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Thread: Techno-Archeology: TimeLine Product Documentation and Upkeep

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    Techno-Archeology: TimeLine Product Documentation and Upkeep

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    Sadly, the TimeLine company is no more (they closed shop sometime in 2000 according to Bloomberg). In their day they produced some excellent products for the synchronization of various pieces of professional and semi-professional studio gear, particularly Analog Tape Recorders (ATR's), and later- Digital Tape Recorders (DTR's).

    Two companies continued on, headed by former employees of TimeLine - Session Control (maker of the T/L Sync unit)- lead by Gerry Lester; and T/L Services - lead by Bill McMeekin (TimeLine product manufacturing, testing and servicing), but they too closed shop (approximately 2009 was the last internet prescence noted of either of them).

    With the closing of those two shops, all remaining hope for the servicing and maintaining of these useful products (many still utilized daily) was lost... until now!!
    Although there isn't any official company that can perform vital repair and maintenance for the products, with the right information, you, or a competent electronics tech in your local area can perform basic repairs and upkeep to keep them running for possibly another several decades, until the world-wide supply of parts diminishes to zero.

    It is up to us to support each other. It is only through the collective power of the end users that the TimeLine legacy can continue, and as many threads on this and other sites have proven: there is no practical limit to the ways in which even small, personal efforts have proven invaluable to the world-wide group of users as a whole.

    An example: as of just 4 weeks ago, very little remained on the internet (therefore publically and easily available) of any extensive TimeLine Microlynx documentation, such as the critical information to make cables for the unit... then BAM! Along come this very forums' members- miroslav, sweetbeats, timkroeger, jpmorris, evm1024, cjacek, pianodano and others, and long lost documents, experience, and other critical information are provided to the entire world! It only took them having foresight years ago to collect such information and store it in their memories or personal archives, and then later graciously help another potential user (myself) out in a public way, and all users everywhere can reap the rewards. Wow! Go Team!

    The purpose of this thread is to provide a centralized knowledgebase for the products produced by TimeLine, Inc. (later known as TimeLine Vista). All submissions are welcome, particularly any information or documentation regarding these rare and useful products.

    Ever heard of a company called Tascam? How about Alesis? TimeLine co-produced or fully produced several products (marketed by both named companies, possibly others)
    such as the Tascam MX-2424 Modular Digital Multi-track recorder (MDM)and MM-8 Digital Dubber (for film and video editing), and the Alesis AI-2 ADAT Synchronizer.

    Ever heard of Apogee, Avid, Logic? Their early Manuals, Application Notes and other documentation either specifically called out the TimeLine Lynx, Lynx-2 and Microlynx, or inspired built-in features into to their DAW-related products to accomodate or integrate their systems with TimeLine products (or systems like them such as the Adams-Smith Zeta 3, or Tascam's own ATS-500 and MTS-1000 Midiizer).

    Ever wonder where DAWs such Pro-Tools, Logic, or Cubase got the idea (or need) to utilize a "clock" that described time in Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames? It was because they needed to be taken seriously by the engineers, producers, etc. of the era that used SMPTE timecode to run their large-frame ATRs, Video Tape Recorders (VTRs), and other film and audio production equipment. The engineers needed to synchronize, "slave", "resolve" or otherwise control and co-ordinate the running of multiple machines in a larger professional studio system, and products such as the ones produced by TimeLine allowed them to accomplish this.

    Indeed, some would say that if Pro-Tools hadn't found a way of synchronizing itself in a studio environment using SMPTE, DAWs as we know them wouldn't have been able to gain acceptance by the major film and audio producers; and serious, affordable digital recording might have been delayed by quite some time for us all.

    Many of the current and potential users out there might not see the point to this thread, until a problem arises with their units, or they need to use one to try to slave their older ATR to their DAW with better stability and accuracy than other methods, or they need to maintain studio sync for Out of The Box (OTB) mixing, etc. I can say that to some, the in-depth technical stuff might be dry, boring, or otherwise make their "eyes glaze over" (thanks for that point miroslav), but when you need to build that cable to get that widget to work, here's where you can possibly find the answers.

