By GARY FONVILLE
Forgotten NY correspondent
Since the advent of home PCs, Facebook, Text Messaging, Email, Cell Phones and many other technologies, communication has changed greatly as a result. Who would’ve thought that the once mighty Sears and Macy’s would now be in financial difficulty. They’re in trouble because consumers no longer have to trek to a brick and mortar branch of their chain. Other types of businesses have bit the dust due to changing consumer demand. Some businesses such as beeper stores, record shops, newsstands and book stores have been affected by changes in technology.
I’ll be hitting the big 65 soon, which enables me to remember another type of business that has almost disappeared around NYC. TV/Radio repair shops were once very plentiful around the city. Almost every neighborhood had one. I lived near Dean’s TV repair/ record shop that was located on the south side of 116th Street, just west of 8th Avenue, now Frederick Douglass Boulevard. The reason these repair shops were plentiful was because in the day, televisions were very temperamental. How many of you remember spending half an hour to get those rabbit ear antennas in the right position or that rotary clicker thing on the base of the antenna to get the best picture? Even if you lived in NYC city with an outside antenna, your reception was liable to be substandard due to the TV signal from the Empire State Building bouncing off other tall buildings.
First generation color TV, which were more complex than a black & white sets, increased the chance that it would need servicing. Even adjusting the colors was indeed a skillset.
Back then, radios and TV used vacuum tubes, those bulb- like things that lit the interior in the back of the TV and also gave off a lot of heat. The back of the TV always had that brown thick cardboard material that had all the holes in it to let the heat escape from the TV. If you had a console TV, like most people did, it was impractical to take the television to the repair shop. Therefore, a technician would have to come to your house with a large case with many spare tubes to do repairs.
As a double whammy, vacuum tubes were no longer used in most electronics by the early 1970s. Since tubes were no longer used in consumer electronics, reliability improved greatly. Translation: Not as many repair shops were needed. And on top of that, televisions and radios were made so cheaply, that it was more cost-effective to buy a new TV or radio instead of repairing it.
Luis TV Repairs on 5th Avenue & Douglass Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn (above) called it quits a few years ago.
Urena Television is still hanging on at 356 South 1st Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
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