Bill Exley worked at Tektronix Guernsey from 1962 to 1969. His biography, The Adventures of Mr Blex, is hosted at
www.blunham.com/Blunham/Pubs/TheAdventuresofMrBlex.htm External Site
This story is an excerpt from his biography pertaining to his time at Tektronix Guernsey.
The Adventures of Mr Blex by Bill Exley
Bill X - (as in Pub Raffles, Draws - etc) - then is it, Bill Ex or Blex ?
I was born in St Peter Port, Guernsey in 1937, one of the seven Channel Islands lying approximately 90 miles due South of Torquay, on the South coast of England, U.K.
In Barnsley I found employment working in Television, more specifically the Construction and Tuning of a Television, from the bare chasis , all parts and using circuit diagrams etc. It was a small company (Cinesmith ) in Regent Street, Barnsley, Yorkshire, employing only about 6 of us, with the brightest lad, Don North, who did the final tuning. They were 17-inch tube size but only the Black and White version, the Colour television appeared, I think, about mid - 1967 and very expensive. I even stood on Barnsley market and we actually sold a few T.V. 's! - Our Boss, a Mr. Fred Smith, a 'Canny Man', said we were a part of the Mc. Arthur T.V. group of companies, more likely he had all their Bankrupt stock for a song. - (again, I was on meager monies - ( c £1-25p per week)
My second job was with a company called Isherwood and here I progressed to Outdoor and Bench repairs of televisions, and attended Barnsley and Rotherham Tech. Colleges, which led to my City & Guilds Certificate. My job was kept open for me by law, until the end of my 2 years National Service time, Nov 1958 to Nov 1960, so I returned 3 days later in Nov 1960. I enjoyed my time here with a great bunch of people, - Halcyon Days... We serviced the Black & White sets at that time such as , Murphy, Bush, - Philips, Ecko (or Echoes * as in Para 6 above) and other makes.. Our 1st. Television in 1962 - was a huge secondhand 17" ECKO T330.
The Start Of Jobs With More Scope
Isherwoods was a very nice friendly television sales and service shop, one of ten around the South Yorkshire area, such as Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and others, owned by a Mr Alwyn Isherwood from Leeds. We had a good crowd of knowledgeable people and I picked up my trade quickly , , Here I built a working two-and-a-half-inch tube diameter Oscilloscope - from magazine articles and Cct. diagrams, we had one or two home-made ones in use on the Benches. I used Ex Gov. parts which I had sourced from a shop in Leeds, it was an Aladdins - Cave and packed to the doors with spares, so always busy. It even had it's own Ex Gov. Store - Room smell.
A Fortuitous Steppingstone For Mr Blex
While working at Isherwoods, I saw a job advertised for 'Calibration Engineers' in Guernsey, with a company called Tektronix Ltd. Tektronix being a huge American company with sites / plants already in Portland, Oregon in N. America, Holland and now also based in Guernsey. They chose to move into Guernsey (a part of the U.K. but independent) - like Jersey and the Isle if Man, they have their own tax and Judical Laws. So as a legal loophole, they beat the high Import / Export Duties & Taxes due to the U.K. and pay a much lower 'Guernsey Tax Rate' on all profits - a calculated and very shrewd move on their part.
Tektronix were currently building their full range of oscilloscopes and peripherals here now, so as I had already made my own 'scope' I wrote off for an Interview and managed to sail through it and offered a job. To cap it all, we had a free holiday in Guernsey at one of the best Hotel for 3 days regardless.
At this point in time Barbara said with some caution, " how do you know you can even do the Job? " I said, if they / the interviewers offer me the position on what I say and on paper / job history / C.V. etc, - truthfully and no Bluffs or Lies etc. - I will be o/k. I had made an oscilloscope so no probs. and all went well. - 'If you try you might' as they say.
Mr - Mrs Blex Now Head South
So Babs and I make the move down to Guernsey, in December 1962, after getting married that March, making a profit of £150 on the house sale. We had all expenses paid by Tektronix, all selling and removal fees and free flat rental, until we bought our next house, to be only 500 yds and a 10 mins. walk from the Tektronix Plant site. in La Villiaze, St Andrews. -. Guernsey is one of the Seven Channel Isles with Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou and Brecqhou / or Brechou - a Private Island west off Sark and owned by the brothers - Sir David & Sir Frederuck Barclay and families.
