First Project: The AE-35 Unit! Advice appreciated

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Abitofcredit

New Member
So... This seems like a good place to start. After creating this account with the intention of starting this project (5years ago) I have finally begun.

"Just a moment....Just a moment. I've just picked up a fault in the AE-35 Unit.
Its going to go 100 percent failure within 72 hours."


The AE-35 Unit from 2001 A Space Odyssey is a small gyroscopic device which controlled the antenna alignment on the Discovery space craft. If the Unit malfunctioned Communication with Earth would be lost.

Despite the importance to the plot of the film I have only been able to find one source where somebody has attempted to replicate it, this person is Dennis Gilliam. The page has never been updated but It will give me somewhere to get started.

One thing identified by Dennis is that the core of the AE-35 unit was made using a real functional Gyroscope.

I have sourced some of the images below from Dennis's website. (2001 Spacesuit)
AE-35C.jpg
AE-35top.jpg
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latest?cb=20100803213121.jpg


Tasks to complete:
  • Buy or salvage a matching Gyroscope.
  • Modify the Gyro if required.
  • Identify any missing ancillary parts (handles, control nobs, connectors, outer case) which may not be part of the original Gyro.
  • Decide a method to replicate the electrical test points on the side (machining, Vinyl, laser engraving).

Today I bought a Gyroscope which is due to be delivered in the next two weeks so I can move on to solving some other problems.
If anyone has any extra information or knows about any other sources please let me know!
 

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Abitofcredit

New Member
Details on the hunt for a Gyroscope:


As identified by Dennis the core of the AE-35 is a real Gyroscope, he even provided a picture of the one which he acquired. Unfortunately reverse image searching the photo doesn't come up with anything particularly useful so I had to gather some more information from the film.
AE-35%20gyro120.jpg

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The film uses some suspiciously detailed xrays and 3D representations of the prop. Assuming that both images are genuine Xrays the Gyro has some more distinct features not visible in Dennis's image above.
There are two objects sticking out from each end which could be connectors or control nobs.
It could also possibly have a circular screen/dial on the same face as the two smaller nobs.

Additionally the film was released in 1968 so the object must have been available as scrap or salvage around that time. This means that it must have been manufactured before 1960.
The most prominent gyroscope manufacturers around 1950-1960 were the Sperry gyroscope company LTD with manufacturing sites around the UK.

My first search "Sperry aircraft Gyroscope 1950" turns up an etsy link to gyroscope which looks to be around the correct form factor but doesn't have the right nobs to match the xrays but shows that I am on the right track.

For the second search I adjusted the search terms to "sperry gyro 1950" which leads to the first google image result with two control nobs. This looks a close match to the display and two control nobs so this could be the correct piece of equipment.
Compass Mk 4B Gyro Unit Type A; The Sperry Gyroscope Co Ltd ...

my next search for for "Sperry Compass Mk 4B Gyro Unit Type A" gives me a potential eureka. One of the results is a sale listing with a photo of the gyroscope without its black casing and is a definite match to Dennis's original.
kZziq21dzaVe4Na9z0BmkNoVIa5jwQzPKECXp1rVB&usqp=CAU.jpg
4211_754080088357307_9051289310237556736_n-200x267.jpg

It is not quite right as it only has one large rear connector instead of two, it does however have a label with the party number on it.
searching for the terms "GM Compass MK4B 6B/56" leads to a few ebay listings which look pretty good.

And one looks exactly like the item I am looking for!
s-l1600.jpg
s-l500.jpg

The exact part is a Sperry G.M.compass MK4 - 6B/563 (Part no: 16528-0)



Additional dump of information to keep my source material in one place.

 

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joberg

Master Member
Abitofcredit, be careful with the second "XRay" of the gyro: this is a wire representation that Doug Trumbull made of the prop (animation cells), hence the two circles at the back and front. While the knobs are in their right place (the ones near the handle), the other aluminium greeblies at the other end were added by the prop makers and serve no purpose technically.
 

