I had been interested in jukeboxes for some time. My aunt owned a tavern in the neighborhood, and my dad used to work there part-time tending bar. Back then, a kid hanging around a bar was not a big deal. My aunt’s bar was fairly popular, and as such, rated a new Seeburg jukebox each year. The first one I remember well was an AY160, which sat right next to the Chicago Coin bowler. I was always begging for coins to play one or the other. At first, I was also interested in electricity, and later electronics. Starting at about 10 years of age, my uncle, who was an electrician, took me along to help on his side jobs. Initially, I would simply feed him wire as he pulled it through the conduit. In Chicago, virtually all exposed housewiring jobs, independent of whether the house was old or new, had to use conduit and not BX or armored cable as some call it. Later, as I learned more, he would let me do the finish wiring, connecting switches and outlets. I remember being fascinated by how a three-way switch worked. He showed me the schematic of it, and explained how it worked. I was hooked for good. Later, in high school drafting class, I drew up a wiring schematic of a house for extra credit, which I needed to pass the course. The instructor passed the drawing along to the electronics shop teacher for checking, and that made it possible for me to take electronics shop in high school, even though I didn’t have the grade point average necessary. I did great in that shop, absorbing everything and getting the best grades of any class I took in high school.
So I got a job working at Seeburg, with my mom’s help. Since I had no skills to speak of, I started working on an assembly line, building amplifiers.
The TSA1 Amplifier
At the time, Seeburg was building the LPC-480 jukebox, and my first job was assembling TSA1 amplifiers. As I recall, we built about 75 of these every day. There were two of us males, whose responsibility it was to mount all the mechanical parts and subassemblies on the chassis. The amplifier was built up of several subassemblies. One such subassembly was the heatsink, with the output transistors mounted and color-coded wires attached to each transistor socket terminal. It was important that the same color wire was always connected to the same terminal, since the women connecting the other end of each of those wires didn’t have the time to check that the heatsink end was connected to the right place. Besides, once the heatsink was screwed onto the chassis, it was difficult to see what wire went where. There were several other subassemblies: the volume control, with a bunch of wires and components hanging off it, the mute/trip relay which was in a can with another bunch of wires hanging off it, the tone and scratch compensator switch subassemblies, and the preamp, AVC, and driver boards. Each of these boards was a subassembly built on a phenolic board about 1-½ inches wide, and of differing lengths, depending on which circuit was on it. There were a total of five of these boards in each amplifier, two identical preamps, two identical drivers, and an AVC board. Each board had a series of terminals staked onto it, and a pair of mounting legs to fasten it to the chassis. These were all point-to-point hand-wired by women working alongside the main line. These subassemblies used color-coded wiring, too, and they even went so far as to use color-coded tubing over the transistor leads so that the assemblers didn’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about the connections they were making. When you’re building 75 of these a day, there’s not a lot of time to think, you can only spend a maximum of 6 minutes on each amplifier. I think it would have been much cheaper to use printed circuit boards for this, but Seeburg had been bitten a few years earlier by putting tubes on PC boards (in the KS/KD200 and L100 jukeboxes of 1957), and they were not willing to try it again for a while, 1967 with the LS1, to be exact.
We also had to mount the output and power transformers to the chassis, and also the driver transistors, which were gain-matched by paint dabs on them. You had to make sure that you didn’t interchange the PNP and NPN drivers, otherwise you’d hear about it from the inspectors and testers, farther on down the line. You also had to make sure that you used a greased silicon washer to insulate the case of the transistor from the chassis. There were several other manual operations required to build an amplifier. First, install the line cord. For this, they had a special tool, which would squeeze the strain relief to make it easy to insert in the chassis hole. There was also a special washer used to hold the fuseholder in place. These washers were sharp, and tended to draw blood if not handled properly. Finally, there were the filter capacitors. Each of these was held in a clamp, which was riveted to the chassis. Many times, the clamps would be rotated to face the wrong direction, done by someone with a sense of humor in the riveting department. Seeburg did all its own riveting. Each clamp had to have two pieces of tubing put over it, to prevent the clamp from cutting into the capacitor insulation, which would have caused a short circuit to chassis ground. I didn’t like putting those on either, since it was easy to cut your finger on the clamp.
