the back > of the 360/50 and 65 called the converter/inverter. It took 208 3-phase > power, converted to DC and then ran an SCR inverter at 5 KHz. Then, 5 > KHz pseudo sine-wave power was run to all the local power supplies, like > 5 V 100 A, which had minimal regulation due to regulated input. I'm sure > there were other systems that also used switching regulators quite > early. The PDP-11/45 had a bunch or switching regulator modules to > produce 5 V and memory/aux voltages, not sure exactly when that model > came out, but also pre-Apple, i suspect. > > Jon
SDS had the same thing. The PT-15 (I think, I'd have to pull out the manual) took the AC and converted to a DC square wave that was fed to the local supplies in the door frames. See http://sigma9.info -- Chisolm Texas
On Mar 9, 2:03=C2=A0am, spamtrap1888 <spamtrap1...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mar 8, 5:06=C2=A0pm, JOF <qu...@yahoo.com> wrote: > > > On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 14:02:14 -0800, Joel Koltner > > > <zapwire-use...@yahoo.com> wrote: > > >Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped > > >off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple > > >II. =C2=A0Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an intere=
sting
> > >article that provides a well-researched history of what really happene=
d:
> > >http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > > > >Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. > > > Car radios had switching power supplies in the 1950s: > > >http://www.vintagecarradio.com/store/popup_image.php?pID=3D133=E2=84=91=
=3D0
> > Even earlier switch mode power supply: > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Model_T_Ford_ignition_circuit_%28Mo...
Car radios had switchers right from the beginning, vibrator based. I think that and rotary converters were the only practical options. NT
On Mar 8, 9:38=C2=A0pm, NT <meow2...@care2.com> wrote:
> On Mar 9, 2:03=C2=A0am, spamtrap1888 <spamtrap1...@gmail.com> wrote: > > > > > On Mar 8, 5:06=C2=A0pm, JOF <qu...@yahoo.com> wrote: > > > > On Thu, 08 Mar 2012 14:02:14 -0800, Joel Koltner > > > > <zapwire-use...@yahoo.com> wrote: > > > >Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripp=
ed
> > > >off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Appl=
e
> > > >II. =C2=A0Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an inte=
resting
> > > >article that provides a well-researched history of what really happe=
ned:
> > > >http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > > > > >Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. > > > > Car radios had switching power supplies in the 1950s: > > > >http://www.vintagecarradio.com/store/popup_image.php?pID=3D133=E2=84=
=91=3D0
> > > Even earlier switch mode power supply: > > >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Model_T_Ford_ignition_circuit_%28Mo... > > Car radios had switchers right from the beginning, vibrator based. I > think that and rotary converters were the only practical options. >
Mechanically chopped DC fed to a step-up transformer was common to both automotive tube radios and to the earliest car ignitions. The tube sets did use a rectifier, though.
In article <H%96r.96555$Xo4.23491@en-nntp-13.dc1.easynews.com>, Joel
Koltner <zapwire-usenet@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Steves Jobs would've had you believe that the computer industry ripped > off Apple's idea to use a switcher as their power supply in the Apple > II. Reality is, of course, rather different -- this is an interesting > article that provides a well-researched history of what really happened: > http://www.arcfn.com/2012/02/apple-didnt-revolutionize-power.html > > Not that Jobs and Apple didn't create many innovations, of course. > > ---Joel
I worked at SDS, mainly on Sigms 6/7/9. Switching power supplies all over the place. I also worked at some S-100 companies (8080/Z80 based systems) before joining Apple in 1980. The competing S-100 systems had linear supplies -- huge, heavy transformers. One of the places Apple innovated was having an inexpensive, consumer-grade switching supply (thanks to Rod Holt, among others). I remember being at some of those early West Coast Computer Faires and looking at the Apple ][ in comparison to my company's S-100 system -- the Apple ][ was so light. I remember thinking if they'd had an upper/lower case keyboard and an 80 character display on the early Apple ][ computers (both features came later), we'd be so screwed... SO yes, the use of a switching supply in a multi-slot was a big distinguishing factor in that early micro market, one which spoke to a fundamental difference between Apple and companies like North Star, SOL, Poly, IMSAI, SWTPC, and the others -- Apple was backed by a LOT of money, enough money that they could afford that molded case (and the tooling to produce it), those switching supplies, and more.