    I would like to take a moment to pay my deepest respects to former forum member pianodano (Danny Skittlethorp), and my condolences to all who knew and loved him.
    You were "one of the good guys" as sweetbeats said, and your contributions here and elsewhere will be sorely missed. As I've posted once before:
    "May the keys you now tickle awe the harps to silence!" R.I.P.

    Onward and upward, all!
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-11-2018 at 09:15. Reason: added data

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    First, A Word of Thanks

    Before I get truly started, let me just begin with an expandable list of folks here I would like to thank personally for their generous contribution to my knowledge about TimeLine products, and for taking the time to respond to my inquiries, particularly regarding the Microlynx (in no particular order regarding importance, you're all important!):

    1. Thanks, sweetbeats
    2. Thanks, miroslav
    3. Thanks, timkroeger
    4. Thanks, jpmorris
    5. Thanks, pianodano (R.I.P. man)
    6. Thanks, shark (gearslutz forum)

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    A List of Valuable Threads On This Home Recording Website

    The following threads have been invaluable in gathering info, and getting a good start with my exploration of TimeLine products, and ATR sync issues in general:

    Microlynx Facts:

    1. Micro Lynx + Tape Deck + DAW

    2. Replacement Timeline Microlynx power supplies?

    3. Fabricating Timeline Micro Lynx transport cables

    Using a Microlynx:

    1. Tascam BR-20T Story...
    Particularly useful regarding the Microlynx are the posts #53 (pg. 6), through post #128 (pg.13)
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-11-2018 at 08:43. Reason: data added

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    Documentation: User Manual - Original Lynx (Lynx 1)

    So, starting from the beginning of TimeLine's product history, here are the available copies in PDF form of the Lynx 1 (1st generation) also known as the Lynx Timecode Module.

    User's, Owner's, or Operation Manuals - Sometimes referred to by the aforementioned names, these help guide the average user to understand and utilize the unit's features:

    1. Lynx 1 Manual, earliest known edition:
    Lynx-1 User Manual - EPROM Rev L409-6 (016)(09-02-1986).pdf

    2. Lynx 1 Manual:
    A. Lynx 1 Manual, pgs. 1-29:
    Lynx-1 User Manual - Part 1 - EPROM Rev L409-6 (XXX-A)(12-29-1987).pdf

    Of note: The hand-written telephone numbers on the 1st page (now obviously long defunct), for TimeLine offices, both when they were still in New York ((212) 961-0330) and after they had moved to California ((619) 727-3300).

    B. Lynx 1 Manual, pgs. 30-49; + Lynx SAL (Stand ALone) software update (Rev. L-409-6) pgs. 1-8; + SAL Timecode Module Appendix 1:
    Lynx-1 User Manual - Part 2 - EPROM Rev L409-6 (XXX-A)(12-29-1987).pdf

    Manual Supplements - These often accompanied new Firmware Revisions which had new features, revised features which required explanation, or bug fixes:
    1. Lynx 1 (a.k.a. Lynx Timecode Module) Manual Supplement #MS 92-007:
    Lynx-1 Manual Supplement MS 92-007 - EPROM Rev V500-26L (73B007-G)(03-06-1995).pdf

    2. Lynx 1 Manual Supplement #MS 93-004:
    Lynx-1 Manual Supplement MS 93-004 - Film EPROM F500-26G (73B019-A)(09-10-1993).pdf

    3. Lynx 1 Manual Supplement #MS 93-006:
    Lynx-1 Manual Supplement MS 93-006 - EPROM L500-26H (73B021-B)(06-19-1997).pdf

    Miscellaneous Articles - These weren't necessarily from TimeLine, but help illuminate the subject:
    1. A sort of Lynx 1 primer or lab document, probably meant for students at the University of Tacoma:
    The Practitioners Guide - Lynx Timecode Module Overview.pdf
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-21-2018 at 15:05. Reason: new data, file name revisions

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    I wasn't aware we could attach arbitrary files. That neatly solves the problem of "where to put the Lynx ROM images". I'll try and remember to add them tonight.