Once we were finished with an amplifier, we would put it on a little four-wheeled cart that would hold it, bottom side up, at a convenient angle for wiring, and then roll it off down the assembly line, which consisted of a set of rails fastened to work benches, with an assembler at each work bench.
This is one of many reasons why all Seeburg chassis, starting with the TSA1/TCC1/45TAS1, etc., used the same size chassis. Seeburg did all of its own sheet metal stamping, forming, spot welding, plating, and painting. There was one machine down in the punch press department that made chassis blanks all day long. There was another that punched out record magazine separators all day long. This machine had a large roll of steel, the width of a separator and several hundred feet long at one end, and a bin full of punched-out separators at the other end. An operator sat there all day long, watching the machine go chunka-chunka, as another magazine separator landed in the bin.
A chassis blank would be the size of one of these chassis, but flattened out with only the cooling perforations punched along the chassis sides. Another machine would take the blank and punch the holes in it which would make it an amplifier, TCC, etc. From there, the chassis would be bent to form the sides, spot welded, plated, painted, silk-screened and riveted. I’m not sure why Seeburg changed chassis colors each model year during this period. Maybe they wanted to dress up the inside of the jukebox, or maybe they wanted to imply that some of the chassis were not interchangeable between model years. Amplifiers, at least, were interchangeable from the TSA1 to the TSA9. More likely, the paint buyer’s brother-in-law worked for the paint supplier. In later years, they shut down the painting department (at least they quit painting chassis) and later yet quit plating chassis as a cost-cutting measure. Starting in about 1974 or 1975, they used pre-plated sheet metal for the chassis. Therefore there is no plating inside any punched holes, and the pre-plated stock they used tends to crack along bend lines or in spot welds. This is why you sometimes see rust on these areas of the later chassis.
There was a flat plate with a large hole in it riveted to each chassis. I’m sure many people think that it is to be used as a handle to pull the chassis out of the jukebox, and it certainly comes in handy for doing so. But, the real reason for the plate is so that the chassis could be hung from the overhead conveyer, which ran throughout the factory. There were actually several conveyors. Each was mounted a foot or two over your head, and was an endless loop with hooks hanging down every couple of feet along the belt. One conveyor would move chassis between the plating, painting, and silk screening departments. Another would move them between silk screening and riveting, and another between riveting and production. We would take the completed chassis subassemblies off this last conveyer to start installing components and subassemblies. A final conveyer would take completed amplifiers, control centers, etc., from the assembly department up to the final jukebox assembly line.
After we finished installing all the components in the chassis, it would move on to the first wiring woman. Seeburg employed women exclusively as chassis wirers. Each would be responsible for making certain connections between the various boards in the amplifier, the power supply components, driver transistors, etc. Each connection was made by wrapping the stripped and tinned wire around the terminal, and crimping it with needle-nose pliers. Once all the connections were made, one or two women would solder each connection, using a fairly large soldering iron. Each soldering station had an exhaust fan, to remove the soldering fumes. All connections, wiring color codes, mechanical assembly, etc., would then be inspected by another person. Each inspector would stamp the chassis with their number, in blue ink to signify that it had passed inspection. The amplifier would then go on to be tested, and repaired if necessary.
Testing involved clamping the amplifier to a test fixture, which was a framework to hold the amplifier in place, permitting access to both sides of the chassis while it was connected to the test equipment. Once the amplifier was clamped into place, the tester would then install mating jacks over each plug and terminal of the amplifier, using quick-disconnect plugs. For example, there were jacks that would plug into each audio input jack, the mute jack, and a spring-loaded pin assembly which would make contact with all of the output screw terminals. The test equipment itself consisted of a signal generator and attenuator, dummy loads for each channel (which were a set of power resistors), an AC voltmeter for each channel and a distortion analyzer which could be switched between channels. After awhile on the job, the tester got to the point where he had the test specifications memorized, and his hands flew over the equipment. A speaker was available to connect to each amplifier output. It was generally not used, since the tones would drive you crazy in a short period of time. It was there for the repairman to use when testing a repaired amplifier. The repairmen would generally use a spare test rig to verify that a repaired amplifier actually worked before putting it on the conveyer up to the final assembly line. The rig also came in handy for repairs, since each one had an oscilloscope nearby.
