Repair or Replace?

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Making the best decision

Using the aforementioned thought process, the primary consideration would be the equipment in question, its age, the purchase price and "Is it likely to work with emerging technology standards?" These seem obvious but I would also consider the purpose for which equipment was originally designed. I think it is fair to say that most of the mission-critical equipment in a station was designed specifically for broadcast (or similar) applications and as such, is designed with a much higher level of reliability than consumer equipment. It has also been my experience that there is still a robust source of repair parts for the most popular old (and current) broadcast manufacturers, particularly RF equipment, whether those parts were removed from decommissioned equipment, remanufactured or new from third-party sources. Of course for studio and transmitter equipment, this was a good alternative up to about the late 1990s but the reality is that most of you have leaped into the IP/IBOC/digital everything world and all those rotary faders, miles of Belden 8451 and power guzzling transmitters were sold as scrap, so pretty much every aspect of the station is relatively new.

In reality this newer generation of commercial broadcast equipment is expensive, uses proprietary technologies and has very little that can be repaired in the field (at the component level) without the proper training, test equipment and skill. Tech rooms at stations look more like a network server farm than a radio station, mainly because that’s what it is, therefore the overall approach to troubleshooting is at the system level i.e. find out where the error comes from, replace the box and everything is fine. OK, that is a little oversimplified, perhaps, but it accurately represents the trend going forward.

From a system perspective there could be another wrinkle. Does this particular piece of failed equipment utilize or operate over a system that uses a proprietary technology? This was more common with early attempts of digitizing the studio. Fortunately most of those systems were either replaced or upgraded to make them interoperable with other manufacturers' equipment that uses standard IP protocols. If you are lucky enough to have some of this older non-standard technology, there is probably a stronger case to replace the entire system rather than expending the time and money to fix the junk.

Finally let us not forget Moore’s Law. That was Gordon Moore's (Intel co-founder) prediction that the densities of semiconductors in an integrated circuit will double every two years. Apparently the theory held true since 1965, however some experts think the trend will slow and we will only see the doubling every three years. Overall I think the case for replacement of broken equipment grows each day.

McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.

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