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Abitofcredit

New Member
Abitofcredit, be careful with the second "XRay" of the gyro: this is a wire representation that Doug Trumbull made of the prop (animation cells), hence the two circles at the back and front. While the knobs are in their right place (the ones near the handle), the other aluminium greeblies at the other end were added by the prop makers and serve no purpose technically.
Do you have a source for this information joberg?

I have found evidence that Doug created the wire frame for the actual antenna but cannot find any reference to him creating the AE-35 unit diagram in the same fashion. It may be the case so I will keep hunting.

1589029091134.png
1589029259648.png
1589029602433.png

A future quick project might be to recreate the wire antenna model as seen in the images above because it looks awesome!


With regards to the aluminium greeblies, I agree. Something was definitely added although looking at the xray/scanned image below it seems fairly clear that the two military connectors on the gyroscope are still attached, it is even possible to see the metal contact pins. The connectors must have an aluminium cap over the top of them to make them more reflective and to give them the rounded shape seen in the close up shots in the film.

14731312175_5cbae9e4c2_b - Copy.jpg
AE-35C.jpg
1589031485748.png


The two control nobs by the handle on the AE-35 look incredibly similar to those used on the gyroscope and may just be painted. It does look however like the control nobs on the gyro I have bought are not the same size so I may have to find or manufacture a replacement or attempt to cut/sand it down to the correct thickness. I will be able to confirm this once it arrives.

1589031858645.png
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text 2.PNG
text.PNG


On a different note I have been struggling to identify the text on the top surface of the unit. I cannot find any higher resolution images of this angle and have struggled to get hold of the 4k/UHD anniversary version to see if the details are possible to make out.
 

Mike J.

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Tried a little Photoshop enhancement, can't make out anything. Congrats on ID'ing the compass.
 

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joberg

Master Member
Abitofcredit; so many wire effect were created for different screens of different vehicules/effects that the only way to see if Doug & Co. made that AE-35 wire "X-Ray" is to ask the Stanley Kubrick's archives (in London, or Doug Trumbull on his Facebook page) if they have the Polaroids of all the special effects (I'm sure they do, since Stanley and the team took photos of everything they did). As for the knobs; 1) they're the originals (cleaned up probably), 2) a prop maker had the same kind, but in aluminium and replaced the original ones, matching the other greeblies seen on the other side of the unit (my thoughts).
As you know, all of those wholes and markings on the top parts were added for the movie. I have no idea how they came up with those (maybe Letraset, which was used extensively at the time, by prop/model makers).
 

joberg

Master Member
Well, after radio silence of a few months concerning that prop...I placed the handle and the 2 greeblies at the other end of that radar unit.
It's not finished yet. Waiting for a high-res pic of all of the gibberish on top...maybe one day ;)
 

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macropod80

Active Member
Thank god someone's finally identified that gyro!
I found that 2001 spacesuit site ages ago and hated the guy for crowing about how clever he was working out what things were, but not actually revealing anything.
And don't forget this good shot of the back end connectors:
qjvQuPV.jpg

And of course we see the bottom in the shot of Bowman carrying it down the storage corridor.
Looks like I'll have to stop working on the pod-door firing buttons and buy myself an old gyro now. Curse you, RPF.
 

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joberg

Master Member
Thank god someone's finally identified that gyro!
I found that 2001 spacesuit site ages ago and hated the guy for crowing about how clever he was working out what things were, but not actually revealing anything.
And don't forget this good shot of the back end connectors: View attachment 1377783
And of course we see the bottom in the shot of Bowman carrying it down the storage corridor.
Looks like I'll have to stop working on the pod-door firing buttons and buy myself an old gyro now. Curse you, RPF.
Well, macropod80, here we are again discussing 2001 props:D Did the entire thing from scratch...not super accurate (I'm missing the rails at the bottom) and now I can see some screws and a plaque?:unsure:
 

macropod80

Active Member
my next search for for "Sperry Compass Mk 4B Gyro Unit Type A" gives me a potential eureka. One of the results is a sale listing with a photo of the gyroscope without its black casing and is a definite match to Dennis's original.
View attachment 1294980 View attachment 1294981
It is not quite right as it only has one large rear connector instead of two, it does however have a label with the party number on it.
searching for the terms "GM Compass MK4B 6B/56" leads to a few ebay listings which look pretty good.