I enjoyed working on this line. All the people were friendly, and we had a good time. I did, however, sometimes have trouble keeping up with the daily ‘rate’, and was glad when a promotion was offered me. My supervisor asked me if I would like to become an adjuster, with an appropriate increase in pay (all factory positions were paid hourly).
The ASC1 Album Scan Control
My first adjusting job was on the ASC1, which was used in the LPC480 as a play stimulator. The LPC480 had a group of small (about 1 ½ by 1 ½ inch) windows across the top of the machine. Each window had a small translucent album cover in it, using a lamp to light it up, under the control of the ASC1. After making a selection, the windows would light up in what appeared to be a random order. It wasn’t really random, since it was controlled by the way the ASC1 was wired. Anyway, you could select the album side that stayed lit, if you inserted another quarter and punched the select button at the right side of the display. As I recall, there wasn’t much to adjusting one of these. Also, I don’t think it was very popular, and you don’t see many LPC480s around nowadays with even a non-working ASC1. In fact, it was outlawed as a gambling device in certain states, such as California. Another reason why you don’t see many nowadays is that the motor-driven rotary switch it used to ‘randomize’ the selections doesn’t last too long.
The APU2 Album Pricing Unit
My next adjusting job was on the APU2. This unit consisted of a base assembly and a motorized unit for dollar credits, which mounted atop it. There were three or four of us adjusters, and we were only responsible for the base assembly. Somebody else adjusted the motorized unit which only had a couple of switches on it. The daily rate for these was around 23, and with practice, it was pretty easy to do 25 or so a day. Each of us would try to get a few ahead, so we could take it easy when it got close to quitting time. You would finish adjusting a unit, then put it on the shelf under your bench instead of passing it on to the inspector. There were actually two inspectors on this line. The first was responsible for inspecting the assembly itself and the second inspected the adjustment job you did. The first inspector was a woman who really liked to talk. As the new guy, I got to sit next to her. She would gossip all day long. Seeburg had a monthly publication called ‘The Seeburg Voice’, which would detail goings-on at the company, picnics, service awards, etc. We used to call her the Seeburg voice, since she never shut up! She reminded me of the character of Lenny in ‘Of Mice and Men’. So, I thought the best way to deal with her was to get her angry at me as early each day as possible. That way, she wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the day and I would have some peace and quiet. This only resulted in her spending the day telling everyone else how evil and mean I was. I was just a kid, I didn’t care. Finally, I got a chance to sit somewhere else. It turns out that the newest adjuster got to sit next to her, and I had to wait until someone new came along. This was a tradition that got passed down from adjuster to adjuster – the new guy had to sit next to ‘The Seeburg Voice’.
Each APU2 had to be adjusted to a strict set of specifications, about 20 pages long. Each of us was provided with a set of feeler gauges in various thicknesses, a gram gauge, various hand tools, and the handiest thing of all, a modified Phillips screwdriver. This screwdriver had the tip ground down until the blades were gone, followed by a saw cut through the tip. This is the best tool I’ve ever seen for adjusting the leaf switches used in the APU2, and for the rest of the jukebox, for that matter. This does a much better job and is more comfortable than the standard ‘L’ shaped adjusting tool. Some of the guys insisted on using the older tool, and had wads of tape built up over one end to make it more comfortable on the hands. After lots of practice, you could eyeball the various contact gaps, and the amount of ‘follow’ you got on a switch. The ‘follow’ is a good indication of the amount of closing force applied to the contacts, and also gives a good indication of the contact open/close timing. You also got to know the ‘feel’ of a correctly adjusted solenoid when the plunger bottoms in the coil. I got to know what the APU2 did fairly well during that time, except for some of the more esoteric switches and what the motorized subassembly did. It was an altogether too complicated machine for what it did, but then again, the LPC480 was much more complicated than it needed to be. I don’t think the jukebox-using public cared much that both sides of a record played one after the other, since only one side is generally any good. And certainly nobody cared about the ‘little LPs’, otherwise they would have stuck around. Seeburg management didn’t seem to get the message though, and the turntable speed changing ‘Auto-Speed’ was either standard equipment or offered as an option until the SMC1 came along in 1978.
