Clandestine Service Center

During the past week I have been busy as hell. Loyal customers of Bill and Dave’s test and measurement products who cannot get any support from our service centers have discovered I am the last stop inside the company for a shred of support. In my spare time and on breaks, I research our legacy products and provide information the company is unwilling or unable to provide. It is a sad state of affairs. A few months ago I asked the Bossman if he would be willing to hook me up with an engineering account so I could research our records for Nixie tubes. That’s a personal project of mine. Knowing that we were major manufacturers of Nixies back in the 1960s and 70s I figured we had to have some pretty good records scanned into the company’s internal databases by now. Sure enough, I was correct. Once I got in there I downloaded all kinds of good data sheets and engineering drawings.

Our company is out of control in many aspects. For example, not long after Bossman authorized an engineering account I got a weird email from a division in Scotland informing me I had to upgrade to a hotrod laptop computer. At first I thought the email was some sort of a joke, but it turned out there was no oversight on their part as to whether or not I was in fact an engineer. They only saw me on the system logging in to the engineering databases on an old PC therefore I automatically qualified for a new computer no questions asked. I fucked them and took the fastest laptop they had. Since then my research efforts have been drastically more efficient. Thanks, corporate chumps.

There are a number of factors that are placing long time customers in a nasty situation. One, when we obsolete a product or instrument line we don’t have equivalent platforms available to replace them with. Marketing says we do but the plain reality is we don’t. All a tech-savvy customer has to do is look at the performance specs of the new replacement product. If the specs do not meet or exceed the specs of the previous instrument it is not an equivalent box. Period. More often than not this is the case. Two, we do not offer any product support on legacy equipment unless the customer paid for long term extended service or had it in their contract with us up front to provide up to ten years worth of support after reaching obsolescence. That means once a product is jettisoned there is no online manuals available from our external website, no part information, no schematics, nothing. Basically Bill and Dave’s company takes you on a cruise out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, kicks you overboard, says “Peace!” and keeps on sailing.

Part of this is a shrewd marketing strategy to force customers into buying our new crap. Service call centers won’t help you with part information, JEDEC numbers so you can source parts on your own, manuals, or anything really. That’s where I come in.

Last week I provided service and parts to customers all over the United States and Canada, South America, Australia, and even Serbia. I have access to hundreds of obsolete product manuals on microfilm as well as tens of thousands of component data sheets and drawings also on microfilm. Most remaining divisions don’t have these records anymore and even our main manual library in Silicon Valley is lacking in material. Armed with these resources, decades of the company’s newsletter “Bench Briefs” and my engineering account I have been kicking things into high gear. I’ve cut deals with technicians in vintage departments to get desperate customers unavailable components and cross reference parts to industry standard items. My whole goal is to keep customers swimming rather than sinking. I’m having a good time doing it, too. All of this is under the radar so to speak. Nobody in management or outside of this division will ever know about what is going on.

Microfilm records are badass. The only problem is some genius decided to throw away one model of microfilm reader. They kept the ones that weren’t meant for the abundance of our records so they have to be focused manually and are a pain to print out. We can’t do anything right around here anymore. Printing manuals for a desperate customer is tedious and time consuming. I recently decided to provide those only if they were for a simple unit like a digital time clock or a basic frequency counter. Otherwise the paperwork is a beast to deal with.

W emailed me a few days ago with some bad news. Looks like the management fuckups pulled another boner that I predict is going to backfire on us heavily. Since we don’t provide instrument manuals for old equipment on our website as a courtesy, a privately run website called BAMA has been collecting our material for distribution in electronic format and making it available free of charge to anyone who wants it. BAMA stands for “Boat Anchor Manual Archive.” What are you going to do with an old oscilloscope that you can’t figure out how to trouble shoot or operate? Tie a rope on it and throw it overboard to anchor your Chris Craft. That’s about as useful as it’s going to be if you can’t figure out how it operates or how to fix it.

BAMA is a popular website for ham radio enthusiasts, electronics students, retired engineers, and huge nerds like me. Corporate decided BAMA is committing copyright infringement by providing our obsolete equipment manuals even though we don’t have physical copies of them anymore. Hell, some of that documentation is even useful to techs working on instrument lines internally to keep critical pieces of gear alive. So, our legal team descended upon BAMA with a threat letter. Cease providing manuals or be sued into oblivion. Brilliant. With all the bad publicity we’ve already got this was not what we needed right now. W told me the news of our legal threat went worldwide within 80 minutes of hassling BAMA. The news spread like wildfire on Yahoo message boards, electronics websites, etc. That’s how W found out about it and he’s asked for my help in rescuing BAMA.

I thought about it for most of today and I may have a plan on how to get BAMA out of this mess.

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~ by factorypeasant on June 21, 2008.

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