Always the consummate story teller, John T. Frye began his
writing career long before his "Carl &
Jerry" electronics adventure series that ran monthly for many
years in Popular Electronics. His style featured creating
a dialog between instructor and student, serviceman and customer,
husband and wife, father and son, etc., in order to present an educational
experience with back-and-forth inquiry and responses. In the end,
the reader learns something about both sides of the situation. In
this story, electronics service shop owner Mac reassures technician
Barney that given time and patience, he will grasp the circuit concepts
of the newfangled color television sets.
Barney Takes on Color
By John T. Frye
gives?" Barney asked as he stopped short in the doorway of the
service department that Monday morning.
"You mean you notice something different?" Mac, his boss, blandly
"I hope to kiss a pig I do," Barney retorted. "When did you do
all this - and why?"
"The wife went to visit her sister over the weekend," Mac explained,
"and whenever she is gone that darned house of ours seems as empty
as a high vacuum rectifier. To get away from it, I came down here
to sort of look around when there were no distractions - especially
of the chattering, red-headed, Irish variety," he added with a teasing
"I'm overlooking that crack - for the time being," Barney retorted':
"It's kind of funny how a familiar place seen under different
circumstances spotlights things not normally noticed. I immediately
saw several changes that cried out to be made; so I spent the whole
of Sunday making them.
"First, I put up that little shelf right at the end of the service
bench. This will now hold the few publications and sheets to which
we refer constantly in our work. I call it the 'First Aid Shelf'
because the articles on it are calculated to be the ones we shall
normally consult before we turn to our service library. For example,
there are the four dial-stringing manuals. Nine times out of ten
these tell us all we need to know to replace a dial cord, and we
do not have to go into our service data files at all. Also there
is an up-to-date tube manual giving complete operating potentials,
characteristic curves, and base diagrams of all tubes. You know
how often we reach for that. Naturally, the latest index to our
service information on radios, TV sets, tape recorders, and record
changers is here. A glance at this tells us at once if we have information
on a particular piece of equipment and exactly where to find it,
together with any factory-suggested changes to be made in that particular
"Our record changer manuals will go here, too. As you know, many
manufacturers are pretty careless about listing the make and model
number of a changer used in their combination sets-especially when
they do not make the changer themselves. In such a case you can
often spot a given changer quicker by leafing through the record
changer manuals and looking at the pictures than you can by trying
to work through service data cross-listings. Since about every
changer that comes in can stand a minor adjustment of the needle
set-down points, the tripping mechanism, etc., I think having the
manuals right at hand will speed up this work. In addition, there
is a sheet showing interchangeable portable batteries of different
makes and another giving interchangeable phono cartridges. These
allow us to carry a single line of each of these items and still
be able to service most record players and portable, receivers that
come into the shop-and to do it quickly and accurately.
"Finally, there is a good wholesale radio and TV parts catalogue.
The illustrations and descriptions contained in this can be a great
help to a technician in selecting a needed repair part or tool,
even though he does not order from the firm putting out the catalogue.
He can see side by side the offerings of competitive manufacturers
with concise and accurate descriptions of each product. What's more,
the catalogue gives him a good idea of what a fair price for the
item should be. An intimate acquaintance with a good wholesale catalogue
permits a technician to buy much more intelligently than is possible
"As I get it," Barney said, "this 'First Aid Shelf' is to contain
only the articles we use a lot. It is to be a sort of Reader's Digest
of our service library."
"That's it exactly," Mac applauded; "and now let's turn our attention
to this adjustable lamp clamped to the edge of the bench exactly
between our two working positions."
"Is that what that is!" Barney marveled. "I thought it was an
overgrown modernistic sculpture of a praying mantis."
"There is a resemblance," Mac grinned as he looked at the folded,
spring-loaded arms holding the deep shade of the lamp. "I firmly
believe a service technician can never have too much light - either
intellectual or actual - while doing his work. I'm doubly sure of
this whenever I cut loose a wrong lead because I can't see clearly.
Our overhead bench lights give all the light we need when the chassis
is turned upside down, and of course we have various flashlights
for looking into dark corners; but most TV chassis must be worked
on while they are lying on their sides, and record changer action
frequently must be watched while the changer is right side up. This
new lamp gives a flood of light exactly where we need it and leaves
both hands free at all times.
"Just look how it can reach out to any part of the bench and
throw the light in any desired direction. That's because those folding
arms extend out to forty-five inches and the lamp itself is mounted
on a swivel. Notice, too, that while the lamp can be moved into
any position with a touch of the finger, it stays exactly where
you put it. When you want to watch a record changer going through
its cycle, the lamp will get right down on its knees and peer up
into the mechanism with you. If you drop something, the lamp will
bend over so the bulb is nearly touching the floor to help you look
for the dropped object. When you are taking a set out of a cabinet,
the lamp will reach away out from the bench and throw a strong light
over your shoulder or up into the speaker compartment to aid you
in locating screw slots, and so on."
