[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine

                              T H E
                           Z E P H Y R
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 Issue #38                 3-1-87
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                        THE ZEPHYR II BBS 
                    (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1987

   The video idea seems to have caught the attention of a number 
of people. If you're not one of them, . . . that's too bad, I 
guess, because here's yet another installment.
   This one concerns VCRs. Many of you, if not most, have one 
around the house. More than a few of us have more than one. These 
days it's pretty rare to find someone who hasn't at least been 
around one.
   They're delicate machines. Nearly as common as is ownership 
are the horror stories of a VCR eating a tape or deciding to 
not record a television program right at the time that some rare 
special is being shown.
   It was for this reason that I wrote "Chilton's Guide to VCR 
Repair and Maintenance." Wanna support the magazine? Go to the 
book store and buy a copy. If they don't have it right on hand 
(don't be afraid to ask) it can be special ordered. This doesn't 
cost you anything extra. You can also order directly from Chilton, 
if you wish. Their toll-free number is 1-800-345-1214.
   Anyway, the following is taken (loosely) from that book. I 
hope it does you some good.

                      Basic VTR Maintenance

     It's easy to feel intimidated by high-tech video, especially 
when it comes to thoughts of repair or maintenance. "Me? Open the 
case? You must be kidding! I'm no engineer." 
     Fortunately, you don't have to be an engineer to take care 
of your equipment. You don't even need a technical background. 
The few needed steps are simple. They're also much less expensive 
and less time consuming than running the equipment to the repair 
shop - or buying replacement equipment.
     The electronics of the equipment does not require mainten-
ance. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, and have the 
proper tools, don't even attempt to make adjusts or realignments. 
Most of the time such technical work won't be necessary. If your 
machine has started to "eat" tapes, the chances are very good 
that the only problem is that the VTR needs a good, thorough 
cleaning. The same is true for most of the ills and malfunctions.

                       Unbuttoning the VTR

     Almost all home VTR decks are put together in the same way. 
The case has two main parts - top and bottom. The top is held in 
place by either two or four screws and usually also by a lip in 
the front panel. The bottom is almost invariably held on by four 
screws in the corners. 
     If the case doesn't come off easily, look carefully for 
something you've missed. There might be another screw, a lip or 
hidden catch. Look carefully. Never force anything.
     Beneath the top cover is the record/play head assembly, the 
main parts of the tape loading and transport mechanisms and 
usually most or all of the electronics. This is where most 
problems happen. Nicely enough, removing the upper case is fast 
and easy. If you've never done it before, it might take you all 
of 5 minutes. After that first time it will take a matter of 
     Most of the belts and some of the mechanisms are under the 
bottom case. Removal of this part of the case requires that you 
tip the VTR on its side and often means that you have to turn it 
over completely. Use caution in doing so. Keep both hands on the 
machine and be sure that it's not going to fall when you take 
your hands away.
     With the VTR section of a camcorder the "unbuttoning" is 
even easier. Just push "Eject." That will open the door and 
expose the head assembly and mechanisms. That's about as far as 
you should ever go with a camcorder - and is fortunately as far 
as you ever need to go.    

