I found an old crystal oscillator from my junk bin, and tough it would make interesting teardown. It is much bigger than new ones, but it works just same way as its little brothers.
Shall we look inside?
I have no Dremel or equivalent power tool, so hacksaw, hobby knife and file time!
Not too fun, but manageable. First I tried desolder endcap, but it was stuck too tough, so I just sawed around and cut last bits with knife. Couple small cuts to my fingers and bigger cuts to my vise, and I got that canned crystal open. Maybe I should have used can opener instead.
And here we see the crystal itself. I chipped edge off, but it ain’t going back together anyways so no harm done. That crystal is huge compared to modern smd crystals, where they have just tiny strip or fork inside. I actually tried open one of those, but dropped peaces of crystal to floor, so no pictures from that, I’m sorry.
How thin it is. When electric filed is introduced it bends, and when field is removed it will wobble back its original shape, and create small voltage back. And when drove in specific way, they act as RLC oscillator (correct me if I’m wrong), but with accurateish frequency. And that freq can be tuned by cutting crystal to different shapes and diameters.
And yeah, nothing mystical in there, just crystal (It is actually quartz, you can find impure stones from your backyard, well at least where I live) and electrodes around it. And that is what makes your clock tick, your computers, mobile phones, about everything today to run. Without this invention, world would be far less punctual, thats for sure.