Whatever happened to the tv repair man?

From Wikipedia

1950’s tv set

I was watching one of my favorite movies recently, Grumpy Old Men, and something struck me during that scene when Max Goldman is first invited to Ariel’s home for dinner. As he moaned over the conversion of her old tv-set to a fish bowl, it got me thinking – whatever happened to the tv repair man? I grew up in the Midwest and had a car that didn’t do interstate travel so well (her name was Lucy and while she was reliable, it was best not to ask her to go over 65 mph). Translation: I drove through lots of small cities spaced out between rolling corn fields and I always remembered seeing three guideposts: a church, a bar, and a tv repair shop. But as the years went on I noticed my third beacon drifting away. What’s to blame? Well, as we’ve mused before, we do live in a throw-away culture. Although buying vintage is a great way to cultivate a greener footprint, how do we handle those items, like tv’s, that are tougher to buy vintage? Seems to me the best way to still bask in some green rays while enjoying modern convenience is to take care of these purchases. But is that counter-intuitive to what’s drilled into our culture?

Let’s consider this: as we rely more on our electronic gadgets, the quest to get the latest and greatest becomes all powerful. I mean, who can forget the long lines for the Wii or the newest iPhone? But what about when those gadgets break? Do we repair them or just toss them aside for something even better? Statistics tell us only one in ten tv owners will go through the repair process. Will you be the next “one?” So far I haven’t had to repair my television, but I’ve been asking myself this exact question lately. I’m all up for mending my clothes and other treasures, but it’s like my brain shifts when it comes to fancy gadgets. Weird how that works and I wonder: is that everyone else’s “go to” thought process?

Thankfully, not everyone has my default reaction. In spite of these poor odds, and even combined with the fact that our new smart televisions are made to last about three to four years (not very smart in my opinion), die-hard tv repair shops remain open.

The good ol' days

Image by Karl-Otto Strandberg

Repair shops run by men like Gus Rubino. Check out the article link for Gus and you’ll see how he speaks about his craft. And that’s just it – a craft. Collectors and vintage enthusiasts have a natural appreciation for craft. Audiophiles and their love for vinyl are resurrecting the turntable repair industry and video game connoisseurs are making old gaming systems hip again. As “old” becomes desirable again, repair and maintenance shoots back into the forefront. But will there ever be a market for this with televisions? Is there a demographic out there who crave seeing media in less-than-high-def? Google “collecting old tvs” and you’ll see a results list littered with recycling tips. Your suggestions will include phrases like “where do I get rid of an old tv.” To paraphrase a comedic icon, do televisions get no respect?? Ebay has an article on collecting hints, but so far no one has commented. Without an upswing in collecting enthusiasm, do you think the tv repairman will enjoy a renaissance? Can the equation be as simple as desire to collect = desire to repair? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Replies for “Whatever happened to the tv repair man?

  • Ellen Dial

    Ahhh….. I remember my parents huge console TV and the little old guy who came to replace the picture tube.. LOL Anyone remember those? And vacuum tubes?

    We want new and better. Mainly. Stuff is built to be obsolete almost as soon as we bring whatever it is home… We throw EVERYTHING away – where does it go, BTW?

    Yes we love, love vintage and old stuff. No, we don’t want to be wasteful – but where would I plug my Roku streaming stick if I decided to do it old school?

  • TV Tim

    Doubtful … some things are of the past .. I repaired TVs at an established shop and then had my own TV repair business for a 2 more years after that .. VCRs kept it going for a while longer . but supporting hobby collectors of old electronics no longer is a viable career path …

  • David Morgan

    It’s so sad that the tv industry has gotten to this point.I am now 77 yrs old and was a tv repair technician for 60 years, starting when I was in high school. I started out as a “gopher” in my home town tv repair shop in Natick, Ma. when I was about 12 yrs. old. I worked in many repair shops over the years and made a decent living. There used to be annual service meetings put on by RCA, Zenith and other tv manufacturers showing us how to repair their new models. They would wine and dine us at these meetings. All this changed over the years. Japanese & other far east brands started invading the us market with no factory support and US manufacturers one by one slowly went out of business. Now all we have are flat screen tv’s, and when they break they are just discarded and replaced. Parts are basically not available as most manufactures do not give a rats behind whether their product gets repaired.
    The 50’s thru the 80’s were good times for the american tv industry After that it went downhill quickly. I am thankful that I was old enough to receive SS when the end came. I am still active and would love to find a part time job restoring older electronics

  • Ben Kleschinsky

    What is very alarming is that all of this waste ends up in our landfills. They talk about how bad environmental standards were back in those times, but were they really? Have we become worse in some regards?

    It’s called planned obsolescence, and this planned obsolescence is not a good economic model. I’m from Lowell, MA. Very few repair shops for any electronics or power tools are around anymore. Perhaps the bankruptcy of Radio Shack was the largest sign of things to come.

    I believe we should pass some form of legislation, that every American should have the right to repair. This affects every industry from cars, to washing machines, radios and computers, and even lawn mowers. I think this economic model is not sustainable. It’s based on short term gain, but we will suffer the consequences if we do nothing to change our actions. Bring back repair shops.


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