Troubleshooting and Repair Notes Introduction

Version 1.28 (18-Dec-09)

Copyright © 1994-2013
Samuel M. Goldwasser
--- All Rights Reserved ---

For contact info, please see the
Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ Email Links Page.


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Table of Contents



  • Back to Introduction Table of Contents.

    Introduction to the Introduction

    The most up-to-date public versions of these articles which constitute a major portion of the Sci Electronics Repair FAQ currently reside at the: Keep this in mind if you are reading this elsewhere as your versions may not be the latest. Major new releases come out every few months but minor corrections or additions may appear at any time.



  • Back to Introduction Table of Contents.

    Purpose of the "Notes"

    The "Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of..." series was developed to provide a resource for the hobbiest, tinkerer, engineer, weekend mechanic, housewife, dentist, and poet. For you, I am doing this because I would like to help provide information that is not always readily available. The sincere appreciation I receive via personal email is generally enough of a reward to retain my interest.

    The purpose of these articles is not only to help you repair your CD or VCR but more importantly, to educate. Therefore, they are not quite 'FAQs' but rather complete maintenance and repair guides. What this means is that you cannot depend on every problem to show up in the index. For example, if you have a problem with say, a breadmaker, but there is no entry for it in the guide for small appliance repair, think of what is inside such a device: power supply, controller, motor, heating element, etc. Then, find the sections on something similar. It is difficult enough to provide coverage for every type of device ever marketed in this sector of the galaxy let alone the more remote parts of the universe :-).

    If all you want is a quick fix, the various 'Tech Tips' databases may be better alternatives. They will likely list the most common problems and solutions for your equipment. However, these seem to deal mostly with TVs, VCRs, monitors, and microwave ovens. For anything else, you are largely on your own. A quick fix may be possible but you will not learn much that can be applied to other problems in the future. In addition, you may end up replacing many parts that are actually good since you will have done little or no testing.

    With the Notes, a quick fix may still be possible but you will have to do some leg work (or at lest finger and mouse work) on your own. How much you will benefit will be a direct consequence of how much effort you put in - but there should be a significant amplification or multiplication factor. Wherever possible, explanations of the equipment operating principles and likely causes of failures are provided. You will gain at least some understanding of 'what makes it tick' and be able to carry over general troubleshooting approaches from one brand to another and even one type of device to another.

    I realize that not everyone will have the capability - or desire - to actually apply the information in these Notes towards a repair. However, awareness of the likely causes and remedies for a particular problem goes a long way toward being able to make an informed decision with respect to repair or replacement options. If you do take the unit to a service center or repair shop, this knowledge will enable you to deal with the sales droid or technician from a position of strength.

    In particular, if you have trouble changing a light bulb, don't know which end of a soldering iron to pick up, and consider the "XXX for Dummies" books to be advanced reading, actually attempting repair probably isn't for you. Mistakes can result in piling addition damage on top of whatever was wrong in the first place - possibly to the point of it no longer being repairable. And carelessness with some types of equipment can result in shock, electrocution, smoke, or six foot flames.

    For those of you who are professional technicians in business for profit, much of the information contained in the Notes is no doubt familiar. However, if you are routinely referring to these documents, I expect that you consider them beneficial in some way. This probably means some combination of savings in terms of time and money - which translates to increased profits. I would hope you feel some minimal obligation to show your appreciation in some concrete way. I am not sure what form this should take but you must realize that maintaining this continuously evolving and expanding site is a very non-trivial and time consuming task for both Filip and myself. These Notes and other articles do not grow on trees or spontaneously sprout from the bowels of the Web server at this site!



  • Back to Introduction Table of Contents.

    Why do I do this?

    I am an electrical engineer by profession. I have spent significant time in both academia and industry teaching and designing in the areas of the architecture and implementation of digital systems. The development of one particular special purpose high performance image and graphics processor with three of my students led to the creation of a business plan. I have done the startup thing, been taken over by a big company, spent some time there, and become bored with corporate life.