"Man, that thing has got more movements than a can-can dancer,"
was Barney's man-of-the-world comment.
Mac passed over this and went on to point out little plastic
dishes mounted along the back of the service bench beneath various
"You know what a fan I am for all sorts of special probes to
use with our instruments. I think we've got about every kind of
probe you can mention, but we've not had a handy way of storing
them. They've all been kept in a drawer where they have a nasty
way of getting their leads tangled up. In fact, there have been
times when you were trying to sort out a probe from this mess where
I couldn't be sure if you were doing service work or trying to weave
a fishnet. What's more, it was not always easy to remember which
probe was designed for use with what instrument.
"That's a thing of the past now. Beneath each instrument you
see a deep little plastic dish I bought at the dime store. Probes
for each instrument are stored in its individual dish. For example,
below the vacuum tube voltmeters we have a crystal probe for reading
r.f. voltages, a high voltage probe for going up to 30,000 volts,
and a peak-to-peak probe. The new v.t.v.m. reads peak-to-peak voltages
directly, but this probe lets the older meter do the same thing.
Under the signal tracer we have the r.f. crystal probe and the straight-through
audio probe. Beneath the scope we have the demodulator or signal
tracer probe, the 100/1 voltage divider probe, and the low-capacity
probe, together with the single shielded lead that fits all three
probe heads. The dish under the sweep generator doesn't hold probes
but in it are stored the various special leads that go with this
instrument. It is my fond hope that having these probes ready to
hand will encourage you-know-who to use them more often. What's
more, I want you-know-who to fold the probe leads up neatly and
snap rubber bands around them to keep them in place when he is through
"Roger from you-know-who. Wilco. Over and out," Barney chanted.
There was a brief silence finally broken by Barney:
"Say, Mac, I'm having a rough time trying to bone up on color
TV. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on, but I just
can't seem to nail it down the way I'd like. There seems to be so
much repetition, conflicting analogies, etc., in the articles I've
been reading that I'm downright confused. It's not that I'm not
trying, either. I think about color TV so much that when I go to
bed I even dream in Technicolor."
Mac chuckled at this as he went over to a cabinet and took out
a large bulging manila envelope. "I've been waiting impatiently
for you to display interest in color television," he remarked, "but
I didn't want you to feel I was pushing you into it. In this envelope
is a complete nine-lesson home study course just for you!"
"When I finish the course, I'll know all I need to know about
color TV, huh?"
"Not by a long shot. I intend for you to use this course as a
kind of basic framework on which you will hang all the other things
you will be continually learning about this fast-moving, far-from-simple
subject. I know it will help you to approach color television in
the carefully-planned, step-by-step procedure presented by this
course; but there are bound to be many points that will not be crystal
clear even after the course is finished. That's where your supplemental
reading of magazine articles should help. Each writer sees things
a little differently and writes about them from a different point
of view. By reading what two or three of them have to say on the
same subject, you often see quite clearly something that was a big
mystery the first time you read about it.
"Speaking of magazine articles, I don't think you will find any
much more helpful than those written by Milton Kiver in Radio &
Television News, starting with the March, 1954, issue. I think he
calls the series 'Fundamentals of Color TV.' One thing I like about
the articles is that Kiver takes time at the end of several of them
to prove mathematically puzzling general statements made in the
body of the articles. I think you'll be surprised at how much more
useful and informative a series of articles like this seems when
you have several of them on hand and can refer back and forth through
them and through your course, instead of just reading them one at
a time, with a whole month elapsing between readings."
"You would help a guy out with his homework if he got stuck,
wouldn't you?" Barney suggested slyly.
"Yes, if I could. But you've got to remember that when it comes
to color TV I'm just a student same as you are; but we'll sure do
our darndest to puzzle it out together."
Mac's Radio Service Shop Episodes on RF Cafe
This series of instructive stories was the brainchild of no other than John T.
Frye, creator of the Carl and Jerry series that ran in
Electronics for many years. Mac's Radio Service Shop began life in
Radio & Television News magazine
(which itself started as simply Radio News), and then changed its name to Mac's
Service Shop after the magazine became
World. 'Mac' is electronics repair shop owner Mac McGregor, and Barney is his
eager, if not somewhat naive, technician assistant. 'Lessons' are taught in story format
with dialogs between Mac and Barney.
Posted February 20, 2015