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Pe rmit No. 1
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appearing in the

al ~e e-Z' eapaatM
Transisto r N etwo rk Pa ram ete rs ..............................Ja n.-Fe b.
Modern Substitution Boxes ...................................... M a r.-A pri I
Servici ng T ransistor Audi o Ampl ifie rs .................. M ay-Jun e
Su rvey of So lid-State D evices .................................. Jul y-A ug.
Stabilizing T ra ns istor C ircui ts ................................ Sept.-Oct.
Transistori zed fregu ency Standa rd .......................... Nov.- Dec.

Copyright, 1960. Comell-Dubllior Eloctnc Corporation.

A number of simple three-terminal It is impossib le fo r a short articl e
devices are ava ilable to the electronic to cover all ex tant three-terminal de-
circuit desig ner. The~e devices are im- vices, or a ll of the tt:chnicn l aspects
portant in circui t development and test- of even a few of them. The pur pose
ing, and a re inval uable fo r perfo rming of tb is article is to point out the im-
such functio ns as voltage d ivision, portant operating characteri stics of
impedance matching, analog compu- one of the most versatile of all such
tation, stage isolation, filtrati on, and devices, the potentiometer, and to
frequency selection. In addition, one cl ea r away some of the popul ar mi s-
th ree-terminal dev ice, the transistor, conceptions held by technicians con-
provides amplification and can oscil- cern ing its o peratio n. W e feel that
late. Three-terminal devices are em- the proper perspective wi ll promo te
ployed singly and in co mbination. greater utility and mo re accurate op-
So me difference of opinion exists eration of systems into whi ch the tech-
regarding th e desig nation three-ter- nician frequ ently inco rporates the po-
minal. W e appl y this term to those tentiometer.
d evices which have three physical
terminal s; o ne input, o ne output, and 0-C Potentiometer
one commo n. Some engineers insist
that a ll input-ou tput devices are four- The potentiometer is one: of th e
terminal, and they mny be in nature. simp lest of three-terminal devices. Its
However, it is easy to point out the common a pplications are voltage di-
difference. For exa mp le, a conven- vi sion. ga in control, sig nal attenua-
tional transfo rmer unquestionably is tion, analog computation, circuit bal-
four-terminal, while an ~u to tran sform ancing, and vo ltage comparison . Prac-
cr is three-terminal in configuration. ti.:a l potent iometers arc widely used

r--- )
I 1
I R,


~--}' I

R, --
EI z

Fig. I. Practical Circuit of Potonliometer.


1n both conti nu ocsly-vari:ib le a nd step A second mi sconceptio n is that l he
types. In f:tct , the re u se is so com- outpu t resistance (impedance) , R.., of
mon tha t many fa lse assumptio ns arc the po tenti o meter is equal simp ly to
mnde regard ing the ir operation and the resistance incl uded between P o ints
applicatio n. 2 and 3 at any setting; that is, is equ a l
to R,. This coul d be tru e o nl y if R.
Figure I sho ws the basic circ uit in were very high w it h respect to R,.
which the potentio meter is used. Oper- which is a l most nevcr the potcnti-
ation of t he potentiometer must a lways omcter-gcnera to r relatio nsh ip. Other-
be con sidered with resp ect to its to tal wise, the re~ista n ce looking b:1ck in to
resistance (R,) , the re<istance be tween the complete c ircuit mu st b e the par-
its to p and wiper (R:) , resistance (R.) al le l combinatio n o f R, and the sum
b etween wiper and bottom, generator of R, and R., and this is less than R,.
(source) res istance (R. ) , and load re- Thus, the ou tput res ista nce is:
s i ~ tan ce ( R1.) . It is common to sup-
p ose thnt the potentiometer di vi des R, (R, + R. )
th e input vol tage (E ,) by the ratio o( ( 2) R.. = - -- - -
R, to R, at any of its settings; that R, + (R, + R. )
is, tha t E, = E, ( R./ R,). But this rnn Th is assumes tha t R1. is ve ry h igh and
be true only when R, is very high with acco rdi ng ly does not lo:id R, a ppreci-
respect to R,, a nd Ri, is very h igh with
respect to R, ( say, 100: 1 in each case).
Other wise, R1. in parallel with R, will It is important to no te tha t the
reduce the resistance between Po ints hig h est va lue of R. is reachcd when
2 a nd 3 to less than the value indi- the se tting (Point 2 ) is such tha t R. =
ca ted by the potentio me te r setting. y,. R1 When the wiper is at the top
The imput voltage (E,) at Po int l is of th e potentio me te r (Poi nt I ) , R.
reduced by the fac to r R,/ (R. + R1 ) . fa lls approx im., te ly to the va l ue of
R. , when R , is much highe r tha n R .
The erro r in th e latter instance may be
e liminated , of course, by actua lly And whe n the wiper is at the b o tto m
measuring E, with a vo ltmeter. The (Po int 3) , Ro fa ll s to zero. Thus, if
volta ge d i vision is: R, is a 10.000-ohm poten tiomete r
w inding connected to a signa l g ene r-
ator havi ng 50 ohms o utput res ista nce
R. R1. (R, ) an d the loa d resist:ince (R1.) is
R,+--- very hig h (e.g., a vtvm, osci lloscope,
R, + R1. or g r id input of a voltage a mpl ifier
(I) E, = E, x stage) , the ci rcuit output resistance,
R., has the fo l lowing v;tlues (from
R.+ R,+ - - - Equatio n 2) : zer o at Point 3, 25 12
R,+ R1. !1 a t Point 2 (the midpoint of the
potentiometer range) , and 49.75 n
at Po int I . Applying Equati o n ( I ) to
R, R1. the same example, we find, however.
t hat the output vo ltage (E:) at th e
R, +
f- R1.
mi dpoi nt of the poten tiomete r ran gi:
(where R,= R,=5000 !1) stil l is
R, R1.
approximatdy V2 E, when R 1. is a,.
1 R, + - - -
n, +R1. sumed 1 megohm. (T o bt- cxact. E: =
0.498 E,.)