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    @jpmorris - I think the files are somewhat restricted to photo image files (JPEG, PNG and the like) and certain document formats, such as .TXT, .DOC, and .PDF. However, perhaps we could work out a way around those restrictions, I would dearly love to see the ROM images available somewhere. If not here, then perhaps over at one of the sites that harbors ROM images for synths?
    Here's a few options:

    1. DBWBP.com - Synthesizer ROM archive
    It might require a friendly E-Mail to the site owner to verify he'd be alright with the idea, but it seems to be the most extensively referenced site I've come across, the closest to a "public archive" I've seen thus far. There have apparently been many submissions, and he might be "into it".

    2. Alternatively, there may be a way to convert .BIN to .TXT files, which this website would support. I just read a short article about it here:
    How to Convert a BIN File to TXT | Techwalla.com
    Then, it might be possible to store the EPROM image files here with an short instructional statement reminding people how to convert them. I haven't tried this myself, but it might be an excellent option for us, and for the benefit of posterity.
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-11-2018 at 06:50. Reason: added data

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    Documentation: User Manual - Lynx II (Lynx 2)

    Next in the progression of TimeLine products, let's examine the available documents for the Lynx 2:

    1. The only available online version of the User's Manual found thus far. This one has the following specs - Manual #73A020-H, with an approval date of 9/15/1994 (covers units with the V700-10 software upgrade):
    Lynx-2 User Manual (73A020-H)(09-15-1994).pdf
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-21-2018 at 15:56. Reason: added data, file name revision

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    Documentation: User Manual - Micro Lynx (Microlynx)

    The next set of documents to examine is for the Microlynx:

    1. A contribution from forum member miroslav, this is a full version of the manual originally downloaded from the Session Control website before it was shut down. Its specs are- Manual #73A016-M, with an approval date of 5/9/1997, and covers units up to the last known software revision (Rev. 1.35, as timkroeger has mentioned):
    Microlynx User Manual (73A016-M)(05-09-1997).pdf

    2. Another set of contributions from miroslav, these are chapter by chapter breakouts of the manual above for convenient viewing:
    Chapter 1 Introduction.pdf
    Chapter 2 Applications.pdf
    Chapter 3 Installation.pdf
    Chapter 4 Getting Started.pdf
    Chapter 5 Troubleshooting.pdf
    Chapter 6 Operational Features.pdf
    Chapter 7 System Unit.pdf
    Chapter 8 Keyboard Controller.pdf
    Chapter 9 Advanced Features.pdf
    Chapter 10 Option Cards.pdf
    Index.pdf
    Appendix.pdf
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by brainditch; 01-21-2018 at 17:04. Reason: added data, file name revision

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    Documentation: Service Bulletins - Microlynx

    So now let's turn our attention to the Service Bulletins. These are "memos" that were sent out to users, dealers and service personnel to alert them to new software upgrades (usually sent as fully-burned replaceable EPROMs which could be installed), or to alert the interested parties of potentially useful or vital modifications that needed to be performed. Here they are:

    Submitted as a packet of information by forum member sweetbeats - also downloaded from the Session Control website before it's demise, I've separated them out and organized them, with a brief description of their purpose:

    1. Service Bulletin #SB 92-009, Date: 08/12/1993
    Title: Connector Board Modifications
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: 663 through 847
    Brief Description- Two mods enclosed:
    1. (Mandatory) - COMPUTER MAC and MIDI I/F - To permit synchronous serial communications, Connector Board Trace cutting near MIDI MAC I/F (J10), and addition of Jumper wire from EXT CLK to mini circular connectors MIDI MAC I/F (J10) and MIDI ADAPTER (J9)
    2. (Optional) - TIMECODE OUT and AUX REF OUT - Add Jumper wires to connect Ring Terminals to Sleeve Terminals (Analog Ground) for TIME CODE OUT (J3) and AUX REF OUT (J5), since these signals from the unit are unbalanced.
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 92-009 (Connector Board Modifications).pdf

    2. Service Bulletin #SB 92-012, Date: 06/11/1992
    Title: Capstan Control D/A Converters
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: 140-431
    Brief Description- (Mandatory) Premature failure of D/A converters requires addition of 1N4001 Diode so that +5V supply will "track" +12V supply upon Power Up State.
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 92-012 (Capstan Control DA Converters).pdf