I was proud of my work, so I started ‘signing’ those APU2s I worked on. Underneath the main platform, which mounts the nylon credit wheel, there are a series of three solenoids, for adding dime, quarter, and half dollar credit. Alongside these is a clear area, where there are no wires or components. That’s where I put my ‘signature’, a capital ‘M’ with a curved first stroke (for the letter ‘J’, my middle initial) and a tilted line touching the first peak of the ‘M’ (for the letter ‘T’, my first name). If your APU2 has such a signature and is still working fine, it’s complements of yours truly. If it doesn’t work, don’t blame me!
During this whole time, the new Seeburg building (at 1500 N. Dayton St. in Chicago) was being built. They had a grand opening party, which coincided with the unveiling of the APFEA1/PFEAU1 jukeboxes. Even the CEO (Delbert Coleman, at that time) was there and gave a talk about how wonderful things were. Once the party was over, we all had to move our personal belongings into the new building. Our production line was on the third floor of the new building. We had previously been on the second floor of the old building on the corner of Dayton and Blackhawk streets, which was where all Seeburg jukeboxes had been built up until then. The new building was cavernous. Somehow Seeburg had gotten the city of Chicago to let them close Weed Street, which would otherwise have bisected the new building. It covered about three or four square city blocks. The building was three stories high, each with 20 or 30-foot ceilings. The first floor contained all the heavy punchpress equipment, plating vats, the paint department, riveting, the area where all the machining was done (milling, drilling, tapping and grinding of the various castings), and the shipping and receiving departments. The second floor was fully utilized by the stockroom, except for the Incoming Inspection department, which was off in one corner, and the packing department. The third floor was where most of the production took place. All of the subassemblies were built and tested there, the cable department was there, along with the two jukebox (160 and 100 selection) final assembly lines, the mechanism line, the Tormat line, final production lines for most of the vending equipment (cold and hot drink, candy, pastry, and one of the two cigarette machines Seeburg built), and the Quality Assurance Department, which was right at the end of the final production lines. The ceiling was so high that there was room for a couple of mezzanines, one on each side of the building. On the far side across from us was a lunch room, filled with Seeburg vending equipment and tables. The close side mezzanine held offices for the VP of Manufacturing, which was very close to our APU production line, so there was not a lot of fooling around by us. We could look up and see ‘his lordship’ staring down at us from time to time.
The Hot Drink Line
I got another promotion, this time to inspector, on the hot drink line. If you’ve ever watched an episode of ‘Taxi’, there are a couple of matching Seeburg hot and cold drink vendors, which can be seen off to the right of Danny DeVito’s cage. The coffee brewer consisted of a cylinder, open at the top and bottom, with a rubber ‘O’ ring at the bottom. The mechanism moves the cylinder down until it makes contact with a stainless steel endless loop filter. This filter was made using an etching process so that the holes in it would be very small. Once the cylinder was in contact with the filter, a measured amount of coffee was dumped into the top of the cylinder, followed by a measured amount of VERY
hot water. This was followed by a piston with a rubber gasket, which would force the mixture through the filter, and down through a rubber hose to pour into a paper cup, which had been placed in the ‘product output stage’ by another mechanism. Once brewed, the filter moved the used grounds past a scraper blade, which would divert the grounds into an internal waste receptacle.
My job consisted of giving each machine a thorough visual inspection, and several vend cycles. This checked to insure that the coin/control circuit worked properly, and that the cup mechanism did not hang up or place the cup sideways, which would generally result in large footprints on the front of the cabinet from irate customers. So that the piston would move freely, I was to put a generous shot of spray silicone into the cylinder. All these rubber gaskets, tubing and silicone spray makes for a tasty cup of coffee, don’t you think? Another task was to measure and adjust the amount of water metered into the brew cylinder. To do this, I used a baby bottle, wrapped in foam rubber so as not to burn my hands. There were four nozzles that the product would come out of, so that the tastes would not intermix, etc. You got used to the hot water always coming out of the same nozzle for the same selection. Every once in a while, someone with a sense of humor farther up the line would swap hoses, resulting in me getting a handful of extremely hot water. I would complain about this to my supervisor, who would in turn go talk to the comedian up the line. I once asked him if they couldn’t just turn down the temperature of the water heater. His reply was ‘the hotter the water, the less grounds it takes to make a cup of coffee’. And you thought the coffee machine made it that hot so that it wouldn’t cool off before you got it back to your desk!
