By Janet Stoica
NORTH OXFORD – Sometime in early September the television sets in New England undergo a miraculous cleaning. They are arranged in their best viewing positions, dusted with cans of air or soft cloths sprayed with electronic cleaning chemicals, smudges are wiped away, and remote controls are at the ready.
Man caves and lady caves and kid caves are vacuumed and mopped, chairs are brought in and relocated for that perfect TV panorama. Coffee tables, end tables, microwaves, mini-fridges, popcorn and chips along with their dips await their fate and usage.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s New England Patriots football season and the Tom Brady Effect is about to begin. The Patriots’ star quarterback and his winning focus is enough to make anyone a TV football fan. What’s that you say? No picture? White screen? The cable or satellite company says their signal is okay and it must be a problem with your TV? Quick, take that TV to Circuit Barn on Route 20 in North Oxford! Might just be something like a small repair on a circuit board to get that cool TV up and running again and Jeff Murray, owner of Circuit Barn, is just the man to fix it.
Jeff and his wife, Patricia, are just about the only local TV and computer specialists you’ll find in the area. They’ll work on most anything electronic: audio equipment, TV’s, and computers. Call them to ask if they’ll check out other electronics if you’re in doubt, but please don’t call them to repair cellphones or cameras, thank you very much. Their focus is definitely TV monitors and computers. There were about eight sets in their waiting area, recently brought in, and several more on their neatly-arranged work benches in mid-repair when this writer visited the store.
“You’d be surprised to learn about the small problems that are repairable,” said Jeff. “Like all electronics these days, TV monitors are considered a throw-away item, which is a shame. I had a lady bring in her TV telling me the unit didn’t work and she’d bought a new one. She asked if I could take her old TV off her hands and I agreed. When I took the set apart, it turned out to be a quick fix so I repaired it and offered it to another customer.”
While I was visiting Circuit Barn, a young woman stopped in with a Radio Shack-brand 8-track tape player. She set the player on the counter along with an 8-track tape and asked Jeff if he could check it out and repair it. She explained that it had belonged to an older relative but had great sentimental value. Jeff agreed to take a look at the item as we marveled at this 1970’s boom-box antique. “The inside electronics on this unit were simpler then,” he said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to fix.” The young lady left with a smile and hope that the repair would be made.
“Today, TV’s are inexpensive to buy and the cost of parts is high,” said Jeff. “The chain store’s repair people can only replace circuit boards and some boards are worth $400. Here, at our shop, we have the equipment and the experience to test down to the smallest part. They just don’t teach this in vocational or technical schools anymore. The students prefer electronic theory, computer repair, and software writing.”
Jeff received his Registered Master’s Technician License in radio and technology repair 17 years ago and perfected his craft while working at Lockheed Martin, a global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company. While working on equipment at the Shrewsbury Central Postal Service Center, he met his soon-to-be-wife, Patricia. They married and have two sons and live close to their business.
“The TV repair business has become an interesting area,” Jeff said. “The manufacturers have slashed their rates to repair centers like us by 50-75% and the price of parts versus buying a new TV has become confusing to the consumer. I encourage users to bring in their TVs first for a check-up before disposing of them. Also, by bringing in the unit, you’ll save on a house-call in case the set is not repairable.
“You’ve heard this before, but the truth is that all television parts are made in China and the quality is just not there. Believe it or not, the parts that are made in Mexico are actually lasting longer. Companies like Sony used to be the flagship of great quality but when other manufacturers began manufacturing monitors with cheaper parts and inexpensive prices, the flagships couldn’t compete, so resorted to the same inexpensive components in order to be competitive.”
When asked what the “best” type of TV monitor was, Jeff replied that the DLP-type used to be the best. DLP’s were micro-mirrors laid out on semi-conductor chips, making the pixel makeup high quality. Historically, TV monitors then moved into plasma, then liquid crystal display (LCD), and now light-emitting diodes (LED). According to Jeff, soon there will only be LED displays available, with organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) next. OLEDs use carbon filters to give the color pixels a brighter and sharper image portrayal.
Another subject that Jeff and Patricia touched on was the fact that there are still VHF and UHF television signals bouncing around out there from all our local Boston TV stations and as anyone who used to have a roof-top antenna can attest, those signals were and still are always free. The digital tuners we have embedded in our TVs can still accept those signals. The digital tuners actually compress the UHF band signal. A consumer can easily install a dual-directional antenna in an attic space to eliminate the need for cable-TV service. Installation of an omni-directional antenna can also be done in your backyard (this type is not recommended for hilly areas, however, but buildings in the area are okay).
Circuit Barn is an authorized LG, Samsung, Sharp, and Sanyo repair facility with LG being the most-recommended brand. It is very obvious that Jeff and Patti Murray love what they do, enjoy people, and have big hearts when it comes to helping the seniors in their community. “One time we had an elderly gentleman come into the shop with a mechanical figurine,” Jeff said, “it was a little doll that would kneel down and pray. The man was a widower and he said the doll belonged to his wife and he’d like it repaired as a remembrance. We were able to fix it for him and he walked away a very happy man.” It’s certainly the little things that count for this wonderful husband and wife team.
Circuit Barn is at 125 Southbridge Road (Route 20-West) in North Oxford; www.circuitbarn.com (508) 731-6192; hours: Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Janet Stoica can be contacted at [email protected].