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Electronics Service Technicians

History

Most electronic products in use today were developed during the 20th century; however, they are based on principles of electronics discovered in the 19th century. Modern television, for instance, is based on principles first demonstrated in the 1850s by Heinrich Geissler, whose experiments showed that electricity discharged in a vacuum tube caused small amounts of rare gases in the tube to glow. Later investigations showed that the glow was caused by the freeing of electrons. Experimenters in the late 1800s and early 1900s further refined the vacuum tube. Then, in 1898, Karl Braun made the first cathode ray tube that could control the electron flow. In 1907, Lee De Forest developed the first amplifying tube, used to strengthen electronic signals.

At this point, the basic elements of modern television transmission existed, but they had not yet been combined into a workable system. In 1922, a 16-year-old named Philo Farnsworth developed a practical electronic scanning system. Shortly afterwards, in 1923, Vladimir Zworykin developed the iconoscope and the kinescope, which were, respectively, the basic elements of the television camera and the television receiver. Zworykin's first practical all-electronic television system was demonstrated for the first time publicly in 1929.

Radio followed a similar path of development. But, although the roots of television and radio lie in the 1800s, neither medium had developed to the point of needing a service industry until regular commercial broadcasting began and people began to purchase receivers. For radio, commercial broadcasting began in 1920, when KDKA, Pittsburgh, and WWWJ, Detroit, went on the air. For television, regular broadcasting began with six stations, which went on the air in 1946. Just four years later in 1950, there were 6 million television sets in the United States. In 2011, 96.7 percent of American households owned at least one television set, according to The Nielsen Company.

Owners of the early radios handled most of their own repairs; sets were simple, and the range of possible solutions to problems was small. As the broadcasting industry grew and new improvements resulted in more complicated sets, trade and technical institutes were established to train technicians. Correspondence schools started and became popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when many people were seeking new careers or ways to supplement their incomes.

The explosive growth of television broadcasting after World War II created an almost instant demand for trained television service technicians. Trade and technical schools again boomed, aided this time by the GI Bill's educational benefits, which enabled many veterans to study television servicing. The field was especially attractive to former servicemen who had been communications or electronics technicians in the U.S. Armed Forces. The subsequent development of the transistor, stereophonic sound, and color television resulted in television sets, radios, and other home electronics equipment that could only be serviced by trained technicians with adequate testing equipment and repair tools.

The development of the microchip in the late 1960s led to the invention of many new electronic products. There was tremendous growth in the 1970s and 1980s in the number and variety of electronic devices introduced into homes and businesses. Miniature and large screen projection televisions, video cameras and videocassette recorders (VCRs), microcomputers and printers, microwave ovens, and telephone answering machines all became common household items. Fax machines, desktop photocopiers, and electronic securities systems became common in offices.

In the 1990s, advances in microprocessors—tiny computer chips that contain all of the operating functions of a computer—have led to a vast array of electronic products available to consumers both in offices and homes. Today, many homes have personal computers, compact disc players, fax machines, mobile phones, and advanced home security systems. New products, such as interactive televisions, multimedia computers, electronic image scanning equipment, DVD players, and sophisticated telecommunications products are being developed along with many other electronic products. The growth in this field has led to a continuing need for trained technicians to maintain and repair the many types of home and office electronics equipment.

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