I was now working in the Calibration Dept. on the full range of Oscilloscopes and Plug Ins, working to the 'Finite' Tek.Standards as per manuals, ensuring perfect conformity. Such as the 545A and B, 576 Curve Tracers, 547, also a huge 555, the mini 310, and 502A as used in heart operations, (1963-1971 build) so critical in a theatre, they all looked superb and were acclaimed world-wide as the Rolls Royce of 'scopes'. After a while, I became a Q.C. Eng. and later a part of a training group, with Joe Guerin and Den Bott. We also formed a Trouble Shooting section, clearing time-consuming faults, where some Engineers were stuck.
At Tektronix Guernsey, the factory of about 300 employees worked in Unit Wiring, Assembly lines and many other departments. We actually built the Oscilloscope mainframe on site and its variations of Plug Ins from imported parts. These arrived as required, via London, Gatwick from the parent company in Portland, Oregon in America, they had another Tektronix plant in Heerenveen, Holland and now this Tek factory only 10 mins from the tiny Guernsey airport and built near its perimeter.
Girls made a complex wiring harness, on a coded-loom like a spider's web, of multi- coloured wires, white with pink, green, blue, or red stripes, all to an exact layout. These were then wired to ceramic sections of 10 to 20 solder points, so all the components and parts were connected.
This was the Unit Wiring process. with an 'Eyeball Examination' for accuracy, neat soldering to all components. etc. etc. Then a Pre - Cal. was done, just a pre-lim check, after many tests, so it did not blow up or burn out with a first switch on. Each unit then had a Life -Test run for 24 hrs., switching on and off in a special enclosure. Then the Full Calibration , (apprx 1 to 3hrs) followed by a repeat, by the Q.C. Engineer with a full written report. This could affect your salary, wage rises, or promotion, so based on the critical findings of your work output.
We even had an Audit Dept. who could do a random 100% or a 33% selection check (re-Q.C. not all items) of any oscilloscope, so a check on that QC man, it just Had to be perfect. If they found a Major Error, say a missing tiny link or un-soldered joint and missed by the Cal man and QC Eng, then that QC man could be warned or demoted with change of salary etc. Only then could it be boxed and shipped out to a customer, so meeting all Specs. as per the Manual, that was the Tek. standards, as it should be.
Finally, (without pushing the limits of Boredom Levels), a C.S.P / 1. or Conformity-Sample-Procedure / 1 , The peak of Standards Policy for Adherence, was introduced for all our Q.C. men. / - e.g. - If a Q.C. man was seen to 'always' produce 100% work, the Management, for time / efficiency, (costs) said to Audit , now Only do a third - Cal/check - on His Work, but at any random start point. After a warm up, start at say step 140, up to step 24 of a 174 steps (or 58 checks) of a full Cal / QC action. He could only earn this after 12 X Perfect 100% Audits (your wage was better too) Now if Audit found 'any' error in this one third check, he was off the C.S.P. 1 and back on 100%. Again, if you slipped further, you were put back onto Calibrating Only, with Loss of monies! The standards expected were so high, as a customer paid a Very High Premium for a Tektronix product. so expected only Perfection.
They were trusted, like a Spirit Level worldwide! So, we had 4 stages - Pre Cal, Full Cal, a Full QC and maybe, an Audit check of any random third steps, but not all items. So, no one could take a gamble, or miss steps in any way. I read of an example of a rouge Guided Missile coming down in the North Sea and on a full trace of cause, on recovery, it turned out to be a Calibration error. (recorded)
I have often spotted them in background scenes of Technical or Labs, on Films and Television.We stayed in Guernsey for seven years and we loved every minute of it. Those seven years saw the birth of our two sons (1964 and 1966) and so as you can imagine, we spent all of our spare time on the beaches, or eating out at fine, but affordable restaurants with good menus and Table-Side cooking etc.
While we were in Guernsey, I wrote a book, 'Guernsey Coinage' a historical and numismatic monograph, it was a World First and reviewed in The Times, small books section in Dec 1968, my collection now sits safely.in a Guernsey Museum. Tektronix being a small company was a very relaxed but efficient work place and highly thought of by the Guernsey people.