After inspection and test, each completed machine would move on to the blocking line, where it was put onto a skid made of many layers of heavy corrugated cardboard. Next it would be put on a roller conveyor which would take it to one of a set of special elevators which would go down to the second floor to complete the packing (a large cardboard box was put over the machine, metal bands applied, etc.) and then down to the first floor shipping dock to be loaded on a truck. The second floor had a small warehousing area to store a few machines until a truck showed up to take them away. The roller conveyor was actually a short (maybe 10 or 15 foot long) set of motorized rollers mounted a foot or so off the floor and large enough to comfortably move a machine. They led directly to an elevator, which also had a set of rollers on it. The elevator was to be used for machines only, not for people. There was a light source/photocell arrangement at the conveyor/elevator edge, which would sense if a machine was ready to be loaded on the elevator, and automatically signaled the elevator to come up to get the machine while stopping the conveyor until the elevator got there. Once the elevator got to the production floor, the rollers would then move the machine onto the elevator, and it would bring the machine down to the packing floor. When the new building first opened, one or two of these roller conveyors had not been properly adjusted. None of the jukes or vending machines was designed to survive a two or four storey (remember, each floor was about twenty feet high) fall, so you can imagine the damage done.
This was Seeburg’s Disco era, when they were selling black light kits, special records, and posters to push disco. They also built a pretty extensive line of external speakers. The biggest had a pair of 15-inch woofers and a big Altec-Lansing horn sticking out the front, the DDS1 model. This thing was pretty big, weighed a lot, and sounded pretty good, too. The elevator closest to the production line building these speakers broke down one day, so the crew was using a forklift truck to move the completed speakers to another elevator for shipping. The driver had his forks set a bit too high one time, and skewered a speaker system worth several hundred dollars. They don’t sound too good with forklift truck fork holes in the woofers.
I got yet another promotion. Seems it is good to have friends in high places. This time, it was to the Incoming Inspection Department.
Seeburg had quite an extensive incoming inspection department, whose responsibility it was to verify that parts shipped from each of the parts vendors conformed to the specifications set for that part by the Engineering Department. Each and every part used in every product had a specification drawing associated with it. This drawing not only showed what the part looked like, but what it was made of, tests to be performed on it, various part parameters, etc. For example, a resistor is specified by its resistance, tolerance, wattage, material it is constructed from, physical size, and other characteristics like how many pounds of force it can withstand before the leads are ripped out of the body, its solderability, etc. There was not a drawing for each and every resistor value, but there was one for each and every wattage value. For other, less common parts, there was a specification drawing for each and every part. As you might imagine, there was a lot of detail on these drawings. Normally, the procedure for a new part went something like this:
The engineer would specify what he wanted by starting with a copy of a drawing that specified something fairly close to what he wanted. Generally, the engineer did not actually do a new drawing. The Engineering Services Department assigned a new part number to this part, and one of their draftsmen would actually prepare the drawing and send it back to the engineer for approval. It might take a couple of times back to the draftsman before everything the engineer wanted showed up on the drawing. Once the engineer approved it, his supervisor, and his supervisor, etc., would approve it.
Next, the drawing went to purchasing who would send it out to one or more vendors, who were expected to provide samples of their product, which complied to the specifications established in the drawing.
Samples were forwarded to Incoming Inspection, where they were checked for compliance to the drawing. For a new part, EVERYTHING on the drawing was checked, and a report generated which specified any discrepancies (called ‘exceptions’) between the drawing and the sample parts. This report (called a ‘First Piece Approval’) was submitted to the engineer, who approved the part, rejected it, approved the exceptions on a temporary basis, or modified the drawing to eliminate the cause of the exceptions. If the exceptions were approved on a temporary basis, the vendor was expected to submit more samples with the exceptions fixed.
Assuming the part was approved, the vendor was put on the approved vendor list for that part. The buyer always wanted to have at least two vendors approved for each part. That way, he was fairly sure that there would always be an in-stock source for the part, and he could play them off against each other to try to get the lowest price. This worked fine for commodity items, but not well at all for items that were specifically manufactured to a Seeburg-specified design.
