The Golden Age of Electronics

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by spinnaker, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. spinnaker

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    I recent post from a young member lamenting the fact that he didn't have enough money to purchase what he need for his new hobby.

    I mentioned the fact that I have been pretty much working since I was about 9, doing almost every odd job as a youth.

    One of the things I did was to have my only business repairing televisions, radios, tape players, pretty much everything electronic All I had was a multimeter or when I was able to borrow a scope from time to time.

    I had business cards printed up and an add in our town newspaper. My big business seemed to be tuner rebuilds. I just replaced them and would take them to a local shop for rebuild. I replaced my aunt's tuner more times than I care to remember. She was really rough on tuners. :)

    It was fairly easy. Circuits were simple. If you knew your block diagram and symptom. you could repair pretty much anything. I start with tubes and moved on to transistors. I saw the beginning of the end with the "works in a drawer" sets.

    Now I doubt a young person could make extra cash using their hobby to repair devices. The smd stuff would require fairly advanced skills. I am guessing you couldn't find a schematic today and they were so readily available in years gone by. Not to mention few towns have parts stores around. If you could get the parts for those sets. Plus electronics rarely breaks today anyway. And when it does it is probably ready for replacement.

    Yes I think I grew up in the Golden Age of Electronics. I was lucky enough to be able to earn a little gold using my interest in electronics at an early age.
     
  2. bountyhunter

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    Electronic devices are so cheap now they are not meant to be repaired. In 1968, a 25" color TV sold for about $800 (in today'sdollars, probably $2,000) and a much superior TV today would cost about $250. There is no longer any value in the product that would allow for repair time cost to be feasible.
     
  3. loosewire

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    Remember the 6af4 in the tuner.
     
  4. tindel

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    I've often thought about starting a repair service, but I'm not sure it would be profitable these days. Of course I've thought about repairing old tube and transistor radios that people have for prosperity. But if people have them, I assume they know how they work too.

    Today a decent TV can be had for $300 - not exactly breaking the bank for most people. Not to mention many parts are proprietary FPGA/DSP/etc these days, making replacements difficult to impossible to obtain. You also make a good point about the solderability of newer design taking more skill.

    I did very little tinkering as a child. I tinker more now as an adult. I needed the education to give me the confidence, I guess. I also needed the money.
     
  5. spinnaker

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    Yeah hat was sort of one of my points. But you can also add reliable. Electronic devices are pretty amazing today. If they work after their first 2-3 months, they are going o most likely work well past their useful life.

    Great news for consumers bad news for all of those out there that used to make a living or earn extra money on repair.

    It was a way to keep your skills sharp and earn some extra money too.
     
  6. Sparky49

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    Jul 16, 2011
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    Interesting post, Spinnaker. :)

    I have to agree.

    With older products, if you took the case off, I guess you would see perhaps a handful of components, each quite large and chunky.

    Nowadays, if you can get inside the product at all, one is confronted with about a thousand little cubes (which could be anything!) and the whole lot can fit on you fingertip!

    Of course, there are also uC's, but unless you are brought up speaking C++ instead of English, or whatever, you are unlikely to spot any errors there! That is of course assuming that you have the computer/software to 'look inside'.

    I would say that we are still in a golden era of electronics.

    I think what you are referring to is perhaps the start of the era of electronics, where companies were starting to move away from electrical and turning to electronics.

    I would still think we are in a golden era of electronics, look at the progress made nearly every day! Something new/major is changing.

    But I agree that for the kid who is curious, or for the casual hobbiest, the chances of getting inside and understanding/fixing a product are nearly gone.

    Sparky


    P.S. of course, chinese products seem to still be quite simple inside. Perhaps we should buy more of them!:eek::D;)
     
  7. MrChips

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    Very true. I see may PCs being thrown away.

    The most useful component that I can salvage from an old PC is the jumper cable that connects the front panel LED to the mother board.

    But I still save the PSU for the fan and all the disk drives and CDROM drives for their motors.
     
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  8. GetDeviceInfo

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    Jun 7, 2009
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    For me it's a matter of integration. Not much difference from a socketed vacuum tube to a plug in PLC module when it comes down to troubleshooting. The difference is the level at which ones becomes involved and the dependancy that the client has on the electronic devices. There simply is no return on attempting repair on throw away consumer electronics.
     
  9. DerStrom8

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    As mentioned before, things today aren't designed to be repaired. They're designed to fail, so that the consumer has to buy a new one. CRTs cost a lot of money 30-40 years ago (and was higher before that), but they were built to last. It wasn't uncommon for a CRT to last for 20 years, if not more. Nowadays, they have these fancy flatscreens, plasmas, LEDs, etc. They cost $200-500 a pop, but it's not uncommon for them to only last a few years. Let's look at a 20 year period. We'll say we have a CRT that we buy at the beginning for $2000, and it dies at the end. We'll completely ignore the fact that the CRT can usually be easily repaired.
    We'll also buy a $500 plasma at the beginning of the 20 years.
    Years 1 and 2, they both work great. But at the end of the 2 years, something goes wrong with the plasma (2 years is a generous period for most plasmas these days). Since they're nearly impossible to repair, you up and buy a new one. CRT: only $2000. Plasmas: $1000.

