February 1930 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
"And there is nothing new under the sun." -
Ecclesiastes 1:9, NKJV (did you know
that is the origin of the saying?). This 1930 editorial
by Radio-Craft editor Hugo Gernsback describes a coordinated
scam perpetrated by radio manufacturers to compel consumers
to buy new sets rather than have their existing sets repaired.
In short, retail prices were inflated to accommodate a built-in
'trade-in' allowance that far exceeded the repair cost or used
radio cost. Radio service shops were getting the short shrift
because many people who might have otherwise elected to have
repairs made would instead trade in the old set for a new one.
That a conspiracy was underfoot was evidenced both by the practice
of destroying traded-in sets so they cannot be used again
(similar to the
Cash for Clunkers prOgram where engines were destroyed after
trade-in), and by making it difficult or even impossible
for repair shops to obtain adequate technical documentation.
The latter is a prime reason why magazines like Radio-Craft
Service Data Sheets monthly.
By Hugo Gernsback
A situation which calls for plain talk at this time has developed
in radio. For a long time it has been known, in professional
radio circles, that there is something rotten in "Radiodom,"
but it was thought best to keep quiet about it, rather than
embarrass the radio industry by washing its linen in public.
But the situation which has arisen of late makes it necessary
for radio set manufacturers to come to their senses, if radio
is to survive.
Talking very plainly and to the point, the situation is this:
The majority of radio set manufacturers today make sets only
"to be sold" and, apparently, do not give a tinker's damn what
happens afterwards. Such a thing as giving real service is unheard
of and, as a rule, the policy of "the public be damned" is pursued
by practically all set manufacturers today.
The economic reason for this, again, is apparently very simple.
A radio set produced by a first-class manufacturer, with good
equipment and under good supervision, is probably good for ten
years; and here is the crux of the whole matter. A radio set
does not wear out like an automobile, for instance. without
extensive replacements, an automobile lasts, at most, two or
three years; then the owner usually trades it in and gets a
new car. The best customers of the motor car manufacturer are
the owners of cars. With a radio set, the situation is different.
A radio set lasts for a long time; there is practically nothing
to wear out and, usually, the only reason why a set owner gets
a new receiver is that he wishes a more up-to-date one.
We started out with battery sets, which became almost obsolete
in 1928; and the set manufacturers promptly found a bonanza
in the popular rush for A.C. sets. Last season, screen-grid
sets were the mode; but evidently 1928's A.C. set customers
were fairly well satisfied, for most of them still retain their
1928 models; and the percentage who have traded them in for
1929 screen-grid receivers is more or less negligible.
The manufacturers tooled up for a tremendous production in
1929, and there was an unfortunate overproduction which, according
to one radio trade periodical, mounted to the tremendous figure
of 900,000 radio sets in 1929.
But, as we said before, the set manufacturer today, pursuing
his purely selfish policy, must sell sets - must sell more,
every year, to satisfy his stockholders - or Wall Street, which
amounts to the same thing.
The set manufacturer is not at all interested to see that
a set is properly serviced, once it is installed, for the simple
reason that, every time one of his sets is serviced and put
into condition, it causes a customer to remain satisfied, possibly
for another year or more, and the latter certainly will not
be in the market for a new set.
So what does the manufacturer do? He makes the list price
of his set so high that his dealer can take back an old set
from a customer, and allow him on it a small amount toward the
purchase of a new set. But, within six months, Mr. Public
finds out that he has been stung again; for, lo and behold,
the same set for which he paid, let us say, $200.00, now sells
for $50.00, or even less. But it is fair to state here that
there are a few set manufacturers who do not reduce their prices;
they probably do not overproduce, either.
The evils arising from such malpractices are patent. Recently
New York City witnessed the sad spectacle of one large radio
chain store which destroyed by fire hundreds of "trade-in" radio
sets. The reason? You see, a man who does not already own a
radio can journey to Cortlandt Street, in New York City, and
buy a good set for $2.00 or $3.00. This, then, he takes to the
large radio store - and gets an "allowance" of $25.00 if he
buys a new $165.00 screen-grid "Inter-planetarian."
So the chain store, to discourage this sort of thing, now
intends to destroy all "trade-in" sets; so that they cannot
come back like the proverbial cat! Damned clever, these Radio
Chinese! Curing one evil by burning up another one! Great idea,
if it could only be made to work - even more efficient than
perpetual motion! .
Radio-Craft has on file hundreds of letters from Service
Men, all over the country, complaining bitterly that cooperation,
of any kind, is unobtainable from practically all radio set
manufacturers. Letters asking for information on their sets
remain unanswered, or the information is given that only "accredited"
dealers can get this information.
The "accredited" dealer, however, is in the same boat as
the set manufacturer; for he also is not too anxious to really
service a set and put it into shape, lest it lose him a sale.
It is, however, to his interest to send out a "set butcher"
who masquerades as a "service man," and to put the set out of
order; so that the victim must buy a new set. A good racket
while it lasts!
The honest radio dealer and the honest Service Man, who make
their living by putting sets in good order and repairing them
to the satisfaction of the community, are constantly working
at a disadvantage; because they can expect no real help from
the set manufacturer. For this reason, the Service Man must
rely upon technical publications, such as Radio-Craft and others,
to get the necessary information to take care of his customers.
In doing this, he naturally performs a great service, not only
to the man whose set he repairs successfully, but to the manufacturer
of the set as well; although the latter does not give a hoot
It stands to reason that the owner of a set, who has to sell
it for five or ten per cent of its original cost, after he had
it for a year or less, is certainly not going to shout its praises
from the roof tops; he will be careful, if he has any sense,
not to buy one of that make again. But, if a Service Man puts
his receiver into good shape again, the layman owner at least
does not blame his troubles on the set manufacturer; he thinks
something went wrong with the set from natural causes; and,
at some later date, he may buy a new model of the same make
he had before.
Is all this of any interest to the set manufacturer? Perish
the thought! When the Service Man wants information, the set
manufacturer will almost never give it; or, if he does (as one
famous Eastern set manufacturer does) he charges the service
man $1.00 for an instruction book which is not complete and
does not give all the information on every model this manufacturer
Or take the case of a famous Midwestern set manufacturer who
offered to repair one of his recent sets (which, by the way,
had only a burnt-out power pack) for the modest sum of $27.00!
Yet a new set of the same vintage, brought out by the same manufacturer,
can be had on the open market today for much less money than
Small wonder, then, that the radio set industry is in its
present deplorable shape; with practically all the larger radio
factories closed down for the time being, tremendous stocks
of unsold sets on hand, bankruptcy of a number of radio set
manufacturers, and grief all along the line.
It took the majority of radio set manufacturers, with perhaps
one or two exceptions, five or six years to wake up and support
the industry that was getting them all the business; by that,
I mean the broadcast stations. Only during the last year have
set manufacturers deemed it wise to seek good will by broadcasting.
It will probably take the industry another five years to
learn that it will pay them to take the Service Man into their
confidence, and to talk to him in his own language. It is an
interesting sidelight that at the present time the radio set
industry is out only to catch new suckers in the shape of new
customers. If there is any manufacturer who is giving real service
to the public who have bought his sets, Radio-Craft will be
the first to shout his name from the housetops; and we invite
any radio set manufacturer to supply us with evidence to this
Posted October 13, 2015