    3. Service Bulletin #SB 92-014, Date: 12/16/1993
    Title: Micro Lynx Grounding Modifications
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: 140-151, and 663-847
    Brief Description- Two mods enclosed:
    1. Connector Board Digital/Analog Ground Separation - Cut Connector Board trace between AUX REF OUT (J5) and AUX REF IN (J4), add Jumper wire between Sleeve Pad of TCR1 (J1) jack, and Analog Ground Trace Via.
    This I believe is to re-establish ground connection to jacks J1, J2, J3, J4 otherwise eliminated by cutting the trace, which serves to establish a difference between Analog Ground and Digital Ground. Interestingly, my particular unit has a version of this mod, but only has the Ground Trace separation cut between AUX REF OUT (J5), and MIDI IN (J6).
    2. Motherboard Keyboard Jack Mod (Unit #'s 140-451 only) - Jumper wire added (to the solder side of the MB), between pins 1 and 2 of the female RJ-45 Keyboard Connector (J12).
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 92-014 (Grounding Modifications).pdf

    4. Service Bulletin #SB 92-015, Date: 07/10/1992
    Title: Micro Lynx Capstan Output
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: All
    Brief Description- Motherboard Capstan Out Resistors modified by adding a "bypass" or "bridging" Jumper wire across them. For Transport Control Machine 1 Port (Machine A as viewed by Keyboard Control Unit), R121 is affected; for Transport Control Machine 2 Port (Machine B), R122 is bypassed. These affect control stability (and reduce or remove jitter-like lock-loss or "cogging") for the following ATR's:
    Ampex ATR-100 Series, Otari MTR 90-1, Otari MTR 10/12-1, and Sony/MCI JH Series
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 92-015 (Capstan Output).pdf

    5. Service Bulletin #SB 92-022, Date: 11/10/1992
    Title: Micro Lynx M3 Option Card FPGA EPROM Upgrade
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: 140-296
    Brief Description- Upgrade of the M3 FPGA chipset by replacement of U9 with factory supplied replacement- 76603 REV H. This alleviates problems with Sony 5800 machines "staying in search" not sync'ing, and machine Track Enable Lamps flashing erratically.
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 92-022 (M3).pdf

    5(B). Service Bulletin #SB 93-001, Date: ?
    Title: MIDI Time Code Master
    Requirement Level: Optional
    Brief Description: Unknown contents, however this document is known to exist (a photo of what appears to be original issuance paperwork appeared on a Reverb-dot-com sale posting completed on 12/23/2017).
    Anyone with a copy of this document is asked to please take some pictures of it, or scan it to PDF if possible, so that the contents can be preserved for posterity.

    6. Service Bulletin #SB 94-014, Date: 11/02/1994
    Title: M3 Option Card FPGA Upgrade
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: M3 Option Cards Rev. A6, #465 through 545
    Brief Description: M3 and/or Microlynx not correctly initializing, M3 LED Off, one or more System Unit LED's flashing, rendering the System Unit inoperable. Problems are linked with AT&T branded FPGA's , and TimeLine recommends affected units be sent in for replacement of FPGA with a model from Xilinx.
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 94-014 (M3 FPGA Upgrade).pdf

    7. Service Bulletin #SB 95-001, Date: 04/26/1995
    Title: M3 Option Card PCB Modification
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: All M3 option cards prior to Serial #430
    Brief Description: M3 Bandwidth Select Analog Switch working intermittently due to certain IC's running out of voltage operating range. Requires examination of IC U14 to determine if National Semi, SGS Thompson, Phillips or Signetics chips are being used for U14. If so, TimeLine recommends returning the unit for factory modification.
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 95-001 (M3 PCB Modification).pdf

    8. Service Bulletin #SB 95-002, Date: 01/30/1995
    Title: Micro Lynx SU Board Modification
    Pertaining to Serial Numbers: All System Units with Serial Numbers 951 through 1022
    Brief Description: System Unit AUX REF OUT and Bandwidth Selection function working intermittently due to certain IC's being operated out of their voltage operating range. Requires examination of IC's U32 and U42 to determine if National Semi, SGS Thompson, Phillips, or Signetics chips are being used. If so, TimeLine recommends returning the unit for factory modification.
    Here it is:
    TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 95-002) SU Board Modification.pdf
    Last edited by brainditch; 07-23-2018 at 20:19. Reason: added data

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    Great thread. I wish you guys success. I just have to point out that ATR means audio tape recorder.

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