Dream Workspace in Studio City, Los Angeles, CA

George Lydecker, an electrical engineer based in Studio City, Los Angeles, has one of the best-equipped electronic workspaces we’ve seen in a long time. The super-organized space serves as an electronics lab, home office, ham radio station, and technical library. Prepare to be impressed, inspired and even a little jealous of this dream workspace.

George Lydecker, an electrical engineer based in Studio City, Los Angeles, has one of the best-equipped electronic workspaces we’ve seen in a long time. The super-organized space serves as an electronics lab, home office, ham radio station, and technical library. Prepare to be impressed, inspired and even a little jealous of this dream workspace.

Tell us about you. What is your current occupation?

I am a recently retired electronics engineer who has worked primarily in audio, video, RF, networking and computers. Past projects have included everything from designing audio and video installations to developing many flavors of multimedia content. I converted art departments from traditional art systems into computer graphics workstations, including networking, scanning and color proofing. I also set up a major record company’s first online presence in early 1994 by installing their first T-1 web server and creating the first web page.

I have obtained eight patents in audio, video and data standards. For my watermark selection work, I obtained the patent “Method and apparatus for testing the quality of recorded information” (US5903701). And for my work in audio, I obtained the patent “Method and system for automatic verification of derived digital files” (US7197458). I have a degree in electronic engineering and have taken postgraduate courses in geometric optics, computer graphics, machine tool practices and packet filters. When I was vice president of research and development for a large music company, almost everything interested me and still interests me. This includes amateur radio, astronomy, computers and machining.

Figure 1: Take a peek inside this well-appointed workspace.

How would you best describe your workspace? What do you use for that?

I use my dedicated space as an electronics lab, office, amateur radio station, and technical library. In the lab image (Figure 1), you will see a large number of books. Having reference material handy can be very helpful. In the center of the room, I have a desk that is used for online research. Additional shelves above the desk hold amateur radios when I’m on the air. Much of the time is spent on the bench working on projects or fixing equipment.

Describe the location. When you designed the workspace, did you have any specific requirements?

My lab was included in the design of our house when we built it in 2008. The intention was to create an office and lab space for my work. I have a second dedicated workspace in our basement garage. Now that I am retired, I am upgrading this second space with additional shelving and improved lighting. I also install shop air intakes to allow the use of air tools.

When I built the space, it was designed as a home office where I could read, research, and write. He also needed a lab space where I could work on electronic equipment for the studios. This could be the evaluation and modification of equipment. On some projects, this may include the development of custom test equipment and test fixtures.

What about your technical interests? What kind of projects do you work on in your space?

As an engineer who worked primarily with audio gear, I unsurprisingly have a great deal of interest in vintage tube/tube gear. When I was working, this interest was driven by other engineers on the team who preferred to use more vintage tube/tube studio gear. Needless to say when I found out ElektorI instantly became a fan of Jan’s retrotronic articles. My copy of 80 Tales from the Electronic Past holds a special place in my library.

Now that I am retired, I have time to devote to restoring old test equipment. That doesn’t mean I’m stuck in the past. My latest release is a Raspberry Pi/Arduino development station. The Raspberry Pi allows me to experiment with the Arduino or can be used independently to try out different circuits. It is shown in the image of my workbench (Figure 2).

George Lydecker's workbench in his Dream Workspace
Figure 2: The Raspberry Pi/Arduino development station is on the workbench.

Can you tell us about your equipment and tools in your space?

My laboratory is quite well equipped. I have a good selection of power supplies, oscilloscopes, signal generators, frequency counters and spectrum analyzers. Most of the equipment is vintage and was acquired at ham radio swap meets or surplus stores. Many acquisitions required repairs.

When I built my bench, I placed the work surface above two large toolboxes. It keeps my hand tools close at hand when I’m working on a project. Unused test equipment is stored on wire shelves in the lab. I also have several large pieces of Hewlett Packard equipment. This includes a frequency counter, function generator, radio frequency signal generator, vector signal analyzer and spectrum analyzer. Due to their weight and size, I have them in rolling racks that allow them to be moved to the bench when needed.

What is your most important or beloved piece of equipment or benchtop tool?

For me, the oscilloscope will always be the most popular tool on the bench. Currently I use a LeCroy 960 WavePro. This oscilloscope is an upgrade from the Tektronix 7854 I used before. In addition to its functionality as an oscilloscope, I appreciate that it has the ability to directly measure time, period, voltage, and other parameters. It can save me time because I don’t have to hook up additional test equipment for less critical measurements.

Is there anything special you would like to point out about your space?

My bench is the hub of the lab space. The dimensions are similar to the bench described in the 1949 book published by the Atomic Energy Commission, Electronic experimental techniques. Some models are timeless. The objective was to create an ergonomic space where everything is within easy reach. I recently upgraded the bench with additional lighting where I can control brightness and color temperature. I also added wire shelves to hold additional test equipment, projects, and parts. As I was able to design the room to suit my needs, I included a number of 3″ diameter ducts that go to the garage, roof, and outside. This allows me to add cables for things like antennas and fiber optic lines. (I leave a nylon cord in the conduit to make it easier to insert new wires.)

Projects for your workspace? Maybe additional hardware or tools?
I think my next lab update will be a 3D printer. I don’t know how I’m going to manage the space it would require. As I work towards this goal, I have taken the time to learn what open source CAD solutions are available. Currently I am studying FreeCAD and OpenSCAD.

Of all your electronic projects, do you have a favourite? What did you build and why?
I have built a number of projects, both for me and for my work. This included a controller for my home-built CNC mill, a system for doing listening tests, which I got a patent for, and a UVC sterilizer for masks and mail. My current favorite is an analog ESR tester and it’s probably one of the simplest things I’ve designed and built. It’s become a favorite because it’s been so handy for finding bad capacitors in everything from vintage equipment to motor capacitors in our air conditioner. I’m sure my next favorite will be the Raspberry Pi/Arduino development station I mentioned earlier. I look forward to developing my Python and C language skills.

What are you currently working on?
For my Arduino project, I want to build a replacement device for the thermal printer used in the Tektronix 1503 time domain reflectometer. The thermal printer is difficult to maintain and paper is even harder to find. It makes sense to offer a solution that prints or generates a digital file.

Variations of this project might be useful for other equipment that has analog X, Y, and Pen Lift outputs. My other fun project was inspired by Walter Trojan’s AI series. I recently purchased an Nvidia Jetson Nano to experiment with Google TensorFlow. Right now, the project is in the initial build stage to get everything working, including the Linux operating system. I chose Nvidia because of my interest in GPU architecture. Also, Nvidia has great resources including GIT repositories with test programs.

Do you have a dream project or something you would like to tackle?
My dream project would be a huge business. I have a DEC PDP 11 in storage that I would like to revive. This computer is old enough to have real central memory. A project of this magnitude would definitely test my engineering abilities. The goal would be to run the UNIX operating system on this computer. The project would require the collection of peripherals, documentation and software. I have already collected some parts including 8ʺ floppy disk drives and a set of schematics.

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for other engineers considering creating an electronics workspace?
Of course, this series from Elektor is a fabulous resource. I like to browse the other Elektor Workspace Submissions to see what others have done. I will also admit to looking for ideas online. Do an image search on Google for “DIY electronic workbench” and you’ll find plenty of ideas. To find and repair test equipment, I recommend joining groups and forums. I am active in the Tektronix and Hewlett Packard groups, and this has been very helpful in getting the equipment working again. I can also recommend the book Build your own electronics workshop by Thomas Petruzzellis. And, finally, stay curious.

Want ideas for your own dream workspace? Take a look at these electronic workspaces.

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