Advice for tape drive repair / maintenance
Billy.Pettit at wdc.com
Wed Dec 20 19:59:31 CST 2006
Tony Duell wrote:
I can't comment on whether it's possible to make reliable, long-lasting,
devices with lead-free solder (although there seem to be exemptions for
what I'd call 'critical' applications (military, aerospace, medical, etc)
in the UK regulations which allow the use of leaded solder for such
devices, so draw you own conclusions).
I've put a call into a specialist friend who does mil-spec here. Last time
I talked to him he said they couldn't use lead based. In fact most of his
"hardened" designs had to be laser welded. But I want to verify what US
mil-spec calls for currently.
But I can assure you I've had
enough dry joints in modern stuff assembled with lead free solder to last
me a lifetime. I've even had brand-new stuff that's had to be resoldered
before it will work.
And I've met plenty of other repairers (entusiasts and professionals) who
have had the same problems.
> producer of PCBs has had more than 5 years to move to lead free =
> That was not a difficult change for competent manufacturing engineers to
> Yet, I think this is the third or fourth time you've brought this up. =
> must have had a bad experience someplace and are judging the technology =
Not 'a' bad expeience, but many of them.
> that experience. I know a lot of hobbyists, as well as lab technicians, =
> annoyed at having to buy new soldering equipment for higher temperature
I can't see what a hobbyist would have to bother -- at least in the UK,
these directives only apply to equipment that's offered for sale. You cna
do what yuou like in stuff you build for yourself.
Like you, many hobbists want to repair or modify equipment they buy. And
even more simple users like myself, where I buy PCBs and salvage the parts I
want. For example, I found some boards with 10 nanosecond 32Kx8 RAMS that
were perfect for a logic analyzer I want to build. A bitch to get off, even
though surface mount. Wish they were some of those bad joints you see -
these almost had to be cut off.
> But the world has moved on. Lead free soldering is as good and in many
> cases better than lead based soldering. On the data from more than 100
> million lead free PCBs, I can attest dry solder joints are not a =
> As for the cheapest plastic imaginable, I just don't see that in the
> marketplace. My current assignment is working with DVRs, STBs and TVs =
Perhaps your consumer electronic devices are built a lot better than
THis all started with a mention of a $89 VCR. Over here that's a '50 quid
VCR' and yes, we get them at that sort of price. Now, when I last bought
a VCR, some 15 years ago, it cost nearly \pounds 1000 (or 20 times as
much). Are you seriously telling me that, even though there's been
inflation in that time, a modern 50 quid machine is going to be as well
made anf as long lasting. Becasue I simply don't see that.
> disk drives. So I always have a couple of dozen units torn down on my
> bench. What I see are vendors that have had 20+ years to refine their
> design, their processes and their materials. I see components and =
> that have an order (or orders) of magnitude better reliability than the
> products of 20 years ago.
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.
> This "everything old is good, everything new is crap" is not verified by =
> data from the industry world wide. Some things do improve with time.
> Especially in a cut throat competitive industry where warranty costs =
> poor products will put you out of business in weeks. Customers (and in =
> US, laws) demand reliable products. Companies don't survive if they =
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.
This is one area I will agree with you. My experience at Philips exposed me
to the enormous difference in consumer protection laws in the US versus the
rest of the world. Philips management had a terrible time dealing with
For example, if a box is even opened here, the unit automatically becomes
"used" and has to be marked as such. (Usually referred to as white
Customers can return a product without giving any reason. It doesn't have
to be a failure.
Cosmetic damage consititutes a failure. This includes the packaging.
Another huge difference is that refurbished units have to be sold as used,
even if they have a new product warranty. (Philip's answer was to sell the
reburished units through the employee stores.) This is also true if the
unit was refurbished before it ever left the factory. Of course that rule
is ignored by everybody. But big accounts like Apple and Dell still insist
that no unit can be reworked. They demand only prime yield product.
All of these laws were different from the typical consumer protection laws
in Europe. There, many manufacturers used a 5% rule. 5% of what they ship
is defective. They give the distributors extra units as a margin against
returns. Sadly, many of the returns are sold as new. There are no laws in
the Common Market to prevent this.
Management used to this Euro environment had a terrible time adjusting to
the US conditions. Some couldn't even understand the concept of a rebate:
if you advertised a rebate, you have to pay it! That lesson cost several
European companies tens of millions of dollars and government law suits to
One result of these differences is that European companies normally don't
normally thrive in the US. The cultural gap in business is too great. When
I went to work for Philips, no one I knew here was aware Philips made
anything besides light bulbs. It is not a well known brand name here, like
Sony and Panasonic.
So I can accept that you see a much lower level of quality than is normal
here in the US. We still see some crap, but we can do something about it.
> Tony, you have your preferences and choices and more power to you. But =
> you did a study of current state of the art electronics, you would find =
> to be far superior to that of 20 years ago. Even if it won't provide a
> maintenance manual.
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
Tony, your heart and mind are in the past. No matter how many facts,
figures, statistics I present, I will never convince you that today's world
is as good as your golden age when everything was perfect. Why bother?
It's just unpleasant for both of us.
I've spent 46 years in the electronics industry, always on the cutting edge,
and always striving for improvement. I see enormous changes, most for the
good. You don't.
I value my time too much to waste it on repairing minor appliances. You get
great pleasure from that activity.
We are never going to agree on what constitutes a good product - you want a
maintenance manual and lots of spares; I want no failures and no hassles
during a useful life cycle.
I think we agree on a love of old computers and the need to keep a few
alive. And we may share pleasure in designing and building little systems.
But I wonder if you enjoy playing with PICs and FPGAs like I do, since
little documention on the innards is available.
And I know we disagree strongly on use of the internet, saving old manuals
and sending photos, scans, software etc. That requires technology you are
not willing to embrace.
I have to admit I'm hoping to meet you next year. I'll be retiring then and
we are going to spend half our time in Colechester and the other half in
California. We are going to explore a lot of England that I still haven't
seen. And attend a few science fiction conventions, hit the famous book
stores in Wales, check out pub food, sample the local beers and in general
do the things we always wanted to do but were too busy.
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