The UA1 central detector was crucial to understanding the complex topology of proton-antiproton events. It played a most important role in identifying a handful of Ws and Zs among billions of collisions.
The detector was a 6-chamber cylindrical assembly 5.8 m long and 2.3 m in diameter, the largest imaging drift chamber of its day. It recorded the tracks of charged particles curving in a 0.7 Tesla magnetic field, measuring their momentum, the sign of their electric charge and their rate of energy loss (dE/dx).
Atoms in the argon-ethane gas mixture filling the chambers were ionised by the passage of charged particles. The electrons that were released drifted along an electric field shaped by field wires and were collected on sense wires. The geometrical arrangement of the 17000 field wires and 6125 sense wires allowed a spectacular 3-D interactive display of reconstructed physics events to be produced.