    Now this goes on for another two years, and your CRT is still running great, but your plasma dies again. You buy another one. CRT: $2000. Plasmas: $1500.

    You can see where I'm going with this. The plasmas are significantly cheaper at the start, but they are not designed to run as long as the CRTs. In the long run, they cost a significant amount more. I believe it works the same way with a lot of electronics nowadays. They're no longer built to last, but built to fail. It's the companies' trick to get more money.

    Here's a video I stumbled across that might give you some insight:
    Planned Obsolescence
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  10. MrChips

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    Planned Obsolescence - so true.

    Same with automobiles - how many folks do you know who are driving a 10+ year old car?

    Our Toyota Echo is 12 years and still going strong.

    Our Maytag washer and dryer are 23 years old - with no repairs expect for a solenoid that I replaced myself.

    Your PC, smart phone, mp3 player, etc. is already obsolete by the time you buy it.

    I still use Win XP. I still use my Microchip PICStart Plus on Win 3.1. Never had a reason to upgrade. Once in awhile I go back to DOS.

    Win 7 - what's that? Never used it.
     
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  11. Sparky49

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    Very good points, but some of those reasons makes me believe we are in a golden age of sorts.

    If your phone is obsolete when you just buy it, surely that means that new innovations and technology are being produced at a quick rate.

    From a development view, I think that makes it a golden age, but perhaps not so for ethical.
     
  12. #12

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    Nov 30, 2010
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    All my life I have made a living fixing things, but the days of component level troubleshooting are over. Now it's black box changing. I don't find the open transistor, I replace the controller board. It's faster, easier, and I make more money replacing the board than I would by doing the work required to find the bad transistor. You can either jump on the boat or sink (financially). My entire education on fixing PC's was watching a repairman replace a floppy drive. One look and I knew I would never solder anything in a computer.

    I have never bought a computer, or even a monitor, but I have a lappy and a PC with XP and this one is a PC with Vista. (I had to start using it because the XP computers weren't fast enough to stream videos.) The point is, rabid consumerism drives people to give me perfectly good computers when they buy the latest whiz-bang gizmo. The Geek Squad is my best friend. They tell people that computers with bad hard drives are unrepairable. Now, I have 3 of them. I just replaced the black box called, "HDD".

    The repair business isn't completely dead, but I no longer pack a soldering iron for a house call.
     
  13. spinnaker

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    Funny but that is what I do too. :)
     
  14. spinnaker

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    I guess I was speaking of the golden age as it refers to the ordinary repair person. Not sure if many around here remember but there were several TV repair places in many small towns. Pretty much anyone that was handy or had a background in electronics could start a business.
     
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  15. spinnaker

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    But it really is a mixed bag today. This is a very exciting time for hobbyists. MCUs, integrated circuits, displays all kinds of new technology make it much easier for the hobbyist to turn out some really great projects. At lets not forget great forums like this one that weren't around years ago.

    I guess the issue is that now the hobby cost you money while years ago, it could make you some money. :)
     
  16. MrChips

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    Altogether, it is a lot better now than ever, especially with having the internet.

    As you say, having a forum like AAC is wonderful. I get a big kick out of trying to fix someone's stereo who is halfway around the globe.

    Data sheets and specs are instantly available. Circuit schematics of antique equipment is readily available, much more so than for modern electronics. Hence you are more likely to be able to fix something antique than something modern.

    And if you have a computer bug, someone has already encountered it and has posted a solution.

    I can order parts at 5pm and it will arrive 10am next day (no minimum order or shipping charges for an institutional account). More efficient than having spend 1 to 2 hours driving out to our nearest electronics supplier which may not have the part in stock.
     
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  17. monster_catfish

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    Mar 17, 2011
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    Check out my two-horse stable of really old steeds, a 500 SEC and a 500SE Merc. Both of these beauties date back to the early 1980s, and are still going strong at 30+ years old, much thanks to pointers I picked up at the Benzworld website. I saved the scrap car bodies from junkyard crushers, and had the motor of my choice fitted, after careful consideration.

    Under the hood of each is an identical 5-liter M117 Merc engine, which is arguably one of the most "bullet-proof" power-plants ever designed by Mercedes, and which produces blistering acceleration on demand.

    In my view, the golden age of automobiles comprised selected Mercs produced between 1983 and 1998, before computer overkill commenced.
     
  18. spinnaker

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    How true. It was back in the day when you could actually work on an automobile. I remember working on a number of automobiles while standing inside the engine compartment. Try that today. :)
     
  19. DerStrom8

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    My favorite car that I've ever owned was my '84 BMW 325e. It got well over 200k miles before the clutch line began rusting through. If I had the right tools, I'd be able to replace it and have that thing running again, but for the moment it's just sitting in my driveway up on blocks. Great car--had a fair amount of power, and it was fun to drive. Looked like cr@p but was my favorite nonetheless :D Served me well for when I used it!
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2012
  20. bountyhunter

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    Not really. Most PC's and general electronics are filled with marginal quality electrolytic caps. They are good for maybe 3 - 5 years of life if that much. I just had a digital TV converter box blow up which was 3 years old. As usual, power supply problem, switcher caps failed.

    Consumer electronics are pretty reliable in the electronics devices (IC's and transistors) but the caps fail frequently.
     
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