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!
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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)
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)
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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:
View attachment Lynx-1 User Manual - EPROM Rev L409-6 (016)(09-02-1986).pdf

2. Lynx 1 Manual:
A. Lynx 1 Manual, pgs. 1-29:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment The Practitioners Guide - Lynx Timecode Module Overview.pdf


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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.
[MENTION=31942]jpmorris[/MENTION]- 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. - 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 |
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.
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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):
View attachment Lynx-2 User Manual (73A020-H)(09-15-1994).pdf


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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):
View attachment 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:
View attachment Chapter 1 Introduction.pdf
View attachment Chapter 2 Applications.pdf
View attachment Chapter 3 Installation.pdf
View attachment Chapter 4 Getting Started.pdf
View attachment Chapter 5 Troubleshooting.pdf
View attachment Chapter 6 Operational Features.pdf
View attachment Chapter 7 System Unit.pdf
View attachment Chapter 8 Keyboard Controller.pdf
View attachment Chapter 9 Advanced Features.pdf
View attachment Chapter 10 Option Cards.pdf
View attachment Index.pdf
View attachment Appendix.pdf


  • Timeline Microlynx.pdf
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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.
View attachment 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.
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment 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:
View attachment TimeLine Micro Lynx SB 95-002) SU Board Modification.pdf
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[MENTION=103008]bouldersoundguy[/MENTION] - thanks for the encouragement, and yes you're correct, the original meaning of the acronym ATR was for Audio Tape Recorder. As soon as Digital Audio Tape Recording came along, it seems to be prudent to readjust the acronym a bit, don't you think? So I took the liberty! Man was that thing ever hard to haul off the island, and when I did Ellis Isle raised a foot!;)
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

I don't think you need to "convert" them...just rename them... xxxx.BIN to xxxx.TXT ...and then make a note to everyone that once they download them, to rename them back to xxx.BIN. there some scanning of files on this BBS to where a renamed file would still be "discovered" not to be a TXT file...?
I doubt it...and I've been doing the rename thing for years.
That said...many sites now employ email security that DOES actually scan the files, so it's hard for instance to attach an .EXE by renaming it to .TXT if the email system is blocking .EXE attachments. Maybe they scan/block here too...or maybe they just look at the file extension...???

Hey...try one rename...if it doesn't work, you'll know right away. :D
Timeline developed the Tascam MX2424 which I still use today (I have 3 units). See top right hand corner.


[MENTION=50954]witzendoz[/MENTION], thanks for checking in, and for the nice photo of the MX2424. Nice to have a fellow "techno-archeologist" stopping by. In many ways the MX was the pinnacle of achievement for TimeLine technically- taking on challenges that they as a company had never faced before: audio quality A/D and D/A, mass storage, a much more complex operating system, and all of it "riding the backbone" of what they did so well- real time sync'ing of clock and miscellaneous signal sources.

Say, I was reading about your experiments regarding using SSD drives in the MX over on the Tascam forums, how did those work out? I'll have to take a look back at the MX2424 "channel" over there to see if I can catch up with the latest developments, now that they are no longer "disavowed" by Tascam.
Hey...try one rename...if it doesn't work, you'll know right away.:D
Excellent point, might as well try the renaming route to test it out.
View attachment Akai AX80 (Rev K) ROM.txt

Edit: Good 'ole notepad confirms the file appears to have been unmolested by the upload, and the servers let it through after renaming- so yeah, we've got it solved! Keep It Simple Stupid- Bill!
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The S-record files are text anyway. I was pondering uploading those and the source for a little C program I wrote in 2011 to convert them to binary.
Whatever form you form you feel comfortable with jpmorris, I'm sure they'll be of value to the group and posterity, and thanks!..:)
Documentation: Service Manual - TimeLine/Alesis AI-2

So here's something you won't find everyday, it's quite possible that it is the only version available online.

1. This is a rather poorly-made PDF of the original paper version (TimeLine revision dated 05/23/1994). The page order is scrambled, and in two segments- all the front side of the double-sided pages, followed by the back sided pages. I don't currently have access to a tool that would de-scramble them, such as Adobe Acrobat. I submit them so that individual page and content accuracy can be examined against much better (and eventually proof-read and technically trouble-shot) "working copies".

Here's the "front" side pages:
View attachment Front Manual.pdf

And now the "back" side pages:
View attachment Back Manual.pdf

The following PDF pages were scanned at a slightly higher resolution at my request, since they contain very important technical data- the circuit schematics, and the original paper copies weren't very clear themselves (certainly reduction copies of marginal resolution to begin with):
View attachment TimeLine-Alesis AI-2 Circuit Schematics.pdf

2. The following is more like a working copy of the manual, in PDF format. I spent several hours re-typing and reformatting it so that it could eventually become an editable, comment-containing "pinnacle" of a working manual.

This version contains no major textual modifications- those will come in the next installment. I was careful to keep the page numbers as consistent as possible with the original, so it could be used as an improved reference, but still fairly true to the original with whatever flaws it may contain (and there are several I noted, but chose not to change them for this edition). Here it is:
View attachment TimeLine-Alesis AI-2 Service Manual.pdf

3. The following are extractions of Figures from the Manual, to improve detail visibility.

First, the PCB Assembly Drawing- an important item to have around when troubleshooting and testing. My favorite versions of these actually use the same file as the PCB Identity Printing layer, which gives you the part numbers or schematic identities right where they are to be placed during manufacturing, but this version is a good start:
View attachment AI-2 PCB Assembly Drawing.pdf

Here are a few schemos to enable fabrication of AI-Specific Test cables-
The SYNC OUT Loopback Connector:
View attachment AI-2 Sync Out Loopback Test Connector.pdf

The EDITOR Port Loopback Connector:
View attachment AI-2 Editor Loopback Test Connector.pdf

The Lynx-2/Microlynx Loopback Connector:
View attachment AI-2 Lynx Loopback Test Connector.pdf

4. The following is an extraction from the Circuit Diagram schemo, enlarged to show details about the Lynx-2/Microlynx I/O port. This is a critical bit of info when it comes time to build those custom interface cables, especially when the schemos for the cables themselves are unavailable:
View attachment AI-2 to Microlynx I-O Port.pdf

5. The following is the "living" document of the series, an improved version of the original. It will become better with more input, and as such should be considered the very best source of information regarding the technical aspects available anywhere. Several errors or omissions in the original Service Manual have already been resolved, and some mysteries answered, such as -"where can I get a replacement LCD Display for my AI-2 when the old one is showing its age?" Anyway, here it is:
View attachment Timeline-Alesis AI-2 Improved Service Manual.pdf


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Maybe they scan/block here too...or maybe they just look at the file extension...???

Well folks, I just found out that this forum does have an unexpected limit. The server's filters wouldn't let me upload a .DOC file larger than 64kB! I don't know what the other filesize-related gotchas there are, but it certainly took me by surprise!

I'll have to seek out an affordable (hopefully free) DOC-to-PDF converter, as I can't seem to find a way to do it in the version of OpenOffice I have. Edit: I just had to look harder to find the "Export as PDF" tab. Doh!
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