Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W4ZD, Jul 24, 2019.
As a retired USAF ground radio maintainer and missileer, I fully agree with you.
While this may be true in some cases, I believe that it's less "evil" in nature, and that in most cases the decline in manufacturing in general in the U.S. is due to excessive and crippling regulation and unbalanced international trade agreements. It has simply become cheaper to outsource manufacturing and labor to foreign companies. U.S. companies can't compete on equal ground and can't sell to the public at the price point that foreign manufacturers can.
You can thank unions for a lot of that exporting...
There is an arc to life, which everything follows. We come from dust, soar high for a time, but eventually run out of kinetic energy and crash and burn, into the dust once more. Everything follows this simple arc: single celled organisms, humans, cultures and societies, even the stars and the galaxies. We are born, we grow and prosper, then we decay and die.
Ain't nothing wrong with that, it's the way it is. It's what happened to companies such as Hallicrafters and National, it's what happens to us all at the end. It is perhaps sad in some sense, but, what the hell, it's what happens to everything. Be assured you are no different than anything else. It does not bother me, does it bother you?
I do of course miss the passing of things. I used to lust over receivers in National's catalog, for instance, as a boy. They are long gone. So will be this great country of ours one day, the United States of America. It happened to classical Greece, it happened to the Roman Empire. It happens always.
I guess I was just lamenting the passing of a golden age in Amateur Radio, when it was (in my view at least) a decidedly triumphant phase in our history. A tiny one, to be sure, but one to be proud of. A beautiful bush in the forest of the world. It's gone now. It makes me sad. That's all.
At least the US is collecting millions of dollars in tariffs from other countries when all this foreign stuff is imported.
Here's what I saw happen....
The dominance of US rigmakers in the US market was driven by several factors:
1) Import duties and shipping costs made imported radios generally more expensive.
2) US rigmakers were much better known to US amateurs due to advertising, distributor networks, and their experience with non-amateur products made for the military, commercial and consumer markets
3) WW2 devastated much of Western Europe and Japan, but not the USA. The affected countries had to spend years rebuilding, while the USA did not.
4) Many US rigmakers were also makers of products for military, commercial and consumer markets, distributing the costs of design, tooling and materials and giving economies of scale. (At least one manufacturer did not expect their amateur division to show a profit; breaking even was considered good performance.)
So from the end of WW2 and well into the 1960s, US rigmakers dominated the US Amateur Radio market. But then things began to change.
- Some US rigmakers were directed by their founders, and when the founders passed away or sold the company, it did not continue the amateur radio product line
- Some US rigmakers did not adequately adjust to changes in technology. When SSB replaced AM as the dominant HF voice mode, FM replaced AM as the dominant VHF/UHF voice mode, transceivers replaced separate tx/rx, semiconductors replaced tubes, various manufacturers did not adapt to the new market realities.
- Some US rigmakers were simply not well run, made bad decisions, etc.
- After WW2, the Japanese electronics industry focused very intensely on the "consumer" market - which included Amateur Radio. They also adopted W. Edwards Deming's Quality principles. Their early products weren't all that wonderful, but they kept on improving. By the late 1960s they were catching up to the US rigmakers - and beginning to surpass them.
- Japanese rigmakers got their foot in the door by selling products under "American" names. They started with parts, and worked their way up to basic and then more-complex things. Meters, dials, tubes, etc. - and then test equipment, receivers, and more. The Lafayette HA-350 receiver and HA-460 6 meter AM transmitter-receiver, the Allied 2516 and A-2517, the Henry Radio Tempo One - all rebranded Japanese products.
- Electronic kits had formed a major part of the US amateur radio market from the 1940s into the 1970s. This was possible because, in those times, much of the cost of electronics was in the hand labor needed to assemble anything from a table radio to a legal-limit transmitter. The development of PC boards and automated assembly removed most of that savings.
- Trade policies changed, shipping methods improved, and the miniaturization of electronics removed the added costs of imported products.
IMHO, the turning point was in the 1970s when Kenwood introduced the TS-520 family and Yaesu introduced the FT-101 family. They were the right rigs at the right time at low prices (for the time). There was nothing Made In USA that could compete. And as mentioned above, the Japanese rigmakers kept on improving and developing and increasing the quality of their products, while the US rigmakers walked away from the small, low-profit amateur market.
Ten Tec, founded in 1968, was the exception that proved the rule.
73 de Jim, N2EY
You were not talking about the cycle of life. You wrote about manufacturing in the U.S. If we focus on your original manufacturing post, certainly there are many things which can (and are) being done to change that downward spiral. And in terms of life, the science of medicine has made great strides of reversing premature death. Either way, your fatalistic perspective seems flawed.
Have you never seen an HRO or DXEngineering catalog?
Think about WHY that is.
One reason for the gigantic vehicles is that gasoline is cheap here - very cheap. Houses and lots are bigger because land is cheap (once you get away from the cities). Plus Americans were insulated from the rest of the developed world for a long time after WW2.
Actually, the first "transistor radios" were Made In USA. But the Japanese saw a market in a "pocket" radio that could go anywhere, so they began making them in huge numbers. The small size meant that shipping cost was low.
Actually, there's a lot more to it. You're forgetting about the era of hybrid HF rigs, which lasted well into the 1980s. Look up the Kenwood TS-830S, TS-530S, Yaesu FT-102, etc. They all had tube finals and drivers.
There were American-made rigs with SS finals in the 1970s. Drake TR-7 and TR-5, for example.
The problem was and is that much of US industry and culture tends to be reactive rather than proactive. The US auto industry is a classic example; until the 1970s oil crises, they designed cars with the idea that gasoline would always be plentiful and cheap - and when it wasn't, they discovered that they just didn't know how to make a good economy car.
Dude, you need to get a grip on reality.
Douglas Adams. Best sci-fi EVER.
I suspect that if we ever do encounter extraterrestrials, and find a way to travel the Galaxy, we will discover that Adams' version of how it all works is the most accurate.
I'll be ready. I know where my towel is.