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Licensing Problems and the Serviceman
November 1945 Radio-Craft

November 1945 Radio-Craft

November 1945 Radio Craft Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Craft, published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

Licensing of electronic equipment servicemen was extensively debated among state regulatory boards from the end of World War II through the time that transistorized circuits began replacing high voltage vacuum tubes in televisions, radios, and appliances in homes and businesses. Of course high voltage cathode ray tubes (CRTs) still dominated televisions (and later computers) for a few more decades, but other than with a few states like Wisconsin, adoption of licensing requirements never happened. Specifically, "Electronic equipment is any device or devices which are directly or indirectly connected with or containing a vacuum tube having two or more internal elements for the purpose of effecting amplification or rectification, visual indicators, cathode ray tubes or in any way modifying or changing an electrical current in any manner or changing electrical energy to another form of energy, including aerials and other devices used in connection therewith." Proponents argued that safety to both the serviceman and the customer, and assuring honest business practices would justify the laws. However, opponents held that unlike plumbing and electrical contractors whose work is an embedded and essential part of structures, appliances and radios were essentially temporary external devices. They also pointed out how licensing of the aforementioned trades had not eliminated committing of fraud and shabby practice in all cases. Madison, Wisconsin, was one of the first cities to require licensing and is used as an example in this 1945 Radio-Craft article. Its program specified that the examination shall be both theoretical and practical with both oral and written questions and shall require a demonstration of skill through actual repairing. It also stipulated reasons for revocation of licenses for the following reasons: (a) Habitual drunkenness or the use of narcotics; (b) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (c) adjudication of insanity; (d) fraud in obtaining license; (e) if the licensee has defrauded any person for whom he has rendered or has been requested to render service.

See also "Radio Industry Unfair?" in the May 1946 issue.

Licensing Problems and the Serviceman

H. W. Schendel - RF Cafe

H. W. Scheele first started working with electricity 23 years ago, repairing appliances and rewinding motors and transformers. Starting to build and repair radios as a spare-time hobby, he decided that he needed more fundamental knowledge and chose an electrical and radio engineering course. Gaining more practical experience after graduation by working at the service bench, he then obtained a position drafting and designing electronic and electric apparatus. His keen interest in the amateurs' and servicemen's problems has its origin in his own experience. At present convalescing from a disabling illness, his activities are limited. He is 39 years old.

By H.W. Scheele

Considerable interest and comment has been expressed on the subject of licenses for radio and electronic servicemen. It is the intention of this article to discuss and summarize the various aspects, advantages, and disadvantages of licensing in its relation to radio and electronics.

It is generally agreed that some public control must be exercised to enforce health measures or to insure safety to life and property for large numbers of people. Safety measures are usually to help prevent major catastrophes such as fires.

Several professions and trades have been registered or licensed to varying degrees in various towns, cities, and states. Except in a few cases, practically all present groups are licensed for the main purpose of controlling health standards or safety to life and property. The automotive vehicle driver is probably the largest group under this heading. Other groups are physicians, nurses, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, electricians.

Groups which have been or are licensed, or are presently contemplating licensing, for purposes not especially involving public health and safety include; radio servicemen, painters, horologists, photographers, and others. Numerous similarities, such as amateurs, irresponsible individuals, and other claims, practically all the same ones as made by proponents for licensing of radio servicemen, may be noted to exist between radio servicemen and the others listed.

AM, FM, and television reception, in the common forms with which most servicemen are concerned, usually have been considered primarily a form of entertainment. This gives rise to classifying the radio servicemen with the groups just mentioned. Radio and electronics used for safety to life and property will be discussed later.

It is true that the public is in contact with these groups but the monetary values involved are relatively small and the danger to human health and life from an error in diagnosis and repair is either nonexistent or, at least, no greater than the danger from other household apparatus and appliances such as electric flatirons, toasters, gas ranges, washing machines, and others.

In some cases serious accidents and fires have been attributed to defective radios, oil burners, and refrigerators but it is doubtful if these accidents and fires have been as much the fault of the servicemen than the fault of the user. It would be interesting to determine whether or not licensing servicemen would reduce such hazards as long as the average domestic user must decide whether and when checkups and repairs should be made.

Some hold that where electrical codes are involved and enforced the electrical inspector has the power to inspect and require removal or repair of definite hazards. The owner is usually held responsible even though licensing has been established. (For a minimum standard, most codes use the National Electrical Code as a basis and thereby also include radio and electronic equipment, and aerials and grounds.) Baltimore was considering an ordinance very similar to the Madison Ordinance (to be described later) to license radio and electronic servicemen but shelved it because existing ordinances regulating electrical work were considered to give all protection necessary. Some states - Oregon, New York, California - have had proposals under consideration also for the purpose of licensing radio and electronic servicemen. These proposals have been temporarily shelved or rejected for various reasons.

