On a roll now, Brad straightened out the solid copper-sheathed coax and looked at it very carefully. The connectors were soldered to the copper outer, and all you could see at the ends were the tiny gold contact pins. Brad decided to clamp the coax, barely three inches long, in a soft-jawed vice and pull out the contact pins (plus broken wire) with pliers. Then he was going to solder the pins to a new piece of wire and thread it back into the cable. This last step sounded a bit difficult, but Brad waved aside all objections, applied the pliers and pulled. The pin slid out effortlessly, attached to less than a couple of inches of wire.
"See, I told you so, it really is broken!" Brad now tugged at the other pin which rather more reluctantly slid out, attached to an inch of thick wire, plus a tiny Teflon sleeve and a hair-thin probe about another inch long. On closer inspection we saw that the apparently solid wire attached to the first pin was actually hollow to accommodate the sleeve and probe. It was suddenly obvious that the link wasn't just a broken piece of wire, but was in reality a marvel of miniature microwave engineering.
An uncomfortable silence fell on the assembled group. One of the paramp team members reached belatedly for the service manual and read out something like "link 4 incorporates a coaxial broadband choke assembly to provide DC isolation between paramp 3 and the tunnel diode module." Totally embarrassed, Brad tried to persuade the probe and sleeve back into the cable and align it with the hollow wire but it wouldn't budge. When removed, the probe was completely buckled.
It took 48 hours to get a replacement choke by air from the US, during which time Brad and the paramp team fussed over the surviving paramp, just willing it not to fail. Finally, the spare part arrived and was fitted, and the incident forgotten. The moral is to read the instructions before making wild assumptions, and perhaps for managers and deputy managers to trust their engineers to get on with the work without interference.
Rod Hine graduated from Churchill College in Cambridge, England. He worked in satellite communications, meteorological telecoms, and then general automation, machine tools, and industrial control systems. He has also lectured in electronic engineering and cybernetics.
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