CAMAC crate electronics - Where were/are they used?

  • #1


Looking into the history of CAMAC crate electronics for physics/high energy setups.
How common were/are they? In what setups were they used?

I've done some research on the CAMAC standard of nuclear electronics - "It's like NIM but digital" - as I would like to aquire a bin and some modules for historic and scientific curiosity.

I have never worked with the system, and I would like to get in touch with somebody who has. How common were they ever? And in what experimental setups were they used?
There is a short handbook 'A CAMAC Primer' written and distributed at LANL, which can be found online, but It's not the most helpful text.

Were Europe favoring VMEbus systems over CAMAC? I can find very little evidence of them being used outside of the US.

Any insight would be much appreciated!


Answers and Replies

  • #3
Vanadium 50
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How common were/are they?
A little less than NIM.

It was like NIM, but modules could communicate. So instead of a rat's nest of cables in the front, you had fussy and unreliable communication on the backplane. This is called "progress". 😈

In what setups were they used?
Lots of places...fifty years ago. It's at least four standards back.
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  • #4
Good to know, thanks! I know it's oldschool, but as far as I've heard, they're still running on some older detector arrays and accelerators. There are a few companies still producing modules in the standard, even USB/ethernet crate controllers. SOMEONE must be buying them, even if it's only to keep old setups alive.
  • #5
They were used a lot at the Rutherford Laboratory, next to Harwell, in the 70s.

Harwell had its own modular system - I forget the name - based on a module about 3" wide where 5? fitted in a single shelf. I remember being a little envious that Rutherford had these much slimmer CAMAC systems and I couldn't get my hands on them.
  • #6
That's interesting to know. I have read that CAMAC modules were massively more expensive than both the preceding NIM modules and the VME ones that replaced them.
  • #7
Vanadium 50
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2019 Award
CAMAC was a niche market. VME is in much wider use.
  • #8
The base bus and racks might be, but the nuclear ADCs and coincidence modules are still pretty unique to that field. The general construction of VME modules are simpler, though.
  • #9

If you want to buy some old stuff, you may ask the main nuclear physics labs/facilities in your country, they can tell you if they are using them, or planning to get rid of some CAMAC crates/modules. If they have some old modules and they are not in use, maybe they can give them to you free of charge.

CAMAC is still on use in some facilities which have been operating without uninterruptedly in the last 20 years (or even more), and also laboratories which have a low budge and they have to use what they have at hand...