Advice for tape drive repair / maintenance

arcarlini at arcarlini at
Wed Dec 20 18:41:47 CST 2006

Tony Duell wrote:
> I think the big change is that 20 years ago there was good stuff and
> bad stuff out there. I mentioned I'd paid \pounds 1000 or so for a
> VCR. There were much cheaper machines around at the time, sure, and
> they probably have not lasted 15 years. But if you wanted to spend
> the money you could get one that lasted, that was maintainable (the
> manufacturers not only produced an excellent servive manual, but they
> sent it to me free of charge when I asked about it), etc. Now I see
> \pounds 50 VCRs and \pounds 20 DVD players and nothing else. I'd love
> to be able to spend more money and get a better machine, but I can't. shows DVD players from £17.89 to £2495 (I'm not counting
the three outliers at £10,001 and £20,001 and £35,001 because I assume
someone's mucking about with the database :-)).

Interestingly VCRs are still available and they run from £31.89 to
£599.99. Obviously there are far fewer VCRs than DVD players (or
even DVD recorders I guess) and only two (both from JVC) live in
the >£150 bracket.

I make no claim that even the expensive ones will be well made, but
expensive ones do exist and, for DVD players at least, they are
not thin on the ground.

I know that service manuals are available for Sony and Philips stuff
and I see the odd JVC manual floating around on the net. I don't
know how much they are to buy (as I've never needed to ask) but
they do exist. Obviously anything modernmay well have custom Ics
but then again a few of the manuals I've seen suggest that at least
some of the ICs are common to multiple manufacturers units (i.e.
they are made by someone other than the manufacturer and sold to
anyone who wants to use them). They are not general purpose Ics
and are unlikely to be used as anything other than their narrow
intended purpose (e.g. random DVD processor or whatever) and
they may not be readily available ten years (or five years) from
now. But they might be (after all, valves still turn up as NOS).

> Not over here they don't. People upgrade because a new model is
> available with more features (they they probably will never use).
> Provided the machine lasts for the warranty period the manufacturer
> is happy. If it fails after that time he gets to sell another one.

The thing had better last a good deal longer than the warranty as
I won't be buying from that manufacturer (or even quite possibly the
online store that sold me the goods) and I'm not alone in that. Perhaps
I take it a little further than many others, but I know plenty of
"run-of-the-mill" consumers who get cheesed off if their music centre
packs in after a few years. I'll admit that they may well go out and
buy a new one two-four years down the road, but if they keep it, it
has to keep on working. (I'll admit that this generally does not seem
to apply to mobile phones - no idea why not).

> Sorry, I have looked at modern stuff and found that in many cases the
> performance and quality of construction is markedly inferior to that
> which I already own.
> Perhaps you could explain to me in what ways I am going to find it
> 'superior'.

Well for a start it is available now :-) If you don't want it, then 
that's fine. My Philips TV is about six years old now and gives a
better picture than the DECCA Series 80 chassis that it replaced
(although I'd still be watching the DECCA if the tube had not
decided that enough was enough). If it breaks I might fix it
(assuming its feasible) or I might replace it with a new flat screen.
My £30 DVD player gives perfectly satisfactory results (maybe if I
had a 37" TV I'd think differently, but I don't ...) and my
cheap (£40) VCR just keeps going (despite kids deciding to shove
all sorts of garbage inside it, seemingly for fun). I'm not claiming
they'll last 20 years but the VCR has made it to five or six so far,
so I'm happy.


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