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In 2006, the European Union passed the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) which pretty much restricted the use of traditional lead-tin solder.

Is it the case that all consumer electronics (with an emphasis on retro computing machines of course!) originating from Europe and the US used lead free solder to join their components?

Are there any notable machines that used lead free solder before this age?

This is relevant to those wishing to modify hardware components of their old machines as lead-free solder usually have higher melting points.

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    Actually, you need to identify the solder type before the work starts and have a different set of tips for each … nah, don't do that, use Sn60Pb38Cu2 for your all of your repair work and you are okay. – Janka Jun 24 '18 at 0:07
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Is it the case that all consumer electronics (...) originating from Europe and the US used lead free solder to join their components?

After 2006 yes - and not only in Europe, but next to everywhere. Modern production is global, devices from one production line and design are meant to be sold in many markets. No manufacturer wants to restrict the 'sellabiliy' of their products due to the use of parts that are banned in major markets.

(with an emphasis on retro computing machines of course!)

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. Also, really old computers were manufactured way before RoHS was even though about, they are of course not according to the standards.

Now if you ask about modern devices used with old machines, or some of the emulation gadgets, they are (again of course) manufactured according to RoHS regulations.

Are there any notable machines that used lead free solder before this age?

Not that I know of any - back then no one really cared - just think about all the organobromine compounds used as fire retardants in monitors.

This is relevant to those wishing to modify hardware components of their old machines as lead-free solder usually have higher melting points.

Not really, as the higher temperatures are well within the tolerable range for parts used in the 70s or later. After all, one should only heat a solder joint for a minimum time. Set the temperature of your soldering station according to the solder used and handle the joint like trained.

It only gets annoying when using older soldering irons without regulation or insufficient heating. This will result in slow heating and a higher temperature flow from the solder point into parts and/or PCBs.

Throw away old tools - it always pays off to have the proper tool for the job.

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Are there any notable machines that used lead free solder before this age?

Probably no, because there are NO any real advantages in lead-free solders over leaded ones. Lead-free solders have greater melting point, their mechanical characteristics are worse. Widely known is the problem of tin whiskers in lead-free solders, that grow from solder points, eventually causing short-circuiting and then the device fails.

Today many devices that have reliability in the first place, are still soldered with a leaded solder. Examples are military and aerospace devices.

This is relevant to those wishing to modify hardware components of their old machines as lead-free solder usually have higher melting points.

While repairing or modifying retro HW, you'd better use old good leaded solders, with lower melting points (that will preserve old ICs better) and with no risk of tin whiskers grow (short-circuiting caused by tin whisker might destroy the retro device)

  • Whiskers are an artefact of using the wrong tools (wrong temperature, wrong tip) and a less than proper environment. Also done proper the chips don't get more heated either way. – Raffzahn Jun 24 '18 at 16:49
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    No real advantages in lead-free, short of avoiding a known neurotoxin in your production process, that is. And whisker formation is complex: other metals common in electronics can whisker too, and even SnPb can still whisker under the right circumstances. The Art of Metal Whisker Appreciation: A Practical Guide for Electronics Professionals from NASA Goddard makes interesting reading. I suspect capacitor/battery failures are likely to cause more damage than SnAg solder could. – scruss Jun 24 '18 at 19:20
  • Still the recommendation there is to use lead. And you still have ~10kg of that neurotoxin in your car :) – lvd Jun 25 '18 at 8:24

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