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Mac's Radio Service Shop (Premier Article): Mac Hires a Helper
April 1948 Radio News Article

April 1948 Radio News

April 1948 Radio & Television News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

I believe this is the very first episode of the highly popular "Mac's Radio Service Shop." This series of instructive stories was the brainchild of none other than John T. Frye, creator of the Carl and Jerry series that ran in Popular Electronics for many years. "Mac's Radio Service Shop" began life in April 1948 in Radio News magazine (which later became Radio & Television News, then Electronics World), and changed its name to simply "Mac's Service Shop" until the final episode was published in a 1977 Popular Electronics magazine. "Mac" is electronics repair shop owner Mac McGregor, and Barney Jameson his his eager, if not somewhat naive, technician assistant. "Lessons" are taught in story format with dialogs between Mac and Barney. Interestingly, here we have Barney on his first day on the job, and Mac is just now asking him whether he has any experience servicing electronics gear. Wouldn't you think he would have asked that question prior to hiring him?

Mac's Radio Service Shop: Mac Hires a Helper

Mac's Radio Service Shop: Mac Hires a Helper, April 1948 Radio News - RF CafeBy John T. Frye

Mac was pleased to find his brand-new assistant waiting at the door of the shop when he came down to open up. The kid greeted him with a shy smile, his curly red hair looking like a torch in the bright rays of the Spring sun.

"Right on time, eh Barney?" Mac said as he unlocked the door of the radio shop and motioned the youth inside.

"Yes, sir. Mom was so afraid that I might be late for work the very first day that she had me eating breakfast at five-thirty."

Mac's leathery face wrinkled in a sympathetic grin as he shrugged his broad shoulders into his shop coat and fastened the belt. He waved the boy into a chair and leaned back against the desk in front of him. "Barney," he asked, "just how much do you know about radio service?"

"Not much that I'm really sure of, Mr. McGregor," Barney confessed. "I had a little radio theory in physics in high school, and I picked up some more while I was studying to get my amateur license. My transmitter and some of the other gear around the ham shack are home-built, but that was mostly a case of copying them out of books and magazines. I think you had better just figure that I am plenty dumb about radio but that I don't want to stay that way."

"Good! The less a fellow thinks he knows about anything the easier he learns. You will pick up a lot just watching and listening, but that is not enough. If we are going to make a real serviceman out of you, you must know the 'why' as well as the 'how' of fixing radios. I'll give you some books to read, and I want to hear you coming up with lots of questions. If I can, I'll answer them; and if I can't we'll dig out the answers together."

Barney nodded his head vigorously in approval of this program.

"Well," Mac said, picking up some cardboard tags from the desk, "we may as well start right now. Miss Perkins usually takes care of things up front here, but she doesn't come to work until nine o'clock. Incidentally, do not let her fool you. She likes to think that she is a sharp-tongued old ,sour-puss, while she really has a heart as big and as soft as they come - but don't ever let her know you know it."

Barney's blue eyes twinkled. "I think I understand, sir. Mom is a little like that."

"As I was saying," Mac went on, there will be times, say during her lunch hour, when you will have to take sets in. When you do, always fill out one of these cards and fasten it to the set."

He handed one of the numbered tags to Barney and continued. "Be sure to get down correctly the name, address, and phone number of the customer. On that space on the back, write out the complaint with the set. Is it dead? noisy? distorting? cutting out? How long has it been that way? If it cuts out, how long does it take for it to do so after it has been turned on? Does it cut out entirely or just drop in volume? Does the dial lamp go out? Does anything such as jarring the set or snapping, on a light seem to bring it back? Does the trouble occur at any particular time of day or on any particular station?"

Barney's eyes were beginning to look a little glazed, but Mac went on relentlessly. "Don't forget to ask the customer if he can think of any little things he noticed wrong with the receiver before this last trouble showed up, little things that did not warrant taking it to a repairman but which he would like to have corrected while it is in the shop?"

"Are we just giving him a sales line, sir?" Barney asked.

The corners of Mac's mouth twitched at that "we," but he explained gravely, "Not at all! It is true that the customer likes to have his troubles taken seriously, but those questions are to help us. Quite often a minute spent in getting information on a set's behavior will save you an hour hunting trouble. Miss Perkins is a jim-dandy at collecting this information, and often the trouble with a set can be figured out just from reading what she has down on the card. She is good."

