January 1969 Electronics World
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
Electronics World, published May 1959
- December 1971. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
What were some of the top issues of the radio and television industry 50 years ago? In a lot of respects, the same things that concern it today. A ready supply of service technicians was a concern that was taken seriously by the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). While there are not many local repair shops for electronics products nowadays, there is still a huge demand to techs who are willing and able to do the hard work of keeping the world's communication infrastructure operational - climbing towers, repairing cell equipment (BTS units, network computer racks, landlines, etc.). Now, as then, good pay, job security, benefits, and respect for the job being done were at the top of the list. Manufacturer product warranties were another big deal. This being the January issue, Electronics World columnists contributed their predictions for the year that lay ahead.
Radio & Television News
By Forest H. Belt / Contributing Editor
Keeping Good Technicians
It still looks like a long time before there will be enough service technicians to go around. Half the shop owners we talk with tell us how hard it is to find and keep able technical help. They all seem to wonder what the reasons are.
The Service Committee of EIA sums up the problem in the word "motivation." At last fall's Conference the Committee decided the biggest job lies in selling young people and their parents on the dignity, challenge, and reward of consumer-electronics service work. The place to start, they say, is in the high schools and colleges - letting teachers know what a vast market there is for this kind of trained manpower.
Yet, how well does the service industry motivate these youngsters afterward? In many localities it offers low salaries, no fringe benefits. long hours, and dirty shops in which to work. How can we expect clean-cut young fellows to find anything glamorous or challenging in a business that, taken all around, shows less than average pride in itself? We can't - and therein lies one key to the motivation that is needed.
Dr. Victor Howard, consultant in personnel management, has this to say about it. "Motivation is a pyramid of values an employee wants and needs. Physiological needs are at the base followed by safety or security needs; then social needs, ego needs and, finally, the need for self-fulfillment."
In more specific terms, here is what it takes to motivate young service technicians: a comfortable, clean, well-lighted place to work; safe, sturdy, trustworthy tools and equipment to work with; training in how to work safely; satisfactory wages sufficient to permit family security and a reasonable social standard; disability insurance and pension plans that relieve them of uneasiness and worry that saps useful energy; self-respect - which could best be evidenced by a firm conviction among those already in the servicing business that it's a rewarding career; and advanced training to satisfy the willingness - indeed, the insistence - of todays young people to learn more and more about whatever interests them.
These are the things it takes to find and keep good technicians. All of them are available and are already being provided by many business-minded service-shop operators. Without these, the independent service industry has little hope of attracting the kind of young men it need to keep it alive and independent.
The wording is maybe ... but for the service dealer there is little change. What the major electronics manufacturers are doing is shortening the long-winded way warranties have been written. Of course, it may help servicers to spell out clearly that warranty "service, labor, and transportation charges ... are the purchaser's responsibility." Buyers may eventually quit expecting free labor under extended warranties.
This simplification, however, is not what government (and private) consumer protectionists are really after. Ostensibly, they want a warranty that covers everything - so the buyer pays nothing for repairs that become necessary during the warranty period. If you read between the lines though, and listen carefully to what they say, you come to realize that they are actually promoting a lifetime warranty - one that covers the entire useful life of an appliance.
That's virtually a throw-away philosophy. Buy something, use it, and the manufacturer covers any repairs it needs until the time comes to get another. Then just throw it away and buy another. With most items, if there were any servicing at all, it would be done only by a manufacturer-operated servicing facility.
One step in that direction has already been taken. It's called "exchange warranty." If an appliance goes bad in warranty, take it to a center and get another free. That doesn't go on forever but it does eliminate servicing through a certain period. The 2-year exchange plan on Motorola's Quasar modules is similar, but so far it requires a technician to know which module to exchange. Still another angle on the same theme is part of almost all leasing plans. A user merely leases the equipment, with all maintenance furnished by the leasing company. When the time comes for a new unit, the user merely signs a new lease. Payments are made once a month, and no repair bills, ever.
Simpler warranties, if not overdone, could improve industry-customer relations. It's important, however. to examine the deeper implications. They might not all be good.
