Warning: slightly technical but mostly cost and expense language. Reader discretion advised.
This isn't a new thought...but it's current, a number of broadcasters are lamenting it, and since a client just got bitten by it, I want to get it back out there.
A few years ago, someone went to a Cadillac dealer repeatedly, checking prices on all the parts of a new Caddy. By the time he totaled everything, the parts for a new car would have cost about 5 times the dealer price - and you'd have to build it yourself.
Kinda reminds you of that Johnny Cash One Piece at a Time song.
Well, if you think cars are bad, take a run at broadcast gear. It's been true for awhile but it's getting worse. Pick a part - any part - and then brace yourself. It's going to cost you plenty. Even if you can find them at general parts sources like Digi-Key, MCM or Mouser, calling the manufacturer will get you a number that will send your eyes rolling.
And, it's worse if it's a custom part. I had two occasions to witness that in the last couple of weeks. One was a transmitter and the second was a simple CD player. $1000 for a panel meter? And when you call them and say that there's no info in the manual about the actual meter movement, you're met with, "Yeah, uh. I don't know what to tell you except we have 4 in stock."
Cool. And since this particular unit is in the final stage of a transmitter, you can't just pull any replacement or guess at the value. Well you could, but your client is exposed to the possibility of an NAL.
Same is true - but worse - with the custom items like coils in a combiner. You get the feeling that there's a marketing guy and a techie sitting in a bar together, rubbing their hands together, waiting for a failure.
And a CD player? Laser and lens shouldn't cost $200. They just shouldn't.
Yes, I know. There are development costs. When you're only building a couple thousand of something, you have to make your money back somewhere. And keeping a service center working can be expensive. Of course, managers and bean counters don't want to pay more up front. And, frankly, a lot of techies would rather see expenses in the repair budget than in capital expenditures.
Maybe the solution is to buy two of everything and put one in moth balls. Then cannibalize it for parts. But you have to have the fortitude to pull that first part from a perfectly good box to fix one that's failing. And, BTW, if you get that past the bean counters, let me know.