In so far as safety applications of radio and electronic devices are concerned on machines, airplanes, ships, in police cars, ambulances, and many other places the public has come to depend on them and it is necessary that these devices be serviced by competent repairmen. To this end some regulations, like those for ship radio operators, broadcast station operators, and others, have been placed in effect and qualified men are selected.

Undoubtedly, properly examined and licensed servicemen would be qualified to service many of the foregoing applications and would receive public approval and support if good examining standards were established. If such is the case then a question arises as to whether or not all servicemen should be licensed before being permitted to service any and all kinds of radio or electronic apparatus and devices.

Three Sets of Options

On this question servicemen may be classified in three groups: Those who favor compulsory licensing for all; those middleeof-the-roaders who prefer voluntary hlicensing; and those who oppose all licensing.

In general, most radio and electronic servicemen proponents of compulsory licensing do not seem so much concerned about safety to life and property as about the "screwdriver mechanic" his competition, cut rates, poor impression given the public, and the many other claims about him. Others in favor of licensing believe that more uniform prices could be established; competition could be controlled; manufacturers and public would be benefited, the serviceman could be held responsible.

One example of this type of licensing is known to be in effect at present. Therefore, it may be interesting to many to present a brief outline of the essential points of the Madison, Wis., ordinance, enacted over four years ago, and entitled, "Licensing of Radio and Electronic Servicemen." Important portions are printed at the end of this article.

At the outset the ordinance stipulates no one shall do any servicing or installing of radio and electronic equipment unless he has first obtained a license. Provision is also made for apprentices. The term "radio and electronic equipment" includes any device using a vacuum tube having two or more elements for changing the form of electrical energy. The term also includes aerials and related devices.

Examinations are conducted twice a year by a Board of six members including: The city chief radio technician; the city electrical inspector; two appointed radio servicemen employers; and two appointed radio servicemen employees.

The ordinance specifies that the examination shall be both theoretical and practical with both oral and written questions and shall require a demonstration of skill through actual repairing.

If the applicant fails to pass the test, his $10 examination fee is not returned but for that fee he will be allowed one more examination at the next examination period. If he passes, the fee forms his first year's payment. Annual renewals and apprentice fees are $5.

Licenses may be revoked for the following reasons: (1) Habitual drunkenness or narcotics; (2) conviction of moral turpitude crime; (3) insanity; (4) fraud in obtaining license; (5) for defrauding any person for whom he has rendered or has been requested to render service.

The electrical inspector has supervision over enforcement. If he judges there is a distinct hazard to life and property as set forth in the State Electrical Code (similar to National Electrical Code but with modifications) he may condemn or order such work repaired in a written notice to the owner of the equipment.

No license is requested for sales demonstrations, to test, remove, or install tubes; or by an owner to work on his own equipment.

Separate permits are required for loudspeaker, television, and multiple aerial installations, and extra license fees are required for sound cars and trucks. All are subject to inspection and approval by the electrical inspector.

Any violator of the ordinance (serviceman, owner, or other) is punishable by fine.

A study of the terms of the ordinance would indicate that every radio and electronic device with associated equipment is included.

Effects of the Ordinance

The specified method of examination seems fair and all inclusive, but some argument may arise as to its composition and administration. Servicemen comprise a majority of the Board. It is entirely possible for the members to be so minded to make the examinations sufficiently difficult (unusual problems, etc.) so that many or all would be competitors could be eliminated. Reports from Madison indicate this condition does not prevail at present. Although the electrical inspector has enforcement under his control it appears that only the owner of the equipment can be held responsible for correction of judged hazards.

As long as the serviceman does not defraud the customer, does not violate the other four previously mentioned reasons, and renews his license regularly there seems to be no other reason for revocation of license and only competition would be the serviceman's real incentive to keep abreast of progress.

Although only a relatively small percentage of replies have been received from inquiries sent to Madison servicemen, dealers, and wholesalers, comments received thus far have been generally favorable to their licensing system. Concern was expressed over the soldier working out of his home, apparently unlicensed (Madison has Armed Forces training facilities nearby) but it was believed this condition would correct itself after the war.

Some opinions from Madison tend to be more critical of their ordinance and its method of operation.

One serviceman stated that licensing is not accomplishing much real benefit to the servicemen or public because little or no control is exercised over the quality of the serviceman's work. The public patronizes those servicemen doing the best work at reasonable prices.

