About the Workshop Notebook

30th June 2010 by Tim Jarman

The Beocentral Workshop Notebook at first appears to be a simple list of faults that have occurred in B&O equipment and their eventual cures. There is however more to it that that, another function of the section is as a tribute to the writers and contributors of the British magazine Television. Television started in the immediate post-war years as a small format magazine containing mostly constructional articles. In the early years it was known as Practical Television and much of the content was geared towards constructing simple receivers from de-mobbed radar equipment, of which there was plenty at the time. There were some servicing features too, most notably Servicing Television Receivers by Les Lawry Johns, which dealt with a specific model of set and its particular failings each month and Service Notebook by G. R. Wilding.

Practical Television became Television in October 1970 in recognition that servicing was now of a greater interest to the readers than construction and rightly so; in its heyday the magazine could be found in just about every TV repair shop in the country. Johns would go on to write a humorous column each month about the trials and difficulties of dealing with awkward sets and their even more awkward owners, something which made him a well known and much loved figure in the trade who is still fondly remembered and frequently quoted by the old hands today. Wilding’s column eventually evolved into TV Fault Finding and VCR Clinic (later to be joined by CD Player Casebook and Camcorner), from which Beocentral’s Workshop Notebook takes its format. By this stage there were many contributors and the pages became the first port of call for the working repair man, there were even third-party indexes which catalogued the content of each issue by make, model and fault.

Wilding’s contribution to the field of servicing was immense. He expounded a practice called “Rapid Diagnosis” which dispensed with much of the electronic theory and mathematics that tended to dominate the teaching of repair technique and instead concentrated on the practical and mental skills that were needed to clear faults quickly and efficiently. Wilding’s doctrine demonstrated that it was not necessary to learn the skills of a set designer in order to be an effective repairer and his worked examples showed how carefully observing all the symptoms and making a few well chosen measurements could lead rapidly to the faulty components being identified, even if the manufacturer’s service information was not available. This method, although possessing considerable beauty, was not a vain exercise in aesthetics. Wilding believed that the less one had to disturb the fragile workings of a set the less likely one was to create more problems that may lead to another (probably unprofitable) service call shortly afterwards. In addition, each repair was not only treated as a job to be completed but as a lesson as well. It was not enough to clear the fault, the reasons for it occurring and the best way to trace it all had to be learned and to this end sometimes half a page of the magazine was used to document an apparently simple valve replacement or the adjustment of a minor control.

Rapid Diagnosis, when practised correctly, is the highest form of the repairing arts. It does have some limitations however, the main one being that it is only really relevant to single point faults that occur to equipment that is still operating within its design lifetime. Many of the models shown on Beocentral are many times older than the longest possible service life that the designers could have predicted or allowed for and so faults may be the result of the mass failure of a large number of similar components, e.g. the small electrolytic capacitors in the Beocord VX 5000. One the whole though B&O equipment of the classic period is well enough designed and built for Rapid Diagnosis techniques to be employed, they are always the first method to be tried in all the Workshop Notebook articles.

The Workshop Notebook is of most value if it is studied as a guide to diagnostic technique, do not be down heartened if the model or the fault you have is not yet listed. Simplistic and wasteful activities such as the blanket testing or replacement of all the components in a faulty stage or set should be avoided, there is very little that can be learned from this practice which means that in turn your technique will never improve and every task will remain a difficult one. Most of the faults in the Workshop Notebook could have causes other than that listed so it is a good idea to work through the process rather than jumping to the end and replacing the suggested component.

The decline of the organised repair trade has meant that anyone wishing to operate older equipment must become at least partly proficient in fault diagnosis and repair. Learning the use the best possible methods is a way to make these tasks less of a chore and more of a pleasure, once the basics are mastered the rest is easy.