History: I grew up in the ‘50’s and the influence of broadcast radio programming was enormous on guys like me. Television was really just starting to manage its way into our home in the mid to late ‘50’s. The ubiquitous nature of AM transmission and the radio programming at that time, certainly had an effect on my sensitivity to what I now perceive as acceptable production/programming -I did develop some relative perspective regarding the changes with audio production through the years. Those were formative years indeed. Without basically any alternatives to AM broadcast except for our vinyl disc records, I never had reason to question much about the routine daily inclusion of radio and TV or the electronics behind it all. After all, radio had already been around since the mid 1920’s and it was the only entertainment source in my grandparents’ homes. From the efforts of Marconi to de Forest, we had become passive consumers of the technology, connecting Smallville, Texas with the world outside; this was also culturally transforming. I eventually became increasingly interested in how this stuff came about and how the heck it all worked.
My father was educated in math and physics on Uncle Sam’s dime after serving in WWII. For a short period of time after he graduated and settled into a small coastal community, he pursued a side business in radio and TV repair. Although the electronic work was short-lived, serving out his career as an engineer in the chemical industry, his efforts in electronics imparted a sense of curiosity with me. As a wee lad, I found interest in air-gap capacitors, resistors, and vacuum tubes that filled boxes around the home. By the time I was ten, I built my first AM crystal radio with some help from my older brother; he actually did most of the work.
Ultimately, I also included physics in my education along with chemistry and biology; tuition was much less then so, I had some fun. I took every electronic-related course that the University Physics Department offered. I attended Graduate school on a Fellowship, taught classes at the University, worked as an electronics tech in a local wood mill, played guitar most every weekend at local venues, and it was in those years I started seriously pursuing this path to educate myself about audio design. This was the beginning point in my journey to the place I currently advocate being. I began repairing music instrument amps in my spare time. After all, I had become acquainted with many of the area musicians and some became my customers early on.
Once I completed University, I soon found myself emasculated at times by my sense of incompetence when it came to applying solid-state physics to real audio equipment problems and of course, with the art of troubleshooting. Eventually, I settled down and came to connect many of the dots. The University library was my best source for solid-state and vacuum tube electronics’ references back then – there just was no internet yet. When my father attended the University, his physics electronic courses involved vacuum tube circuits. Solid-state physics, wave mechanics, and electronic engineering type courses were only offered by the time I attended. There are certainly overlaps in the design principles regarding the two approaches and my pursuit to understand the differences eventually played out through a bit of study via the University library resources. Through all this, I never expected this commercially endangered technology to turn on its heels and reestablish itself in audio electronics. The resurgence of thermionic valve products and the demand in the market would pan this out.
Retrospectively, I came to understand that what I had aspired to master intellectually on some competent level for no other reason but interest, invoked another prospective path. That is, the value now attached to forty to sixty year old amplifier designs and products, pioneered by the giants of audio engineering, had come to offer a rebirth of opportunity with service once again. My initial desire to just understand what my own father and many others had understood years prior, had become a valuable useful skill set after all. This journey started for me around 1980.