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The History of Philco

Chapter 5: Philco Service

© 2005-2013 Ron Ramirez

Illustration of a Service BenchIn the early days of radio, manufacturers treated schematic diagrams and service information as proprietary. Sometimes a manufacturer would issue schematics for their radio receivers, but usually would not label the value of the components, making it very difficult for the radio service man to repair sets when the time for service inevitably came.

Philco was no different than other manufacturers in the beginning, as they released service information for their Socket-Power units, and then radio receivers, only to their distributors. As late as 1932, if a Philco superheterodyne receiver needed an alignment, it was recommended to send the radio to the local Philco distributor to make the needed adjustments.

Slowly, the radio repairman began to more easily obtain service information for radio receivers. Through the efforts of such men as John F. Rider, who began publishing his Perpetual Trouble Shooter's Manuals in the early 1930s, the service man was finally able to acquire the schematics he needed to repair the sets coming into his shop.

Philco recognized the need to have qualified radio repairmen perform service on its products. Up until mid-1933, it was recommended that a purchaser of a Philco set return it to the dealer from where it was purchased to obtain service. However, in July 1933, Philco established an unprecedented program to support a select number of independent service shops. The program, Radio Manufacturers Service (RMS), allowed select local repair shops to receive not only factory service data from Philco, but also support in the form of national advertising, whereby Philco customers were advised to take their radios to a member of RMS for repair.

The announcement was first made in the July 1933 issue of the Philco Serviceman, a monthly newsletter published for service technicians – and which was handled by the new RMS organization from then on. The first public announcement came two months later, on September 18, 1933, when Boake Carter announced it on his Philco Radio Time broadcast over WCAU, Philadelphia, and the CBS radio network.

At the time, some dealers were being undercut on prices, with some dealers quoting prices as low as 25 cents for a typical repair job. In order to protect the service shops that were members of RMS, Philco issued standard labor charges for various radio repair jobs. These charges were printed on a small sign which the RMS member could purchase, and hang inside his shop for customers to see. In addition, constant Philco advertising advising set owners to contact a local RMS-affiliated repair shop also helped the local RMS members to gain more business in spite of some shops offering cut-rate prices.

Through RMS and the local Philco distributors, Philco would offer training to RMS members. Eventually, a tie-in with the well-known National Radio Institute (NRI) was instituted, whereby NRI classes were offered to RMS members.

Philco of Canada also developed an RMS program in that country shortly after the launch of RMS in the USA. The UK subsidiary of Philco began an RMS program as well, but not until February 1935.

As America entered World War II, RMS helped in the war effort by assisting trained radio service men to find suitable positions within the armed forces.

Like Lucky Strike Green, RMS did not return from the war. Instead, Philco's service organization was reorganized under a new name – Philco Service. By the 1950s, this had become Philco Factory-Supervised Service.

In conjunction with Philco's support of RMS members, Philco began to offer a line of its own test equipment. Signal generators and multimeters were among the first products offered. Eventually, Philco would offer not only portable all-in-one test gear, but also large bench units similar to what was used at Philco distributors and at the Philco factory itself. RMS members were offered discounts on Philco test gear.

Philco continued to produce test equipment for the civilian market through 1942, and resumed its production and sale after the war had ended.

Click thumbnails to enlarge and to see more info on each item.

048 Set Testers - Click to enlarge
Service bench in Buffalo, NY - Click to enlarge
Parts department in Chicago - Click to enlarge
Large service bench - Click to enlarge
Ford service truck in Boston - Click to enlarge
Parts department in Lancaster, PA - Click to enlarge