Working the Dream Come True

by Paul Rohrbeck

I was a line technician at the Motorola plant in Wilton Manors FL. I started in August or September of 1969. We were working in a rented warehouse where they set up 2 long lines of tables in the warehouse and called it a production line. The HT220 came to us several months after I was hired, I actually started on Pageboy One product, I worked "end of line" technician. When they got the screen rooms, I worked in final test for HT220. I was also involved in the factory SP products area, saw lotsa 'different' things.

It was an experience..... I remember my job interview, There I was 21 years old still in electronics classes at the junior college ( they didn't even know what RF was in class). My experience consisted of 6 months in a TV repair shop and the head of personnel asks me, "can you work on 2 tone sequential paging decoders," my answer was yes! What I didn't say was what the hell was that....... No one that I know, me included had ever heard of a pager, much less knew what it was!! I was the 8th tech hired. Come to find out that they had been there less than 30 days and had not even advertised for help yet!!

You had to see this production setup. In the middle of this large non-airconditioned warehouse floor was two lines of tables and chairs, about 50 feet long! We sat back to back so we couldn't watch each other. The product was put on the bench on one end of the tables, passed down to the next person manually building the pagers. at the end of the first row of tables the Pageboy One was finished. Then it was brought to our table row, went through inspection then to us... EOL techs. We had repair personnel to repair for us so we could work for the quantity goals they wanted. In the beginning that quota was 5 units per tech for our 8 hr shift.... and we had a terrible time getting that many to work. Our test equipment was antique!! We had GAW enterprises power supplies, encoders... these were from Bob Galvin's [founder of Motorola] garage shop was the rumor. The signal generators were Boonton tube . Our frequency counters were nixie tube type.

When I got to final test, we actually had a few screen rooms... Our test equipment was just as bad though Boontons that drifted freq, slow nixie tube counters and a archaic demod receiver hooked to a tektronics scope with paint marks where 5 Khz of deviation was supposed to be. Imagine this, setting Rx freq on a HT220... one hand holding the diddle stick, the other hand on the vernier of the Boonton, watching the frequency counter trying to get that foster seely discriminator to be correct.... what a challenge! We were coordinated!!!!

I remember spending hours trying to get that HT to put out 1.8 watts, not 1.7 watts, or worse yet the standby current was 1 milliamp outa spec!! When you got one out you were really proud of the accomplishment. That was the beginning...........

It got better. before I left, final test our quotas went to 30+ radios per person on a 8 hour shift. Imagine doing a UHF select-call 4 frequency radio and having to get that many out :-). We were allowed 2% failure thru our quality supervisors. They were rabid about quality!!

We had problems like circuit boards that were not etched properly, imagine long plating runs under 3 layers of parts shorted across like Rx audio into the Tx exciter... really weird symptoms!! Diodes installed correctly but the color band was in the wrong side, same thing for resistors, what a challenge. Most of us knew the radio so well that every component and what the circuit board should look like was memorized

As far as SP stuff there was 3 of us in the department. We saw things like a modified UHF HT220 stuffed into wooden bookends. They had a capacitive PTT embedded in the housing. They were for President Nixon in his office. They were alarm modules for emergencies. They each had a burst tone encoder with a specific frequency. The Secret Service had the decoder box from hell as we called it, it would light up the specific tone and alert the boys to problems. We built at least 40 of these.

What we really liked was when engineering would send us something with NO documentation... We didn't know what it was or what it did, but we had to get them out!! You can use your imagination here to figure out how we handled it :0)

Our biggest project was the Coronary Observation Radio [medical HT220] or Orange Box project as we called it. It was based on the HT220 radio with serious modifications.We three technicians were responsible for every one of those radios, both portable, Orange Box and Hospital demodulator that Motorola ever shipped. We each had paper documentation on EVERY piece that went out the door, who tested it what each spec was complete to the battery discharge curves for each unit. we also had special stamps to mark each assembly so you could track it back!! Our MINIMUM quality spec was 100%. Nothing could leave till it was perfect. The only time these were to be used was when a person's life was at stake. We took it seriously.

By the way I have seen a VHF HT220 put out almost 25 watts in stock condition, of course we did select every transistor with a curve tracer. It took 22VDC, drew lotsa amps and WOW what a RF burn you would get off the rear cover screws!

They also had some cool housing colors, you probably have seen the orange and yellow housings, but the ones I liked the best were a beautiful medium dark green, I haven't seen any of them since I left the factory.

On the SS models, is the main board layout the same as regular slimlines? (regular slimline has ch 1, 2 xmit crystals on PTT side and the rec crystals on the other). For xmit and receive ch 3 and 4, are the extra crystals where the PL deck goes?

Non A/C warehouse in the humid FL weather, did that cause problems for the electronics?

Hilarious you had to use Bob's old gear to tune the latest techology from Motorola.

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