Electronics Troubleshooting and Repair
This site, started out as an idea for a book. But it made more sense to put it here on the web, as a place to collect little gems of knowledge related to electronic repair. There are blog posts that are timely short updates of interesting things going on, and also pages which are like the chapters of a book.
How to troubleshoot and then repair electronic equipment, with or without technical information or schematics to the component level is the topic. Thru-hole is a kind of electronic circuit construction. Thru-hole construction means the components go through a hole in the circuit board, It is the older kind of circuit board, before there was such a thing as surface mount technology.
The transistor was invented in 1948. The Navy rating “ET” or Electronics Technician was established that same year. Before that, they had “Radio Technicians”. A related rate “Radioman” had been around since 1921. Grampa Owen Brucker Abbey was an Electricians Mate with the Sea Bees during WWII. He left a great photo, he is climbing a palm tree, about half way up. On the back he wrote “high as I go”. At that time there were no ET’s or CE’s (construction electricians). The story of the Sea Bees is fascinating and is detailed in a book, “Can Do” by William Bradford “Bill” Huie.
ET school was building 520 at Great Lakes in 1983 (now torpedo man school). Perfectly waxed decks, whisper silent hallways, men and women in meticulous uniforms standing in ranks at attention waiting to enter the classrooms. Dress blues were the uniform of the day on test days.
The training pipeline started in BEE school (basic electricity and electronics). ET school was the big time. Real SPS-10 radar sets to work on. R1051 HF receiver and the matching URT-23 one kilowatt transmitter. Not everyone that started made it through.
Missing a few questions on a test will get you an appointment with the Master Chief. A second time will get you a ticket out to the fleet as a Bosons Mate. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Good honest work. They get to run the small boats, learn lots of knots and rope tricks, paint everyday. But the goal of getting through that school and getting out in the fleet was exciting to me. I wanted it more than anything else. And the fact that not everyone who tried made it, only added to the excitement.
From what I know now, that training, combined with my troubleshooting experience at the Navy contractor Pacifica was the very best preparation available at any price to learn to do, what I do, before or since. Civilian schools teach the theory, and they may have some circuits built up on proto boards, that sort of thing. But real world troubleshooting is just not taught anywhere else. And even in the Navy, where the ET’s were expected to troubleshoot to the component level, there were many techs who just were not very good at it. It was a difficult skill to master.
During my time, the cold war years, the RM was the operator, and the ET’s fixed the gear. ET’s were advanced based mostly on a “rating knowledge” test the books for which would stack to about 6 feet tall if they could be assembled all in one place. A perfect score was an 80. People who made perfect scores were vigorously investigated. ET’s can and are encouraged to study at work, if all the gear is up.
In recent years even the Navy has gone away from old guys teaching the new guys with real broken hardware and switched to computer simulation and “on the tube” or computer based training. The result has been ships with broken equipment, poor material condition and failing inspections. Sadly, the world has changed to disposable equipment and troubleshooting and repair to the component level is mostly a lost art.
So this is mostly about fixing older equipment, thru-hole construction. Some techniques will work on the new equipment. Really the only problem with new equipment is that in many cases it was never intended to be repaired. We fix it anyway. The chapter on troubleshooting without technical data (easter-egging) certainly applies. Surface mount components are a little bit tricky to replace but it can be done with conventional soldering tools or if you are very lucky, special smt tools.