(It is to be noted here that the ordinance does not provide for control over quality of workmanship. It is believed this would be extremely difficult to control as personal opinions vary widely on the many factors involved and the weight to be placed on each. Where is the line to be drawn on such factors as testing, cleaning, soldering, touching up cabinets, etc. ?)

Another interesting point brought to light concerns those Madison dealers who buy up radio and electronic equipment for purposes of servicing and selling it. Under such conditions the ordinance in no way controls their activities whether desirable or otherwise. Owners are not prohibited from working on their own equipment or selling it.

Mention was also made that the licensing system was new and could be improved as time goes on, hut it is claimed to have already eliminated a lot of out of town fly-by-night companies dealing in inferior communication equipment and service. It has also tended to eliminate servicing by unqualified personnel. General public opinion is not known to have been weighed on the merits of licensing.

Voluntary Licensing

Next comes the sizable group of servicemen who may be classed as middle-of-the-roaders. They would prefer voluntary licensing and to have the public view the license as a symbol and proof of skill, competence, knowledge, good business methods, and good business relations, or combinations of them. Licenses could be issued in various classes which would make them indicative of the type of servicing for which the holder is best fitted. A some what similar system is used in Canada.

Some possible advantages of this method are that : (1) the public is allowed to decide as to the benefits of licensing, (2) amateur repairmen may pursue their interests according to their abilities, and (3) governmental units may acknowledge the licensee's qualifications permitting him .to service electronic devices used for public health and safety. This latter point may be accomplished in a manner similar to the way the National Electrical Code has been adopted as a basis for most electrical work.

Success of voluntary licensing would depend on examinations, licenses, and administration. It has been proposed that a fair and desirable method of examining and licensing could be formulated by cooperative interested groups such as the FCC, IRE, RMA, ARRL, Underwriters' Laboratories, radio servicemen representatives, and others with perhaps one of the group taking over the duties of sponsor and administrator. In this respect some lessons may be learned from the methods used in the National Electrical Code.

The above is but one of many suggested methods of accomplishing the results. However, it would have the advantage of including representatives of all parties concerned and it could be adopted nationwide. Other suggestions have been mentioned such as: Formation of private associations; allow the FCC to handle it; form cooperatives; and so forth.

The "Free Enterprisers"

Lastly comes the group of servicemen who oppose all forms of licensing. They believe in self-made business men and in competition, and claim that an efficient up-to-date serviceman at the head of an orderly and well designed shop and using good business methods has no need for license protection. They believe in freedom for enterprise and freedom for the worker, which conditions have been conducive to some of the greatest advances in the sciences and arts.

They point out the inherent weaknesses in licensing such as disadvantages of the apprenticeship system; possible graft and favoritism in examinations; many become frightened at examinations when their future is at stake; no guarantee of better work; it may be only a revenue raising measure; it may be used for political purposes.

Many believe that if establishment of responsibility is needed it should be accomplished by treating all businesses alike. This has been and could be accomplished by requiring all dealers, sellers, repairmen, in various lines to obtain an operating permit and post a bond of sufficient value to cover possible defrauding of customers.

The charge is also made that one license begets another and that it will be only a matter of time before licenses will be required for servicing many other items. In this connection it might be mentioned one city recently had under consideration the licensing of oil burner servicemen. Another, Toledo, Ohio, finally rejected an ordinance to license men installing and servicing both domestic and commercial refrigerators.

In favor of the opposition is also the possibility of failure in licensing. For example, several years ago one state enacted รก compulsory type painters' license law with objectives very similar to those advanced by advocates for licensing of radio and electronic servicemen. After the law went into effect opposition began to rise, not only from the public but from many painters and amateur painters. After a short life the law was repealed.

Opponents of licensing also have the support of many amateur radiomen and operators and perhaps public opinion also. Recent information (Sylvania Survey) indicates a high percentage of the public is satisfied not only with the work of their radio serviceman but also believe he is charging them a reasonable price.

The points advanced against licensing are directed mainly against the compulsory type and licensing which may be used for restraining competition, eliminating amateur repairmen, and fixing prices. The points would be practically ineffective against voluntary licensing which could be used solely to indicate the qualifications of the holder.

Many other angles and points of view, not apparent here and now, may have a bearing on the subject. For instance, consideration should be given the fact that many former servicemen are now in the Armed Forces. What will be their reactions now and when they return later? The writer would therefore welcome comments from readers on all phases of the subject of licensing.