    I also have always had a passion for fixing mechanical and electronic devices. As a kid, household appliances represented the beginning of my fascination with technology. It wasn't long before the workings of the TV were of more interest to me than the mostly stupid shows. Naturally, I had to see what was inside nearly everything. Mechanical clocks seemed to suffer the most at first but fairly soon I figured out that getting things back together again was generally not that much more difficult than disassembling them in the first place. This insatiable curiosity and unending search for challenges continues to this day.

    For several years the obsession with repair kept me out of trouble. I was an independent engineering consultant but spent much of my time helping others on the Internet newsgroups, writing these guides and other articles, providing free repairs for those who cannot afford professional service, going to garage and tag sales in search of interesting technology to repair or restore, and bicycling when weather and time permited. For a while, this was more fun and much more rewarding than a real job. But, phases of my life tend to run in six (6) year cycles (counting from when I discovered USENET newsgroups in 1994)....



  • Back to Introduction Table of Contents.

    What I'm doing now

    Since the last revision of this introduction, I've been spending an increasing percentage of my time developing Sam's Laser FAQ which is by far the largest collection of practical laser and optics information for experimenters and hobbyists in the entire Universe. I still maintain the repair FAQs including the "Notes" but my main emphasis is on lasers and I rarely get to do much fun repair anymore - only when something breaks and I have no choice!

    I have also been on the faculty of Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) as a Research Professor at the Center for Microwave and Lightwave Engineering in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. So, I did do some real laser work in a university setting. Should you care, the research involved high performance mode-locked and chirped solid state microchip lasers for millimeter wave communications, lidar/radar, and biomedical imaging.

    I still do engineering consulting if the job seems like it will be fun and rewarding, and this is more or less my present involvement with Drexel as well. My primary passion is continuing to develop Sam's Laser FAQ. The auction site, eBay, has largely replaced garage and tag sales but mostly for (usually junk) laser equipment and parts. I already have way too many CD players and VCRs in various states of health, rapidly decaying into obsolescence. :(

    Since I am no longer into repair on a daily basis, if you have specific comsumer electronics questions that aren't addressed in the FAQs, please ask them directly on the usenet newsgroup: sci.electronics.repair. This will save us both a lot of time and aggravation since I don't have many service manuals and schematics and will probably just direct you to newsgroup anyhow.



  • Back to Introduction Table of Contents.

    A Somewhat Polite Gripe About Professional Web Sites

    One of the most time consuming and annoying parts of maintaining the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ and Sam's Laser FAQ is attempting to keep the outside links up to date. Why does it seem that most professional Web site designers are programmed by their genes to rework the directory structure of their Web sites every 26 microseconds??? Isn't this totally counterproductive from a business point of view? Links that people have painstakingly set up stop working with "Error 404" or "Server not Found" and no hint of where they went or often if the company even still exists. So countless person millenia are wasted attempting to relocate them? How many just give up and take their business elsewhere? Does it really make sense to annoy your customers?

    Granted, personal Web sites that move from one ISP to another due to lower costs or whatever may not have the luxury of being able to retain forwarding links. But businesses and organizations should not have this issue.

    In all fairness, there are a few - but very few compared to what's out there - who do either provide direct forwarding links, or at least attempt to redirect to an appropriate Web page. But the vast majority would seem to take the attitude that the Web site is there to show off the skills of the Web site designer, and not for the users of the information. But perhaps there is some hope for it seems that the older a Web site is, the more likely it will be to maintain its structure in the future.

    Finally, with regard to a related gripe about the excessive fluff of most professional Web sites, here's what someone emailed me:

    What's this?

    A website that isn't a book ad, doesn't demand tribute for "premium" content, or throw Flash presentations at me to show me their fancy logo and title page?

    Just pages and pages of text containing informed, relevant and often hilarious content.

    It reminds me of the sparsely populated web of the early nineties before I saw my first banner ad.

    Time to re-edge my Bose 901's, spif up the Bose 1801 "Solid State" (125 lbs) Amp. And tackle the dusty toy shelf.

    And get that lawn mower working again.

    It's all here.

    You are truly godlike.

    Your stance on built-in obsolesce and implementation guidelines are money!

    I've worked in assembly and rework but never went the EE or ET route. But I do tinker, sometimes with success. Now I can fill in some of those gaps.

    Thanks so much.

    Screwdriver in hand,



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