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antique VARIAC from M.I.T. Chemical Engineering Dept.

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Electronics461 of 967old INTERMATIC TIME SWITCH in its original cardboard boxWARNER TANK ELECTROPLATER
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    Posted 5 years ago

    (1762 items)

    This item was a rather accidental surprise (or should that be -priZe?) ultimately scored from an eBay auction a few years ago.

    Electrically, a VARIAC is essentially a heavy duty 'adjustable transformer' capable of providing 0 - 130% (or so) of normal wall outlet voltage to any other electric thing plugged into it (think of it as a large "light dimmer") which (in this format, as a standalone device) is generally used as a piece of test equipment on the workbench. In the 'pre-digital' eras of electricity/electronics anyway (not so much now) a VARIAC was an indispensable item for the TV repairman (at least), similar units were (and are, still) also frequently used to regulate electrical heating devices (soldering irons, hot plates, yada yada) in industrial settings like research labs and factories.

    [in our now 'digital' era, one can still use a VARIAC to perform interesting/amusing 'experiments' to find out how things 'fry'...but that's another story not topical here... ;-) ]

    ANYWAY. I was looking for one (for my own workbench) and the seller showed pics of a newer (1960's?) unit (just like I was looking for) while mentioning he had several for sale, with those ominous words "item pictured is typical". <groan> The price was right so I bought it anyway, and was actually delighted when the box arrived and I found this *much older* (1930's, maybe?) unit inside -- even more so with its brass nameplate attached identifying it as former property of (what I presume is) the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE of TECHNOLOGY Chemical Engineering Department -- EXCEPT that it hadn't been packed so well and ultimately had suffered slight physical damage in shipment (broken bakelite switch/plug housing, I have the piece) and also had a defect in its inner mechanisms (which may or may not have been due to the handling) so it didn't really work right anymore either. :-(

    The story ended well -- once I contacted the seller and reported the damage, he volunteered to send another unit at his expense without wanting me to return this one -- and the 2nd one to arrive was not only packed VERY WELL, but also nearly identical to the pictured unit I'd expected to receive and in perfect operating condition -- that one now lives, in fact, on my workbench exactly where I wanted one in the first place...!
    :-) :-) :-)

    [edit] the cord and plug now attached to this are obviously replacements of its originals, but are of high quality which would be expected from the maintenance dept's of an institution such as MIT...?]

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    1. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      A happy ending.
    2. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 years ago
      you can use it for Milgram experiments!!! [just kidding] 'They measured the willingness of study participants, men from a diverse range of occupations with varying levels of education, to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience; the experiment found, unexpectedly, that a very high proportion of people were prepared to obey, albeit unwillingly, even if apparently causing serious injury and distress. ' wikipedia
    3. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 years ago
      on a side note: a friend from mexico showed me a very interesting method to repair hard plastic or bakelite. you mix half/half super glue and baking soda and apply quickly - holding it in place for a few minutes. i tested it on a piece from my car which received a lot of abuse and it held for several years after the repair.
    4. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 5 years ago
      Actually ho2cultcha, I would think it is *highly likely* that Variacs (of differing configurations/ratings, but the same basic device electrically) were indeed part of the equipment used for those 'Milgram Experiments'...? <eeeek>

      Thanks also for the hint for bakelite repair -- I'll keep that in mind -- thanks also to SpiritBear for your comment -- it was indeed a happy ending as I essentially got the item I wanted plus this cooler (if not as useful) one 'for free'...?? :-) :-) :-)
    5. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 5 years ago
      Thanks for the loves, fortapache and blunderbuss2! :-)

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