What 1969 Will Bring
With every new year, industry sages predict what they think will happen during the ensuing 12 months.
Columnists get that urge too; so here is what I expect in 1969.
So much hinges on the economy in general. With a new President, a different party, we can he sure we'll see a changed approach to the seeming impossible task of maintaining a boom while cooling it. This boom has a lot of momentum, and won't cool much for awhile, even if peace is really achieved in Viet Nam. The consumer electronics industry is affected in a roundabout way, of course, through higher or lower wages brought on by war and defense spending.
The boom will likely last till after midyear, even in spite of attempts to slow it down. Spending for home electronics will keep climbing at present rates, at least. If no further attempt is made to curb consumer spending, the second quarter of 1969 could become a record-breaker. Here are just a few specific examples:
Color-TV in 1969. Color-TV, having failed to spurt significantly near the end of 1968, may wait until mid- or late next year to climb again. Color sets now outsell black-and-white, but the next surge in sales won't occur until the newness of solid-state wears off. After more transistor chassis have appeared (probably in the spring lines) the public will lose its wariness. Then look for a sharp upturn in sales.
Hi-Fi in 1969. Hi-fi, still waiting for its next "big" innovation, will increase at about the same rate it is now - slowly, but steadily. There's no sign of anything startling to come, certainly not before late in the year. You'll hear a couple of good new ideas early in the spring but they won't start any new fads.
Auto Stereo. Speaking of fads, this one is building a record of striking growth. An awful lot of 1969 cars will have auto stereos installed at the factory. Some will be combination systems - both cartridge tape and stereo-FM. The dominant cartridge system is 8·track continuous loop. But there's rumbling that suggests more cassettes are usurping the automobile market. They won't sideline much 8-track business but a lot of the natural increase in this field will go in the cassette direction. The chief encroachment will be in the used-car after-market. Cassette machines and tapes are less expensive than 8-track. Stereo cassettes with higher fidelity, played on machines with better heads, are only around the corner - and that will alter the emphasis. Look for more companies in the business and for auto stereo to be the fastest-growing segment of consumer electronics in 1969. It'll probably take till 1970 for this particular mini-boom to slow down.
Electronic Music in 1969. Here's one more home-entertainment product to watch in 1969. Any real growth at all will amount to a boom since the field is hardly scratched. I don't mean the amplified-instrument business, but "synthetic" electronic music. So far this has been mainly a lab or university curiosity, although it has gained some acceptance in avant-garde circles. It produces some of the strangest and wildest sounds you've ever heard, and some of the most charming. The "instruments" now sell in the neighborhood of $3,000. The possibilities are enticing, though. Look for a less expensive version for home and junior band use.
Color-TV X-ray Radiation
Back to the here-and-now. Almost after any need for it, at least for color-TV, there is a radiation law. It squeaked through Congress in October. But that's nowhere near the end of the matter. Even though most color sets now use circuits that can't cause the h.v.-regulator radiation problem that kicked off the x-radiation uproar. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) still must set standards. The lack of such standards makes a fiasco of the law in most respects. Color set manufacturers must, at their own expense, remedy any radiation defect that occurs. (That's what G-E did, anyway.) The funny part is that there's no way - under the new law - to decide if there is a radiation defect. Even more to the point, there is still no evidence that the soft x-rays do any harm anyway. So the law enjoins HEW to sponsor research to find out if they do - but to set standards whether or not they do. This seems like a strange tail-wag-the-dog law that developed from "scare" publicity and pressure. The bill does apply to other electronic equipment but it is virtually pointless for the equipment that triggered the whole thing.
Solid-State (Almost) Color-TV Display
In a laboratory in Tokyo, a Japanese professor found a way to draw a new type of optical fiber at very low cost. One practical use he recently demonstrated is for a flat color-TV screen. The fibers are arranged so that colors appear in lines instead of in dot triads. However, the optical fibers do not produce the colors themselves. They are merely connected to red, green and blue filters over three monochrome CRT's. The various color signals are applied to the tubes separately and carried to the viewing surface by the fibers. So we don't have a non-CRT color-TV display yet, but this kind of research helps keep the fires stirred.
Posted June 13, 2017