Each drawing also had a paragraph that specified the AQL or Accumulated Quality Level tests for the part. Each specification on the drawing had a paragraph number associated with it, and the numbers were used to specify which tests had to be performed. This is how it worked for normal deliveries: The number of tests performed was based on the number of parts arriving in a shipment, and the expected quality level of the part. A higher expected quality level implied that you tested a greater percentage of the parts coming in. So, you calculated how many parts you would test from this number and the number of parts in the shipment, and sampled that many parts. You also calculated how many failures you could find before the lot was considered reject. If the parts came in several boxes, you were expected to take a representative number of samples from each box. Next, you set yourself up a test bench, with the appropriate gauges, test equipment, etc., and performed whatever tests were specified for that quantity/quality level. Sometimes you found more failures than were allowed for this AQL. When that occurred, the procedure generally was to take another, larger, sample and check it to the nest higher (i.e., more difficult) AQL. If that sample failed too, the whole lot was rejected and returned to the supplier for either re-work or replacement, unless it was a critical part. A ‘critical part’ was one that was in short supply on the production line, or one from a vendor who had Seeburg on credit hold. In this case, the entire lot was tested, good units put into stock and rejects returned to the vendor. There were also times when either there were many line shortages or Incoming Inspection fell behind due a large number of different items arriving in a short time period. When this happened, we got into what was called ‘P&I’ or Process & Identify mode. Here, all you did was to open the boxes and verify that what they contained was indeed the part that the drawing specified, followed by completing the paperwork. In order for the vendor to be paid, there had to be a record that the parts were received, also part of Incoming Inspection’s job.
Incoming Inspection had a very well equipped test equipment area, having several copies of every piece of test equipment needed to perform every test required. The test equipment was always kept in current calibration by the Test Equipment Engineering Department, which was staffed with engineers and technicians whose job it was to maintain all the test equipment, build and maintain all the custom test rigs used for each product line. Part of Incoming Inspection was also devoted to inspecting all tooling for the machines used on the production floor (punch presses, etc.). There were several pieces of specialized test equipment available, such as a ‘hi-pot’ tester. Transformers, line cords, sockets, anything that handled line voltage was tested using this machine. It applied 1200 – 1500 VAC between the wires of the line cord, or between a transformer winding and the case, to make sure that there was no current leakage, which would be a shock hazard to anyone touching the machine. Every machine that came down the line, whether it was a jukebox or a vending machine, had this test applied.
For electrical components, Incoming Inspection was split into two groups: Semiconductors/Tubes and everything else. Since I was the new guy, I got to work in the ‘everything else’ group. The Semiconductor/Tube test area was in a separate, air-conditioned room, while the rest of us were out in a caged area of the Stock Room. The Stock Room temperature tended to follow the outside temperature, so there were times when it was either really hot or really cold in there.
For semiconductor test, Seeburg used the same procedures as for other components – test a representative sample, etc. Some parts were 100% tested. An example of this is the amplifier output transistor. Each part was put on a curve tracer to display a family of Collector current vs. Collector – Emitter voltage curves. Transistors having a ‘soft knee’ (the point on the curve where the transistor begins to conduct for a given amount of base current) were rejected, as this indicates poor linearity. Transistors that passed were given a dab of paint, which indicated their gain or Beta grouping, which could be gauged by the distance between the members of a family of curves. When an amplifier was assembled, the two output transistors in each channel used transistors with the same color dab, so their gains were matched within about 5%. A similar test was performed on every SCS used in the jukebox Control Center (the trip SCS), and later for the gray box Main Trigger SCS. When the custom chips for the black and gray boxes came along, they too were 100% tested. Along with standard test equipment such as tube testers and transistor curve tracers, the Semiconductor test room had several specialized pieces of test equipment, built by Test Equipment Engineering. These included the SCS and custom chip testers.
I learned an awful lot about electronic components while working in Incoming Inspection. While there, I had my eighteenth birthday, so I went to register for the draft. A month or so later, I got a notice to report for my draft physical, which I passed. So, now I was classified 1A. As soon as I got the classification notice, I went back to the draft board to find out what happens next. Their response was ‘we’re full this month, but we’ll get you next month’. So, I walked down the hall to the Navy recruiter, and said ‘here I am’. You see, there was this thing called Vietnam going on at the time. So ended my first employment at Seeburg. Click here
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