INPUT R,{ R, { >-.----.


R1 = 100 Rg R2 = 100 R1 = 10,000 R9

R3 = 100 R2 = 10,000 R1

Fig. 2. Cascaded Potentiometers.

A third miscomcption is tha t th e tu 5,000 n and to 8333 n when the

input resist.rnce (impedance) , R1, of wipe r is at the midpo int.
the potentiome ter is the tota l p oten- The foregoing discussion :10d ex-
ti ome ter winding resista nce, R,. This amples show in simple quantitati ve
could be true only if lh we re extreme- terms th e importance of se lecting R,
ly high so as to impose virtuall y no high with r espect to R., and RL high
load upon the potenti ome ter . Other- with respect to R1. When potenti-
wise, the resistance looking intu the ometers are cascaded, as in Figure 2,
potenti ome ter mu st be the sum of R: and the ir setting s are to be read from
in series with the par all e l combina- resistance-calibrated dia ls, each suc-
tion of R, a nd RL which wi ll make R1 cess ive potenti ometer will introdu ce
less than R,. Thus, the input resistance minimum loading erro r on the pre-
1s: ceding one when its total resistance,
R, R,. R,, is much higher than that of its
( 3) R1 = R: + - - - predecessor. In the 3-pote nti ometcr
R,+ R1. arrangement shown, R, is at least 100-
Agai n u sing lhe ex:un pl e of the R., R: = lOOR, = 10,000Rc, a nd R,
I0,000-ohm po tentiometer with a ! - = JOOR:= 10,000R,. In practical sys-
megohm load, we can drdcrmine by tems where the resistance soon would
mea ns of Equation (3) that the input become unwi eldy, d-c amp lifiers may
rcsista nr.:e, R1, is 9901 fl when the be introduced between pote nti o me ters
wipe r is a t the top (Point l) of th e fo r isolatio n.
poten tio me te r, and is 9975 n w!:en
the wipe r is a t the mid point {Po int 2) A-C Potentiometer
wh er e R: = R, = 5000 n. If R1. is Simp le potentiomete r circuits may
reduced to l 0,000 ohms, the value of be employed in a-c circuits without
R1 when the wipe r is at Po int l drops modifica tion and may be treated as



( A)

Fi9. 3. A-C Pote ntiomctors.

r esista nces when the potentiometers operation where R must be 0.2 meg-
have negligible reacti ve components. o hm, C may be chosen 0. 1 fd. In thi s
Hig h-resistance, wirewound u n i ts of instance. the phase shift will be less
ten h ave app reciable inductance, how- than I degn:e and the attenuati o n bet-
ever, a nd the resu lting impedance at ter tha n 0.999.
th e opera ting frequency acco rdingly Capaci ti ve potentiometers arc ad-
mu st be taken into acco unt. va ntageous in so me systems, especia lly
In simpl e a-c circui ts, the potenti- a l radio frequencies. T he vo ltage di-
ometer often is connected in ser ies vision is proportio na I to the ra tio of
with a bl ocki ng capacitor, as in Fig- the rcactances in th e seri es st ring .
ure 3 (A) for purposes of d-c iso la- Figure 3 (6) shows one arrangement
ti on. Whe n this is done, Capacitance in which the imput capal itur C, (cor-
C must be chosen such that its reatt- responding to Resistor R, in the re-
ance at the opera ting frequency is very
sistive potentiometer, Figur<: I) is
low with respect to Resistance R. This
ha> a twofold adva ntage. The voltage fixed, and the o utput c.1p.1citor C:
drop aLru>s the capaci to r is minimized . (correopunding to Resistor R, ) is vari -
.is al~o the phase shift introduced by able. The fixed react1nce of C, limit>
RC combination. Thu s, for 1000-cycle the max imum value of th e ou tput


