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As a floating engineer on a sports truck, we have several pieces of "specialized" equipment, including an Abekas (now Accom) A42. We rely on this still store and need quick, economical repairs. We have spoken to Accom and they are unwilling to support it at the level we need. Although they do not charge for phone support, board exchanges average about $3000 and turn-around times range from several hours to next day, making it a little tough on us during live events.

To make matters worse, Accom has no plans for an A42 replacement. From what I have found, neither does anyone else. What I think is needed is a device with a 1GB hard drive, two frames of RAM and a removable drive for bicycling stills between trucks and stations. Can this be done for $35,000 to $40,000?

Wayne Cooke National Mobile Television Rx At first glance, I would think that there are several devices that could be adapted to fit the bill, however, most would not include the removable drive for bicycling the stills. At the same time, it would need robust software and quick response to meet the demands of live events, not to mention the tortures of constant movement on the interstates. Any manufacturer wannabes out there interested in that challenge?

Getting back to the question at hand, I checked with Accom to get their read on the situation. Here is what they had to say:

The A42 Still Store, introduced in 1983, was the very first product from Abekas Video Systems. Abekas was sold to Scitex in 1995. When Accom acquired the assets of Scitex Digital Video in 1998 we decided that we would support all of the older Abekas products for as long as possible. Remember that many of the older Abekas products like the A42 have been out of production for almost a decade, and Abekas has changed ownership twice in that time.

As with all Accom products, and as is a generally accepted practice in the industry, technical support for the A42 is on a board-exchange basis. We may not succeed 100 percent of the time, but our objective has always been to provide overnight board replacement service. By providing overnight board exchange, customers can be assured of the fastest turn-around time possible when they have problems. Given the low volume of boards involved, providing a parts-only or "by-the-hour" repair service is not financially feasible and would be much too slow for most users.

Accom's award-winning service department offers board exchanges at prices that recover the costs of support - otherwise support would be out of business and there would be no support for any of our customers. We also believe that our prices are in line with the general price levels in the industry for comparable products.

Our customers are extremely important to us, whether they buy new equipment or need service on older products. Accom's goal is to continue to support its products as long as replacement parts are available and boards can be repaired. We do this for the oldest products, even when a "later & greater" model is currently for sale. We don't believe that any other company within the industry can match Accom's record in supporting products that are no longer in production. The Abekas brand name is highly regarded in the broadcast community, and Accom is working to maintain the Abekas reputation for product quality and service for all of our products, old and new.

Harris Rogers Vice President, Marketing Accom Well that response was a bit more promotional than I had in mind, but Harris makes some good points, including the fact that Abekas went out of business long ago. I think everyone agrees that some support is better than nothing. How many software companies (including Microsoft) are no longer supporting versions that are only a fraction as old as the A42? As part of the research for this piece, I looked through several 10-year-old issues of BE. Abekas was one of the only companies that advertised in those issues that is no longer around. The truth is broadcast has had it very good for a long time.

Unfortunately, most broadcast manufacturers can no longer compete with the computer industry's commodity products and pricing. Why design a custom keyboard that costs $500 when you can buy a PC keyboard for $5? A decade ago, Newtek sold thousands of Toasters for one-tenth the price of dedicated video hardware. Today, much of Toaster's sophistication is available in products that can be bought for one-tenth of the price of the Toaster. Reliability, extensibility and other aspects of these products may be reduced, but so are the prices. The world has changed. If you really want the level of support that was available 10 years ago, are you prepared to pay the price? Ten years of buying cheaper and faster products from the computer industry equates to a resounding NO.