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Fun fixing my own TV

I recently thought about some of the things I did when I was young and wondered how I have not received permanent injuries from some of the things I did. Perhaps I have. It’s not that I was particularly wild, but as I child I didn’t take too much notice of safety – I guess I thought I was indestructible.

I planned to write about some of the dangerous things I did but when I started putting them all together I risked looking like a complete twit if put it in all one article, so I’ve decided to just mention one incident. Maybe I’ll mention some others later.

When I was in High School I loved to fiddle with electronics. I wanted a TV in my bedroom but I certainly couldn’t afford a new one. Colour TVs had only been available in Australia for six or seven years so old colour ones were not easily available either. My Mum managed to get a broken black and white valve set (or tubes as that is what I believe they are called in some parts) and a few old chassis. The TV was in a large wooden cabinet with the speaker at the bottom a bit like this one. It didn’t need a stand – it was big, or at least the box was. The screen wasn’t particularly big.

I regularly read “The Serviceman” articles in electronics magazines. This probably sounds quite dull, but you may be quite surprised if you read them. Like all good writing, pleasure gained is more to do with the writing style than the subject and these articles where often quite funny detailing interesting customer interactions as well as how tricky technical problems were solved.

Using information I learned from these I began swapping components from the broken set with bits in the other chassis I had from areas of the TV where I suspected the problem was. Basically just using trial and error although one great feature that it had like many electrical things of that time was  a schematic diagram stuck on the inside of the cabinet which helped. I eventually suspected the high voltage flyback transformer that ran the picture tube. These things apparently put out around 15 000 to 20 000 volts and need lots of care when they are running. I found a similar one in a chassis and swapped it. The TV I was fixing had a metal guard covering the transformer and a valve that a big metal connector on top with a wire that ran to the transformer. I couldn’t get the top of the guard back on, so I just left it off – after all most of the other chassis I had didn’t even have one. Switching the TV on brought it to life. Placing the tip of a screwdriver near the connector on the valve that ran to the transformer would produce a nice constant spark about 1cm long. I was pretty pleased with myself, even though I had used trial an error more than proper diagnosis. The first lesson I learned is fixing things is very rewarding.

I used the TV for quite a while and I even remember watching the Poseidon Adventure on it. One day I decided to adjust the horizontal hold while I had the back off the set. I reached around the back to adjust the knob while watching the screen to see what difference I was making. It was then I touched the metal connector on top of the valve. I got one hell of a whack. In some things I’ve read they have said that these are not that dangerous because even though it is high voltage the current is low and someone even said that when he did it he didn’t even notice except for the burning smell. That was not my experience – I felt pain and was left with tingling in my arm for the next half an hour. The second lesson I learned was respect electricity, because it won’t respect you.

It was about that time that we got a special protection gadget wired into our fuse box.

If you want to see what these transformers can do just go to YouTube and do a search for flyback transformer.

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9-11: Fall of the twin towers and the terrible negligence of our shop staff

The latest mystery shopper report was in and once again we had been caught out. We were marked down on some minor items but our biggest failing; the one that we failed regularly was that we had failed to cross sell. That is, we had not offered the mystery shopper a related product to go with what was requested. Cross selling was something that most of the staff really did not like doing. We were used to providing customer service – providing what our customers wanted, not trying to sell them something they did not. To be fair we were not being pressured into selling something totally unrelated to what the customer wanted and for some it would be a reminder for something they wanted. However, no one really liked doing it. Even if the sales staff smile when they ask the question it doesn’t mean they enjoy doing it, it’s just a part of their job.

As a part of our punishment/training we had to go into work early for a pep talk. The meeting was set for September 12, 2001.

Australia is about 14 hours ahead of New York, so the 9/11 attacks had occurred during the night here. My wife awoke early and was up with our seven months old child and had the TV on and was the first in our house to hear the news. There had been a terrorist attack in the USA. Passenger jets had crashed into the New York twin towers, the Pentagon and another had crashed into a swamp. There was real concern as it was not clear if there were any other planes being hijacked. Were there more to come? Who was behind it? This was something new. We had not seen this type of attack before. Even though it happened on the other side of the world, the media brought the images to us and it was disturbing. I got ready for work and headed off for our pep talk.

Our Manager attempted to keep us focused. We need to cross sell. We have to ensure that this does not happen again. I didn’t really pay much attention in the meeting. I don’t think anyone really did. It was all so surreal. There had been a major attack and we were worrying about selling more to people to get profits up higher than they already were. Before long we heard George Bush declare “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” and we knew it was not going to be pretty.

It must have had some effect because a few months after this I enrolled in a TAFE course and after working for the same organisation for 18 years I started looking for another job. This event was not the only reason for seeking a change but I think it contributed to it. Almost twelve months later I walked into a new job where I knew I would never have to cross sell again.