Madison Ordinance

"19.20 Licensing of Radio and Electronic Servicemen. (1) License to do Radio and Electronic Servicing. No person either individually, as a member of a firm or as an employee of any person, shall do any servicing or installing of radio or electronic equipment unless the person or persons or the employees who do the servicing and installing of said equipment have first obtained a license as required by and in the manner provided in this ordinance. Nothing herein shall prevent an apprentice indentured in the manner provided by chapter 106, Wisconsin Statutes, and paying the fee hereinafter provided therefore from doing radio or electronic servicing or installation while in the employ of and under the direct supervision of a radio serviceman licensed as such under the terms of this ordinance. Nothing herein shall prevent any person, or his employees, from building, designing, installing or repairing equipment owned by such person. Electronic equipment is any device or devices which are directly or indirectly connected with or containing a vacuum tube having two or more internal elements for the purpose of effecting amplification or rectification, visual indicators, cathode ray tubes or in any way modifying or changing an electrical current in any manner or changing electrical energy to another form of energy, including aerials and other devices used in connection therewith.

(2) Board of Examiners of Radio Servicemen. Examinations. The Board of Examiners of Radio Servicemen shall consist of six members, four of whom shall be appointed by the Mayor on the third Tuesday in April of each year or within ten days thereafter, and confirmed by the Common Council. The chief radio technician of the City of Madison shall be ex officio the fifth member of said board and the electrical inspector of the City of Madison shall be ex officio the sixth member of said board. Of the four appointed members two shall be licensed radio servicemen who are employers and two shall be licensed radio servicemen who are employees...

(3) Licensee. How obtained. Any person desiring a license as a radio serviceman shall make application therefore to the Board of Examiners of Radio Servicemen who shall then examine each applicant, at such place as it shall designate. as to his qualifications and competency to work at the profession of radio and electronic serviceman. The examination shall be both theoretical and practical in character and shall embrace both oral and written questions sufficiently strict to test the qualifications of the applicant. The examination shall also require a demonstration of skill through the actual repairing of electronic equipment. The said board shall, upon being satisfied as to the competency and good moral character of the applicant and upon payment by the applicant of the license fee as herein provided, issue to such applicant a license authorizing him to engage in radio and electronic servicing and installation. If the applicant fails in his examination the application fee will not be refunded but he will be permitted to take another examination at the next stated examination period.

(4) License Fee. The fee for a new applicant for a radio serviceman's license shill be the examination fee of ten dollars. Renewal fee for each succeeding year shall be five dollars. There shall be paid for each apprentice indentured to or working for a licensed radio serviceman a fee of five dollars each year. All fees shall be due and payable on the first day of May in each year and shall be paid to the City Treasurer...

(6) Revocation of License. License may be revoked by the Board of Examiners of Radio Servicemen for any of the following reasons: (a) Habitual drunkenness or the use of narcotics; (b) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (c) adjudication of insanity; (d) fraud in obtaining license; (e) if the licensee has defrauded any person for whom he has rendered or has been requested to render service. The licensee shall have to appear before the Board of Examiners of Radio Servicemen to answer the charges made and present testimony in his own defense...

(7) Supervision by Electrical Inspector. The Electrical Inspector shall have general supervision over the enforcement of this ordinance. He shall inspect the installation of radios, public address systems, aerial and ground systems, or any electronic device or, apparatus in any public or commercial building. He shall have the right to enter any radio or electronic repair shop during reasonable hours to inspect repair work. He shall have the right to inspect, condemn and order removed any installation or equipment that may entail a distinct hazard to life and property as set forth in the Wisconsin State Electrical Code. and to order such work repaired or changed within fifteen days or any longer period specified by the Electrical Inspector in his written notice to the owner of said equipment.

(8) Exceptions. No license shall be required to test radio tubes or for sales demonstrations or for removing or installing radio tubes. No license shall be required of an owner to install his own aerial or repair his own radio or electronic equipment, provided that no exposed terminals or any wiring outside of the radio set carrying a potential in the excess of thirty volts is installed.

(9) Permits for Loudspeaker and Television Installations. License for Sound Cars or Trucks. There shall be no permanent installation of public address systems or permanent installations of radio and radio signaling systems using microphones, tubes, amplifiers and speakers or any electronic equipment in public or commercial buildings without first obtaining a permit and depositing a permit fee of one dollar...

Temporary installations of public address systems may be made by servicemen without Payment of a fee provided notice is given to the electrical inspector prior to the commencement of such installation....

*See also article "Should Servicemen Be Licensed?" by Hugo Gernsback, December 1947, p17, Radio-Craft.



Posted June 30, 2020

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