August 1967 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
In 1967, when this parody was published in Popular Electronics, the Iron Curtain of Communist Russia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) was still firmly in place. Constructing faux Russian-sounding words was common at the time. All a comedian needed to do to have their audiences rolling in the aisles was to append "ski," "ovitch" or "skov" to the end of any word, or add lots of "z"s and "k"s in the middle of words. Tim Conway and Harvey Korman did many hilarious skits on the 1970s' Carol Burnett show where they feigned speaking in German, Japanese, Swedish, Russian, and other tongues. Nowadays, of course, people are much more sensitive to that sort of thing - at least publically.
Lo! The Russian Radio/TV Serviceman
By Lewis A. Harlow
The Russian word that looks like pemoht (ремонт) is pronounced "remont" and means "repairs," or a place where you can get things repaired. Until very recently, the Soviet Government hadn't manufactured too much household electrical gadgetry, and the repair business - a private enterprise - had flourished on a "we-fix-anything" basis. There were a few specialized repair shops, for shoes for instance, but remont mostly means general repairs.
Remont shops are small, and rarely have any shop-owned transport for pick-up and delivery. They can fix what you can lug in. You probably won't have an avtomobil, and if you can't carry your repair job on the metro, you bring it in a taksi.
So you lug in your televisor which has gone dead, and you are greeted by the proprietor-operator of the shop who is a mekhanik, meaning mechanic. In America, the word "mechanic" has two meanings, one good and one bad. We have great confidence in the mechanic who is working somewhere under the shell of our car, but we hesitate to take our watch or even our pop-up toaster to someone who advertises as a mechanic. In Russia, the mekhanik is highly skilled, highly respected and highly inventive. In America, we'd call him a technician.
The Service Manual. Your Russian mekhanik will have the service manual for your government-manufactured televisor. He has no problem with innumerable brands and models which would require a Howard Sams file cabinet. The language in this manual is quite international, and an American technician who would spend a couple of hours in learning the Russian alphabet could follow it surprisingly well.
The picture language of the schematic is, of course, universal. So are the Greek letters used in the formulas. So are the numbers, originally Arabic but now used around the world, although the Russians use a comma instead of a period for the decimal point.
A lot of the words in the service manual for your televisor are borrowed from the West. The American reader must make allowances for the Russian tendency to simplify and adjust spelling, but the resulting words are quite recognizable. Here is a sampling of borrowed words: Elektronniy (electronic), volt, amper, vatt, om, diod, triod, pentod, anod, katod, antenna, statika, batarea or akkumulator (battery), condensator, radio, telefon.
Not all of the words are this easy. Some of the language used in electronics had basic meanings before the electronic era. Words of this kind the Russians already have in their language-and use them. A tube is an electronic lamp. A knob is a round handle. A fuse is a melter-preventer. A coil is a reel, spool or bobbin. A resistor is a soprotivlyeniye, and that one would take serious dredging in the dictionary to find. A control grid is a cel nizkovo naprazhyeniya or network of lower tension, but the Russians usually simplify it and call it cel number one.
Where the naming of a new component or device is not obvious, the Russian falls back on his reliable all-purpose word apparat. An antenna-rotor is an apparat for twisting the antenna. A bar generator is an apparat for picture adjustment.
The Tools. Names are not borrowed for the tools in the Russian repair shop, and some of the tool names are as old as the language. Molotok and nozh are hammer and knife and never anything else. Pila is a little confusing; it means saw or file, whichever is being used at the moment.
A screwdriver is a twister-outer, a strange name because the same tool is used when there is twister-in'ing to be done. A wrench is a screw-key or sometimes a nut-key. Small pliers have the same name as small bugs of the biting kind. Larger pliers are devices that talk slang with their lips. A payalnik is a soldering iron, and a payalshechik is the man who does the soldering.
For new tools, the specialized kind used on the electronic bench, the Russian often resorts to his convenient apparat. His wire-stripper is an apparat for undressing wire.
The Repair Job. But now you are in .the remont with your televisor that doesn't play. You explain the one very simple symptom, and the mekhanik says that he will fix it and that you should vozvratyityes v Pyatnitsoo. So you come back Friday and your televisor is ready. You are told that three of the little electronic lamps have been replaced, and that the melter-preventer has been replaced, but that the big electronic lamp is OK. Also, several of the twister adjustments have been corrected.
Next comes the matter of price for the job, and here begins a ritual that has been going on in Russia for hundreds of years. You are told the price, and it is expected that you will say that the price is too high. You do. It isn't. It is. It isn't. And so on, with the audio gradually climbing to the level where you are calling him a robber (vor) and he is calling you a skinflint (skupoy).
It is immaterial whether you pay the asking price or whether you succeed in getting a reduction. You pay, and you lug home your televisor. You plug it in. You find that picture and sound are excellent. The repair job is a good one.
Posted July 18, 2018