"I suppose the fellow who reads the card has to know a little something, too," Barney ventured without a trace of a smile.

"It helps," Mac agreed, looking at him sharply.

"What do I do with the set after I get its case history?"

"That depends on whether or not it is an 'intermittent'. An intermittent is any set that has some trouble that shows up only part of the time. The trouble may be cutting out, changes in volume, distortion, and so on; but if the condition comes and goes, the set is an intermittent."

"What do I do with one of those?"

"Mostly nothing, except to carry it gently back into the shop. I want these sets disturbed just as little as possible until I get a chance to hear them misbehave. They can tell you a lot about what ails them if you can just hear them go through their routine once."

"What if the sets are not intermittent ?"

"First, check to see if there is a way of knowing where the tubes belong, either in the form of a chart pasted to the cabinet or chassis or by numbers stamped on or near the sockets. If not, draw up a little tube-position chart before taking out the tubes."

"Do I check the tubes?"

"Not until I have shown you how I want it done. You just wipe them clean, using carbon-tetrachloride to remove any gum, and place them in a cardboard box together with the tube-diagram and the tag number of the set to which ,they belong. Come on back in the shop and I'll show you what you do then."

Barney followed Mac through the swinging-door back into the service shop. Mac went across the room and opened the door of a small closet-like compartment. Inside was a short bench with a metal hood arrangement that came down to within about eighteen inches of the top of the bench.

"Here is where you clean up the chassis and speaker of each set after you have taken them out of the cabinet," Mac explained. He snapped a switch, and there was the whir of a powerful fan accompanied by the throbbing of a small paint-spray compressor underneath the bench.

"You put the chassis on this bench and turn on that exhaust fan," Mac yelled above the noise. "Then you use these brushes to brush off all the dust and lint you can. The fan will carry it off. The compressed-air jet here will help a lot, too. Be sure and blow the dust out of the tuning condenser plates. If there is any gummy dirt on the chassis - and there usually is around the transformer - use the carbon-tet to loosen it and wipe it off. Clean the speaker, too. The main point is that I want all the dirt off. I want every chassis and every speaker to be shining clean before you set them on the service bench."

Mac turned off the switch and closed the door. From a cabinet he took out a little hand-type vacuum cleaner.

"This," he explained, "is the gadget you use to clean out the cabinets, helping things along a bit in the corners with a little brush. After the cabinet is all cleaned inside, you wipe off the outside with a damp cloth and then go over it with furniture polish."

He stopped talking to find Barney grinning broadly.

"What's so funny?" Mac asked.

"I was just thinking that Mom was a little worried at first about my working in a radio shop. She was afraid I might get electrocuted. When I go home tonight I am going to tell her that the worst she has to worry about is that I'll be getting dishpan hands or housemaid's knee."

"I suppose it does sound a little that way now," Mac said, "but radio servicing is a lot more things than watching a pattern on a scope. Good preparation is half of any job. All this asking questions and this cleaning may not sound very glamorous, but they are part of the preparation. The questions tell you what to look for and where to look. You will find, too, that there is something about a bright, clean radio that makes you do your workmanlike best on it."

"I didn't mean that the way it sounded, Mr. McGregor," Barney said in quick seriousness. "I was just making a little joke for Mom."

"I realize that, Barney; and what say we drop the 'Mr. McGregor' business. I'll settle for 'Mac.' "

In a twinkling Barney's face was wreathed in its usual grin. "Okay Mac," he said softly, "and you may as well quit fighting it and start calling me 'Red.' You know you want to!"

 

 

Posted July 5, 2022


Mac's Radio Service Shop Episodes on RF Cafe

This series of instructive stories was the brainchild of none other than John T. Frye, creator of the Carl and Jerry series that ran in Popular Electronics for many years. "Mac's Radio Service Shop" began life in April 1948 in Radio News magazine (which later became Radio & Television News, then Electronics World), and changed its name to simply "Mac's Service Shop" until the final episode was published in a 1977 Popular Electronics magazine. "Mac" is electronics repair shop owner Mac McGregor, and Barney Jameson his his eager, if not somewhat naive, technician assistant. "Lessons" are taught in story format with dialogs between Mac and Barney.

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