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Letter: When It Comes to Engineering Tools, Don’t Take the Cheap Route!

A reader notes: "Equipment life expectancy shrank precipitously due to advances in technology"

In this letter to the editor, the author comments on David Bialik’s recent Tech Tips article “Don’t Let Your Test Gear Go to Waste,” where Bialik talked about the surprising lack of routine maintenance or repair at many radio stations. Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].


I really enjoyed your article on the state of component level repair and overall maintenance in the broadcast industry. Having retired 2 years ago I have “been there and done that” and agree with you 100%. What I experienced was the quantum change in technology over my work lifetime.

One of the biggest advancements that left many of us behind was the advent of surface mount components. I learned how to repair many of these doing land mobile repair, but the larger components truly required specialized tooling that was not economical mainly due to the fact that the manufacturer would not sell, or did not have, the parts and opted for board replacement.

When I transitioned to broadcast there were still some items that had discreet components that were replaceable for a few years, but as the surface mounts started coming in the same situation occurred. I also saw that equipment life expectancy shrank precipitously due to advances in technology which became the basis of the “return to manufacturer or throw away the equipment” mindset. So as the Director of Engineering of a statewide broadcast group purchasing the best possible equipment to get the greatest ROI became the norm. No cheap Chinese kluges since our engineering force was shrinking from 6 engineers for 6 stations to 3 engineers for 21 stations, including translators, at the time I retired.

Enough of rehashing history, now for the tip you requested…

When I took the DoE job one of the first things I found was that the company bought all of the hand tools for the engineering department. That was actually a whole lot of extremely cheap junk. I had always owned my own tools and found that it worked out much better for me professionally. I initiated this in our company and within a short time the other engineers accepted the wisdom of this. They bought professional level tools AND took care of them. The company still bought the larger or specialized tools and test equipment, but the everyday tools were the responsibility of the engineer.

Again, thanks for the article, it definitely put a spotlight on another real problem in broadcast engineering.

— Rod Zeigler, DoE Nebraska Rural Radio Assn. (Ret.), Chairman Nebraska SECC (Ret.), Nebraska ABIP Inspector

[Check Out More Letters at Radio World’s Reader’s Forum Section]