The following is nothing more than a
gripe, a whine. But it's a subject that has been on my
mind for a few years now and I'm sure others share my
Although I've played with electronics
since I was 10, it wasn't until I started work for Telecom
( the Australian telecommunications network, now called
Telstra ) in 1982 that my formal training began. The
training provided by Telecom was first class, and covered
just about everything from electronics theory, power
supplies, microwave transmission lines to the likes
of computer programming and diesel engine repair. Back
then Telecom was well staffed and we spent most of the
day maintaining the equipment. Maintenance included
things like regular servicing of the remote diesel generators,
replacing all the electrolytic capacitors in power systems
every 5 years, and testing everything, so we could predict
if a unit was going to fail in the next few months and
we would replace it before it did. The Telecom service
was very reliable and rated 3rd best in the world after
Japan and Sweden.
But the powers that be didn't see any
profit margin in maintenance and our staff levels were
decimated. As an example when I worked at the local
phone exchange, catering to 10,000 lines, we had 30
staff members. Now there are 2.
I was made redundant as part of the
down sizing in 1989, no regrets and took with me some
excellent technical training and know-how.
I then started working in consumer electronic
repair, including stereos, tvs and video players. At
first it took a little time to get used to the lower
quality of this type of electronics compared to the
high quality of telecommunications systems, but that
was only the start. In the mid 1990's I started to see
a lot of very cheap equipment appearing from "new
economy" Asian countries. This was not the usual
good standard from Japan, but very poor quality from
countries like China. Now let me say that some equipment
from China is excellent, especially industrial electronics,
but a lot of the consumer electronics is absolute rubbish.
While it is true that you get what you pay for, some
level of quality AND SAFETY is still expected. It even
got to the stage where I could open up a stereo or tv
and know it was made in China without even looking at
the sticker. I also believe some gear was designed to
fail just after the warranty expired. As an example,
a common CD player used 2 small black rubber belts,
one to drive the lens carrier back and forward, and
the other was used to eject the cd tray. After about
1 year, just past the warranty period, one of the belts
would turn into black rubber gunk, a bit like uncured
silicon. This stuff would stick to everything and metho
was needed to clean up the pulleys. The other belt was
in perfect condition. So the manufacturer chose to use
belts made from two different materials, one that would
fail and one that would continue to operate for years.
My own home entertainment system consists
of a 30 year old Sansui stereo, and a 20 year old NEC
TV, both performing well. Friends have ask me why I
dont get a new system. Something about it would look
better, match the carpet, etc. Could I expect to get
the same service life from a new system? Why not?
When I applied for and received my electrical
ticket I had to pass a lot of safety tests and procedures.
I learnt about the Australian safety standards and what
was defined as legal to use in Australia. As the ticketed
electrician it was my duty to check if something was
safe and if not I was required to cut off the power
lead and deem it as unsafe for use. Well let me tell
you that most of the cheap electronic goods imported
into Australia is not safe and it would be illegal to
plug into a power point. I dont understand how this
rubbish is allowed into the country. I had to tell a
lot of my customers that their faulty stereo or TV was
not safe and I couldn't legally repair it.
This is also a problem with electronic
components purchased from the local electronics store.
In Australia we have a local home grown electronics
supplier, I wont mention the name but the company was
founded by a young aviator with a well known name. He
sold the company in the 1980's ( I think ) and moved
on to better things, best of luck to him.
Now I have purchased resistors from
this store that had incorrect colour codes, remarked
transistors, or components that were dead. Recently
I purchased a full wave bridge rectifier, a 35amp 50v
unit. The rectifier was marked AC and + on one side,
well this was wrong. When I connected the rectifier
it blew a fuse and I couldn't work out why. It wasn't
until I grabbed a multimeter and checked the internal
diodes that I realised the rectifier was marked wrong!
The markings were printed on the wrong side of the rectifier
package. Looking at the pins there is one pin at a different
angle to the others and this one ended up being the
+ terminal, even though it was marked as the AC terminal.
I figured it was a once off and connected it as per
the readings on my multimeter. It later shorted out
when feeding only 10 amps, so I bought another one and
would you believe it was also marked wrong! So there
could be hundreds of the incorrectly marked rectifiers
on the market. And where was the rectifier made? One
I understand that you get what you pay
for in consumer electronics, if you pay peanuts you
get monkey poo. But components should be another mater.
I cant choose the make or country of manufacture of
a 10 cent resistor. I have no choice but to buy rubbish
and hope its what it says it is on the case. I now test
all components with a multimeter, you cant trust the