In 1973 and the first major new development for me around 1976 was teletext. This was the first true digital transmission system and underwent many changes in a few short years until settling into its final format in the 1980’s.
TV design was also changing to more efficient power supplies, flatter squarer tubes, colour enhancements and 100Hz scan using frame storage techniques. Then in 1989 we had Nicam, which made true high fidelity stereo sound possible on TV. Then of course flat panel TVs were also being developed starting with bulky and heavy plasma screens through to the current LCD screens which are lighter and more power efficient.
In 1999 I was directly involved with the start of digital TV trials from Crystal Palace and did many field tests and poor reception investigations around the South East. Now of course we have high definition and satellite TV, digital transmission almost countrywide with the recent switch-off of analogue transmission in the London area. 3D and High Definition are the current ‘buzz words’. True 3D displays (not the ‘halfway-house’ types requiring special glasses) are available for commercial use and give stunning results but it will be some time before they are used in domestic sets and there are ‘rollable displays’ which can literally be rolled up like a newspaper.
In the middle of all these changes, there was the humble service engineer that was supposed to be able to sort out any problems. How was he supposed to keep up with all these changes?
Philips used to run many training courses and some of these were held at the Waddon office in the 70’s and 80’s and then at the head office during the 90’s and early 2000’s. Once the official training department had been closed at the turn of the century, it became the job of senior engineers to carry on the task. I had the dubious pleasure of presenting some. The following will give you some idea of the work that went on ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure that dealers and engineers were ready for any new technology.
This particular training course was aimed at Multiples and main dealers. It was to enable engineers to become familiar with the new Computer Aided Repair that was becoming popular with new chassis and essential with the new LCD and plasma technology. There is no need to go into the technicalities of the training here, just the preparation and result.
I had been involved with LCD sets for several years and of necessity, I had also become familiar with the Computer Aided Repair system. This involved the use of an interface box connected to the TV via the service port and then connected to a PC. Suitable software then enabled the box to interrogate the TV via the control bus and display the results on the PC screen. It also enabled updating of the TV software if necessary.
I was informed that a training course for Mastercare and Granada was required at two locations, namely Preston and Ashby-de-la-Zouch both of one-day duration. Firstly you have to establish exactly how many people are expected. Ten to fifteen was reckoned on being the ideal numbers as reasonably manageable and for catering reasons. Always adviseable to have a reasonable selection of sarnies, coffee and tea plus soft drinks. So the basics were sorted out, accommodation for me was the next thing either a motel or B&B would be suitable. That done, I could concentrate on the training course itself.
Fortunately all attendees were engineers and at least reasonably familiar with Philips chassis. First to plan the course and to do that, you have to have the computer set up with the software, the interface box and the necessary leads to connect everything together. Next you have to have a TV with some typical faults. I have a working set and here am I, an engineer putting faults ON the set! Well you have to otherwise there is no point in showing the students how to find the faults with the computer. The easiest way to do it is make up a switch box with say half-a-dozen switches and these wired in to the TV circuit at strategic points to simulate different faults. They should be the sort of faults that will produce no frame scan, no line scan, mixed colours etc, certainly nothing destructive otherwise you’ll have no TV to demonstrate with!
Having planned the faults, you then check the initial set-up of the Computer Aided Repair system. Then you apply each fault in turn and check that the computer system does actually locate the faults. It will probably need running through several times to make sure that all the demo faults work and produce the expected results.
Once the basic course has been worked out, you then have to produce suitable ‘handouts’. I used to produce a booklet as a hand-out with suggested operation procedure, block diagrams and flow-charts. Sometimes I would ask another ‘techie’ to run through some of the procedures to make sure I’d got them right! There would also be slides for the video projector. All of this will probably take a fortnight or so and it wasn’t unusual to have to allow a month for planning.
Once the car is loaded up with all the gear, that’s it! I used to drive up to the venue the day before the course was due to start and aim to get there for midday. That would normally give sufficient time to set everything up and make sure it all works. I failed to mention that I’d usually take two TV’s of the same type just in case…..!
On the day of the course, it would be an early start to make sure everything was working first, have all the equipment set up and have coffee, tea, soft, drinks and biscuits set out ready for the first arrivals. An informal introduction with coffee and biscuits created a relaxed atmosphere and conversation prior to the course starting.
I also used to give practical ‘hands on’ with the Computer Aided Fault Finding so after the main course and demonstrations, I would then disconnect the equipment, discretely switch one of the switches on my switch box to create a fault I hadn’t demonstrated and let the students play. They would then have to complete a test routine with an answer as to the likely fault at the end. I’d do this several times with different faults and different groups. At the end of the day, hopefully the students would have a good understanding of the equipment and procedures and I’d get them to fill out a quick questionnaire about the course and presentation. Each of them would also receive a certificate. It all seems to have gone well, the last questions have been answered and we bid our farewells.
The students have gone, the room is silent and I have to get the equipment back into the car. About an hour later, the venue is locked up and the key returned. Back to the hotel, evening meal and bed. Tomorrow drive down to Ashby-de-la-Zouch and set the course up again for the next students. Hopefully that one will go as well as the first.