And one looks exactly like the item I am looking for!
View attachment 1294964 View attachment 1294965
The exact part is a Sperry G.M.compass MK4 - 6B/563 (Part no: 16528-0)



Additional dump of information to keep my source material in one place.

A quick look on evilbay presented a plethora of these gyro units, all subtly different (and none for sale outside UK, damn) such that I'm now not convinced you've nailed the exact one yet. That unit with just one rear socket looks better maybe? My thinking:
The film unit's two front knobs are the same, but on all those I've seen the 'set course' knob is taller. So that knob has been replaced - from a second unit?
The two round sockets on the rear are big, plain and identical. Your Mk4F has different-sized sockets each with four distinct spanner-notches around the flange perimeter. And on the film unit they're remounted on a new rear end plate. So they've also been replaced and so are not identifying features of the original unit used.

I think these two horizontal 'legs' are a giveaway to be looking out for: narrow legs.jpg and this pattern seems quite rare. This region is the major problem with joberg's version and on every unit I've been able to see the interior of, the two 'legs' are wider and more distinctly tapered.
1608164763783.png
But this one looks good in that area. Do you have a sharper image of the rear ID plate on this one?
 

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nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
..still impossible to make-out those fonts/text on the unit:unsure:

Nope. :) It's the best we got, though. The typeface at the bottom definitely looks like Futura Bold, like other sets and props in the film.

I don't remember seeing any photos of the AE-35 prop at the Kubrick Archives, but I didn't look through everything. I was focusing on the EVA pod and didn't request any Discovery photos.
 
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nkg

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I don't know if this is of any interest beyond trivia, the same or similar, unit appeared in the Space 1999 episodes Voyager's Return and Dragon's Domain.

Hm. Interesting. The two aluminium details look very similar. But it seems shorter and stubbier than the 2001 prop. Maybe? It's hard to tell.

It's also hilarious how 2001 still looks kinda futuristic today, whereas Space: 1999 looks so dated...
 

macropod80

Active Member
Doesn't help much, but I'll bet that second line starts with 'AE 35' (which makes it 'AE' beginning the first line):
ae-35 circuitb.JPG
but at least the image is clear enough to drill all the holes accurately and mark the white lines and dot-circles.
And that thing in Space 1999 includes a subtle detail matching 2001:
ersatzAE35.jpg
knob.jpg
The front not only has the two round knobs, but also in the corner the little flat switch that gives away the gyro unit buried inside! Could be an in-joke copy made by a props-guy, or I remember someone once spotted one of the Discovery suit backpacks stuck on a wall in the background of an old Doctor Who episode, so clearly there was once ex-2001 stuff floating around in UK TV-land.
 

joberg

Master Member
Doesn't help much, but I'll bet that second line starts with 'AE 35' (which makes it 'AE' beginning the first line):
View attachment 1379514 but at least the image is clear enough to drill all the holes accurately and mark the white lines and dot-circles.
And that thing in Space 1999 includes a subtle detail matching 2001:
View attachment 1379515 View attachment 1379516 The front not only has the two round knobs, but also in the corner the little flat switch that gives away the gyro unit buried inside! Could be an in-joke copy made by a props-guy, or I remember someone once spotted one of the Discovery suit backpacks stuck on a wall in the background of an old Doctor Who episode, so clearly there was once ex-2001 stuff floating around in UK TV-land.

Yep, AE - 35 is seen on this pic +xxxxxxx unit at the bottom of it. I thought the knob was a regular On-Off switch at the bottom like the one on my unit.:unsure:
 

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