                        Internal Cleaning

     As the tape passes through the transport and over the heads, 
tiny particles of oxide are left behind. If enough of these are 
deposited, and are left there long enough, they'll become 
permanent. The idea of head cleaning is to take away those 
deposits before they become permanent. 
     Meanwhile, other contaminants can be deposited on the heads. 
Cigarette smoke is famous for gumming things up inside the VTR, 
including the heads. These, too, can become permanent or will 
serve as a binder of sorts, helping to "glue" the various 
contaminants in just the wrong places.
     How often you have to clean the heads depends on the quality 
of the tape you use and on the environment in which you use the 
VTR. If you use nothing but quality tapes and keep your VTR as 
free from dust and other contaminants as you can, you can reduce 
the frequency of head cleaning. You can't eliminate it 
     Some people take the easy-out by using a cleaning cartridge. 
All you have to do is to push in the cassette and press "Play." 
The strip passes through the transport and across the heads, 
theoretically cleaning everything.
      You'd be hard pressed to find a professional who would 
use one of these. There are a number of reasons. 
     First, a few of the brands actually leave behind gummy 
deposits. Second, some are too abrasive and end up causing 
physical damage. Third, some do absolutely nothing other than to 
give the user a false "peace-of-mind."
     If you feel that you must use a cleaning cartridge, at very 
least get the very best you can find. this is NOT a place to save 
money. And be very careful to not overuse the cartridge.
     With even the best cleaning cartridge, think about what it 
is doing. The cleaning strip passes through and picks up 
contaminants. If it doesn't, it's not doing the job at all and is 
useless. If it is doing its job, the strip will become more and 
more contaminated - and then it's going to begin to deposit while 
it cleans, or at best just move the contaminants from place to 
     Most professionals prefer to do the job manually. It takes 
only a few extra minutes and guarantees that the job will done 
correctly and thoroughly. It's also much less expensive.
     A good cleaning cartridge will cost at least $10 and will be 
good for a dozen cleanings, tops. To do the job manually you'll 
need technical grade (95% pure or better - I don't use anything 
less than 99%) isopropyl alcohol and either cotton swabs, 
cleaning pads or chamis. 
     Do NOT use standard rubbing alcohol off the shelf. Go to the 
counter and ask the druggist for technical grade. It will cost 
about $3 per pint - and a pint will last you just about for the 
rest of your life. Keep it tightly capped. And use a separate 
container to hold the alcohol that will be used that that 
particular cleaning. NEVER dip a swab into the main bottle. Even 
then, tossing out the old and buying a new bottle is a good idea 
after a few years.
     If you use cotton swabs, once again get the best possible. 
If the swab tip isn't tight, don't use it. Some experts say that 
you shouldn't use cotton swabs at all, claiming that the threads 
can get caught in the head assembly. If you use swabs, the cost 
comes to about 1c each.
     Special cleaning pads are considerably more expensive. Even 
if you shop around, expect to pay a minimum of 50c each.
     A number of experts prefer to use chamis. The soft leather 
is unlikely to cause physical damage and doesn't have any threads 
to leave behind. A sheet of chamis will cost somewhere around $7. 
It can be cut into pieces (about 1" by 1"), giving you plenty of 
cleanings. If you go this route, as always get the best you can. 
NEVER buy treated chamis.
     All in all, the most you can spend for manual cleanings will 
be about 60c each. You can get by for just slightly over 1c each 
by using cotton swabs (and 5c in this case will provide a very 
good cleaning indeed!).
     The procedure is simple. Open the top of the VTR. You may 
also have to remove a second protective plate to get at the 
heads. Grounding wires sometimes go to this plate. Just pay 
attention to what you're doing and you won't get into trouble.
     With the heads exposed, taken an alcohol moistened swab or 
whatever and gently press it against the video head assembly. 
(The cleaning material should be just damp, not dripping wet.) 
With your other hand, gently rotate the assembly. The motion is 
with the assembly only, and never with the cleaning surface.
     Next clean the erase and audio heads, if they are separate. 
(Most are.) Finally, clean the rest of the interior. Do this very 
carefully. Many of the pins and guides can be too easily bent. 
     Keep the alcohol away from anything rubber. Alcohol will 
cause the rubber parts to dry out prematurely. A cleaning fluid 
meant for rubber will be needed. Freon-based cleaners are fairly 
standard for this.
     Since you're inside anyway, take a few minutes to clean away 
any dust or other contaminants. Very gently wipe off everything. 
For large parts, such as the tape platform, you can use a 
lintfree cloth. For smaller parts, such as the spindles use 
whatever seems safe. A cotton swab is good for most, but some 
parts (springs, etc) might catch the threads.

