The Things They Carried
Televisions and radios could be quite large, and technicians carried everything they needed with them so they could repair items in the home, rather than take them back to the shop.
Tube carrying cases and service kits:
Employees of the RCA Service Company were given tool kits and tube caddies to identify themselves with the company, but others who worked in authorized repair facilities could also purchase special RCA-branded equipment, or exchange them for tokens they received from buying RCA-branded vacuum tubes or kinescopes. Tube carrying cases, colloquially called tube caddies (though that name was trademarked by the Argos Products Company) generally held tubes that were commonly used in radios and televisions.
In 1955, the RCA Tube Division announced a newly designed vacuum tube carrying case, which they called the Treasure Chest. It weighed 11 pounds, and had room for 134 common tubes, as well as small tools necessary for home service calls. The original Treasure Chests were black with a red RCA meatball logo, while later iterations were red and black. Dealers could obtain these cases by turning in 20 RCA “Treasure Notes,” which they received whenever they purchased 25 vacuum tubes, or one picture tube. In the era of color television, repair technicians sometimes carried cases somewhat larger than the original Treasure Chests in order to accommodate more tools.
Technicians also carried service kits that didn’t necessarily have vacuum tubes, but had other items necessary for television repairs. One of these was the RCA Servi-Chest, a compact carrying-case specially designed to carry all the parts, tools, and test equipment that TV technicians needed for repairs. This promotional kit was given away to radio and TV service dealers during a 3-month promotional program over the summer of 1953. Dealers would receive a silver token inscribed with the distributor’s identification number. When dealers collected 30 tokens, they could exchange them for the Servi-Chest. It was described as the perfect “little black bag” for service professionals, and included a mirror and compartments for a soldering iron, a service mat, and a volt meter. It also had drawers for tools and replacement fuses, resistors, and capacitor.
In the era of solid state color television, service technicians did not need so many tools and parts. Instead, these television service kits had boxes full of transistorized parts that could be swapped out for those that failed.
When amplifying vacuum tubes revolutionized the radio industry in the early 1920s, there was no standardization between different tube or equipment manufacturers. This, understandably, led to difficulties, so in the mid 1920s, RCA and General Electric led the charge to standardize components and socket sizes to make both manufacturing and repair easier. Also, common household appliances generally ran on commonly used tubes so that a technician would always be sure to have them on hand. Along with vacuum tubes, technicians would have to travel with a lot of other components like resistors, transistors, fuses, and capacitors. With the advent of solid-state devices, repair became much simpler. Transistors replaced the myriad of components in vacuum tube devices, and repair often meant switching out a faulty board.