voltage. Furthermore, the input im- generator. That is, the capacitance
pedance of the potentiometer varies looking in from the input termi nals
as the setting of C, is changed . is constant, whi le the output capaci t-
ance is variab le.
Figure 3(C) shows a continuously-
variable capacitive potentiometer which Capacitance-type a-c potentiometers
does not have the maximum-limiting introdu ce a problem when they are
disadvantage of the unit illus trated by connected to inductive generators or
Figure 3(B). In this circu it. a 2-ga ng loads, s ince they form tuned circuits
variabl e ca paci tor, C.-C,, is so con- with these devices. Before selecting
structed that C. is at maximum capacit- the capacitive eleme nts for such po-
ance whe n C1 is at minimum, and vice tentiometers, t11e possibility of trou-
versa. A constant value of input im- b lesome resonance at the operating
pedance therefore is presented to the frequency or its important harmonics


+ +
D-C +
Adjustable SOURCE
D-C D-G o-c

(A) TUBE-TYPE Equivalent Circuit

+ +
D-G +

( 8) TRANSISTOR-TYPE Equivalent Circuit

Fiq. 4. Act.ivo Potentiometers.

J ANUARY - FEBRUARY, 1960 Page 7

alt0rdingly must be investiga ted. Un- Jn Figu re 4(B), the d-c voltage
lik e their d-c counterpart, a-c poten- wh ich is to b divided by the potcn
tiometers require >hid<ling when they tiomc:ter supplies the coll ector po
arc U>t:d at frequ1::n cie> higher than t<ential of the transistor, Q, through
audio. At most radio frcquenc ics, the the extern:\! coll ector resi ~ tor, R . The
shi elding must be ex te nsive and stray latter is ir. series with the internal
capacita nces within the potentiometer collec tor-emitt..:r resistance, re, as
must be e limina ted or minimized . shown by the equival ent ci rcuit. An
adjustable d-c current applied to the
Active P01emiomc1er base-emitter circuit of tlie transistor,
By utilizing the vari.1ble output re- with the base of the NPN transistor
,i,rnm:e of an active cle ment (tube or positive, v:iries re from a high value
transistor), an electrica lly-controlled (corresponding to cutoff, when the
potentiometer having high control sen con trol curre:1t is zt:ro) to a low va lue
si1ivity may be obtained. Figure 4 (dete rmined by the collector cu rrent
shows circuits of active po tentiometers flow which, in turn, is a function of
of the two types. the source voltage and Re). Jf the
In Figu re 4 (A) , the d-c voltage externa l load resistance is very high
which is to be d ivided by the po with respc:ct to Re, the junction of R.
tentiomder suppl ies the p late poten- and re rises approx imately to the
tial of the triode tube, V, through the source voltage whe n lhe transistor is
ex te rnal pbte res istor, R,.. Th e latter cut off. When the tr:rnsistor is ton-
is in sc:ric:s with the internal plate du cting, thi s junction voltage drops
t.1thode resistance:. r,., of the tube, as to a much lower va lue. \'(lith a high-
shown by the cqu iv:dc:nl c ircuit. An beta transistor, the control current
:1dj ustab le d-c voltage app li ed be- wi ll be on ly a few microamperes, and
tween gr id a nd cathode, with the a small change in this cu rre nt w ill
grid negative, varies r 11 from a high produl'e a large shift in the resistance
value (corrc:sponding to grid cutoff re.
vol tage) to a low value (d etermined The active potentiometer suffe rs
by the: plate current flow which, in from its in ability to be reduced to
turn, is a func tion of the source vo lt- zero output resistance. The reason fo r
age and R1.). If the cx t<:rn:d load re this is that neither the tube nor the
sisrance is very high with respect to r1,, transisto r ca n safe!}' carry currents
the junction of R,, a nd r 11 ri ses approx high enough to attain this state. How-
imatcl) to the source: volt11gc, when e ver, rt:si stanccs as lo w as a few
the tube is cu t off . When the tube is tenths of an o hm may be reached with
conduc ting, this juncti o n voltage some transistors. With in its limita -
drops to a much lower va lu e. \'(lhcn tions, th e active potentiometer is ad-
V is a high-transconduc tance tube, a van tageous in automatic systems in
small change in grid control voltage which a small contro l vo ltage or
produce> a largc shift in resistance r 1 rnrrent is utili zed to contro l or stabil -
By "''versi ng the contrnl-voltage pol ize operations of various sorts. Typi
arit)'. u that the grid is posit ive, ca l app lications are voltage regula-
l.1rge values of plate current (i,,) will tors. current regu lators, automatir
Row, and the junction will fa ll to a o utput atten uators. a utomati c a nd
s ti ll lo we r vo ltage, as 3 resu lt of the manua l speed controls, tempera ture
drop, i,.R.,, across the 1extcrn:d p late controls. light d im mers, and servo-
resistor, R, .. mechanisms.