                        Care of the Tapes

     There's no reason to not already know how to care for your 
tapes. With each blank tape you buy, you get printed instructions 
and tips. Even so, a surprising number of people do silly things 
and later wonder why that special recording has lost some quality 
- or has disappeared completely. Keep in mind at all times what 
the tape is, and what it does.
     The tape and cartridge are plastic, and not very good 
plastic at that. As with all inexpensive plastics, they are quite 
sensitive to heat. Set a tape in direct sunlight and you're 
asking for trouble. 
     The tape does its job because it has a coating of magnetic 
particles. The function of the tape is to take on and store 
magnetic fields, with the idea being that the record/playback 
heads - which are actually nothing more than electromagnets - can 
impress or read the tiny magnetic fields and patterns. But, just 
as the record/playback heads can do this, so can any other source 
of magnetism.
     A friend of mine decided that the heads in his VTR needed to 
be demagnetized. As his arm came back and away from the heads 
with the demagnetizer, it came near his tape library. The end 
result was that several tapes were ruined.
     Because of costs, the tape cassette isn't as protective as 
it could be. It does a fair job of protecting the tape inside, 
but not a complete one. Dust can still get inside, for example, 
as can any other airborn contaminant.
     The solution is easy. When the tape isn't in actual use, 
remove it from the VTR and put it back into its jacket. Better 
yet, put it in the jacket and then into a tape storage box. As 
long as the tape is in the machine, the protective front flap is 
open and the tape is exposed. Removing the tape closes this flap. 
Putting the tape back into its jacket (flap first) helps to keep 
dust out. Placing the tape and jacket in a storage box takes the 
protection one more step.
     Even the position of storage makes a difference. Always 
store the tape vertically or horizontally - never flat. As long 
as the tape is on edge, the tape inside is pressing against more 
tape. When the cartridge is flat on a table, the edge of the tape 
is pressing down. In time this can crinkle the edge. On one edge 
is an audio track; on the other is the sync track which tells the 
VTR what to do during playback. If either becomes crinkled, the 
tape can be ruined.
     Most experts also suggest that you completely rewind the 
tape before storing it. Some even say that you should fast 
forward and then rewind a new tape before you use it. The purpose 
is to "repack" a tape that has been sitting on a shelf for 

                     Cameras and Camcorders

     There is virtually no maintenance needed for the camera or 
camera section of a camcorder. (The VTR in a camcorder can be 
treated as any VTR.) Unless you know exactly what you're doing, 
never try to open the camera or to make any adj.shtmlents. 
     About all you'll ever need to do with the camera concerns 
the lens. 
     The first step, as always, is preventive maintenance. The 
best possible way to "fix" anything is to make sure it doesn't 
"break" in the first place. 
     With any camera, and especially with tube cameras, avoid 
shooting into bright areas. With a tube camera, just a tiny 
fraction of a second with the camera aimed towards the sun is 
going to permanently damage the pickup. If you're shooting 
outside and carelessly wave the camera so that it passes over the 
sun . . . nix one tube! 
     Even shooting at a bright surface for more than a few 
seconds can damage the tube. A CCD or MOS camera isn't as prone 
to "burning" as is a tube camera, but damage can happen.
     Preventive maintenance in the case of a camera lens begins 
with protecting the lens. The classic method is by using a 
skylight or UV-haze filter over the lens. Either filter does very 
little the image. They are just a notch above being pieces of 
optical-quality glass, but that's all you need. If a rock hits 
the filter, you've lost a $15 filter. If that same rock cracks 
the lens, you're looking at a replacement cost very likely in the 
hundreds of dollars. The filter also helps to protect the lens 
from contaminants. With the filter in place, the lens will always 
remain clean. Theoretically you'll never have to touch it.
     If you ever need to clean the lens (or the filter, for that 
matter) do NOT use standard window cleaner. Most lenses have a 
special coating on them, which can be damaged by regular glass 
cleaner or even by water.
     Go to a photographic supply store and get the best lens 
cleaning fluid you can find. Also get lens paper. This 
inexpensive material is the only thing that should ever touch the 
glass of your camera. It's specially made for that purpose. If 
you use a corner of your t-shirt, you stand a good chance of 
scratching the lens. A paper towel is even worse!
     Finally, invest in a case for your equipment. Preferably a 
hard case for the camera. (A dust cover will normally be 
sufficient for the home deck.) Don't do what so many do - get the 
cover or case and then leave it in the closet. Any equipment not 
in use should be covered and protected.

Until Next Time

   Need some videography (video photography) work done? Or do 
you know someone who does? I and my partner have just added even 
more equipment to our "stock," including another $5000 in video 
editing machines. I was playing with them last night, and they 
are REALLY SOMETHING! And more stuff is coming in. 
   We're semi-open for business, and available for weddings, 
parties, gatherings - whatever.
   I also got to wondering - we have some really classy bits on 
tape. Would any of you be willing to buy a tape of nonsense and 
entertainment? I'm wondering if it would be worth our while to 
put something together. (I went through the stuff last night, and 
some of it is really fantastic!)

   End of commercial. 
   End of issue.
   GOTO Zip-Read
   Seeya next time! I've been playing with a couple more short 
pieces of fiction, although I don't know if I'll have the time 
to polish one off in time. (I'm still open to guest authors, 
by the way! Contact me in Email.)

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.