December 1947 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
(nee Gernsbacher), born in Luxembourg, made his fame and fortune in America as a serial electronics
magazine publisher, science fiction author, inventor, and visionary. Radio Craft magazine, in which
this editorial was printed, began in 1929 on the heels of
Radio News, which began in 1919 and
ran through 1959. Hugo Gernsback had a huge influence on the direction of communications electronics,
and his opinions were widely sought. As has been the case since governments first regulated services
and manufacturing, there was in the middle of the last century a debate over whether electronics servicemen
should be required to be licensed to ply their trade. Magazines of the era were filled with full-page
advertisements offering home-study courses and classroom instruction to prepare for prestigious and
prosperous careers in servicing of radio and television receivers, transmitters, telephone systems,
computers (what there was of them), radars, etc. Most likely the majority of people conducted their
businesses with honesty and integrity, but there were also a lot of cheats and scoundrels who charged
customers extra amounts due incompetence, replacing - or claiming to have replaced - perfectly good
parts, purposely creating latent defects in equipment to assure a repeat service call later, etc.
Service-Licensing, or Self-Policing - Which Will It Be?
By Hugo Gernsback
Radio-Craft has pointed out for many years that sooner or later, either national, state,
or local licensing of radio servicemen would have to be viewed realistically by servicemen.
In past years, much pressure has been put on by various authorities to license servicemen for a variety
of reasons. Chief among these reasons are:
1. Danger to radio owners (such as electric shocks) from errors of diagnosis and repair of radio
2. Fire hazard due to faulty repairing.
3. Abuses of many kinds by servicemen in their repair work.
These are the main and perhaps overall reasons. There are others.*
Last October the New York City Administration through its City Councilman Stanley M. Isaacs called
for mandatory licensing of all radio technicians and radio repairmen in New York City. The Board of
Directors of the Radio Manufacturers Association immediately adopted a unanimous resolution opposing
this proposed licensing of radio servicemen.
The Radio Manufacturers made it clear that it does not deny that abuses exist in the radio servicing
and repair field, abuses which the licensing regulations might correct. These, according to the Association,
involve "exorbitant" fees and poor workmanship. The RMA points out that only a small minority of the
radio servicing trade are guilty of such abuses. But the industry feels, according to spokesmen, that
"bureaucratic regulation" is not the final answer to the subject. The resolution also stressed that
there was no intention of criticizing the New York Municipal Administration in any way. It is rather
the implications of general licensing that are feared.
The Association rightly feels that if New York sets a precedent in licensing radio servicemen, it
is almost certain that other cities throughout the country will soon enact similar measures. The Association
is convinced that it would be far better that the servicing industry police itself to do away with present
abuses. The Board also pointed out that such initial steps for self-policing are now being taken. As
an example, they call attention to a forthcoming experimental clinic for radio repairmen in Philadelphia.
Radio-Craft has pointed out many times in the past that the servicemen themselves can do
a great deal to ward off unfavorable legislation and licensing if they would themselves form either
a national servicing league, or as this seems to be difficult to achieve at present, that servicemen
in all cities should certainly have local Associations to do the policing.
It is true that a few such associations exist in some cities, but there are far too few of them and
they cannot be said to exist on a nationwide scale. It would seem that unless such a nationwide movement
soon gets under way, either stringent federal or state legislation will result. This is certain to prove
a great handicap to the servicing industry. Usually when such controls are applied, the individual serviceman
particularly, loses much of his freedom. Other new factors will also be injected which in many ways
are bound to handicap him. We all know that most of the servicing abuses are perpetrated by a small
minority of irresponsible individuals, but it is precisely this minority who give the servicing industry
its bad name. It is unfortunate that human nature is such that satisfactory work is seldom praised to
the skies, but let one serious abuse come along and instantly the entire servicing industry is blamed.
The country would be best served at the present time by the establishment of local associations.
These would issue to each member a shield for display in his place of business, stating that he is a
member of the association and licensed by it under a serial number. The local association would make
it its business to ascertain that all representative servicemen are properly enrolled. Then by running
educational advertisements in the local newspapers the public would quickly learn to patronize only
It would then be a simple matter to trace those servicemen who abuse the trade, and sufficient pressure
could be brought by the association on such non-members to make it almost impossible for the minority,
wild-cat servicemen to make a living.
None of this is new. It has been proposed in various ways before, but the unfortunate part is that
so far little or nothing has been done about it. There are already certain areas in this country where
servicemen are even now subject to restrictive measures, as for instance Madison, Wisconsin, which has
an ordinance for "licensing radio and electronic servicemen". Special legislation on the subject has
been drafted in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., although as far as has been ascertained none
has been enacted into law.
It has often been said, and rightly so, that many people feel that licensing is a threat to the freedom
of enterprise and freedom for the individual service man. Indeed, many believe this to be so. But we
might also point out that numerous other services are licensed such as plumbers, electricians, and scores
of others. They do not appear to be very much down-trodden.
It is quite true that licensing always imposes certain restrictions on the licensee, yet in many
trades licenses are distinctly necessary and often essential to the welfare of the community.
Radio-Craft does, however, believe that at the present time country-wide licensing by authorities
is not necessary if the radio servicing industry can regulate itself.
Radio-Craft believes that the issue is urgent. It believes also that unless corrective steps
are taken in the near future, licensing will very certainly result.
Radio-Craft would welcome suggestions from within the radio servicing industry and particularly
welcomes codes set up by local associations which will be publicized as models in future issues of this
Radio-Craft will welcome all suggestions on this important subject and will devote ample
space to it in future issues.
*See also article "Licensing Problems and the Serviceman" by H. W. Schendel, November, 1945. issue
Posted , 2014