In the shops, you worked at Tektronix, Techtronics or Text-Tronixt for a purchase. We had a twice-yearly profit share of 4 - 9% of wages earned over 6 months, this was Tax Free, as you had to deal correctly with the local Tax Office for all incomes. There is no V.A.T. or a N.H.S. in Guernsey either.
Spotted today - 14/09/2021 - Header on the PONY WALK CARD - [below] - Textronic - so 5 versions now.
All the Guernsey staff loved Tek. for its very good rate of pay and Profit Sharing scheme, being better than working in a Hot Greenhouse picking Tomatoes or a Shop counter. The good atmosphere was talked about all around the island, with some thinking we even made Televisions!
Mr Blex on the Beach
Every summer a 'Tek. Picnic' took place for all, including families and 30 to 40 local deserving children, who were shared out to Tek families, all food and sensible Drinks being provided, with the crossing fares. It took about 20 minutes to get to the delightful island of Herm. 3 mies off St Peter Port harbour, a ' Miss Tektronix' Pageant was also held, the winner had the usual Sash the Cup and a nice Dinner for two on Tek at a Top Restaurant. - An atmosphere of old - world Normandy still prevails in this Sunshine Island.
Halfway through the morning, while sunbathing on the Shell Beach, (next to Belvoir Beach) a gorgeous Shocking Pink. Catamaran glides round the rocks, it had WAHOO on the side and looked straight out of a James Bond film. My work mate Barry Despres, also a Calibration Eng. had just finished building it from scratch with his father. He casually strolls up the beach and from the first large Cool-Box I had seen, then takes out a White Wine and a Chicken salad, talk about Panache (One of our Pony Walkers)
Mr Blex goes on 'Walk- About'
We saw an advert for THE PONY WALK, a Pony being a popular Guernsey Bottle Beer, so for a laugh we entered a Tektronix team and did the walk with other works teams. You had a Free 'Half' or a bottle, at every point around the Island and the Landlords then signed you in. I would 'Guess-timate' our Walk, with Libations, was apprx 15 miles. It was an apprx.10-30am start, at St Sampson Harbour on the N.E. coast of Guernsey, one of the two, and a 3-30 pm finish. So at 5 Hrs duration at a 3 mph, average walking speed, so supports our c15 miles covered.
Mr Blex Gets A Car
I now needed a car, the First in my Life - for transport - Dec 1962, - to get around the small Island, 'hiding' 300 miles in the Labrynth, or Maze, of tiny lanes. Guernsey has a coast line of only 24 miles and 3 miles across from the harbour of St Peter Port to Vazon Bay on the West coast. My first car in my life was an Austin A30, Reg plate as 350 only, a few years later a M.G. 1100, (Reg 7015) and twin S.U. Carbs. - Now Miss Babs learns to drive and passes her Driving Test 1st time, and is soon nipping about the Island.
The max speed allowed is only 30 mph anywhere, with 10 or 20 mph near the town, Jersey is 40 mph as a max. speed. You could easily get lost in the maze of inner short run lanes like Cornwall, plus most signs are in French, so many visitors in Hire Cars come to grief. - As regards prices of essentials (ref. to hand) re a Tourist Map of Guernsey in 1972, via a hotel, from Bucktrouts Cigarette Company Ltd., while on a Texas / Tek. Course, / Dufftown Glenlivet - Whisky @ £2.60 per bottle! Cigarettes between £2 / £3.00 for a 200 Pack. There was apprx 35, / 40,000 Guernsey residents in 1960 / 70 - (guess) and a 2017 Census of 64,000 people.
It was no wonder we felt o/k as regards Inflation, Eating Out, no V.A.T etc. plus low Income Tax & House Rates. - C 'est la Vie
The Last Steppingstone For Mr Blex
Around the Autumn of 1969, whilst playing Darts, we met two Managers from 'Texas Instruments Ltd' , Bedford. also a huge American company, with sites in Dallas and Lubbock, America, Nice / France, Friesing / Germany and one in Italy. We thought they were on business or holiday, but it turned out that they had come over to Tektronix for a course on our products, as they were widely used back at Texas Instruments These managers wanted to 'Poach' one us, there and then, no interview needed, just our knowledge and experience, on the systems we worked on and knew inside out.
Mr Blex Goes To Texas
So, I took the gamble, after serious thought, with Barbara, and moved back to the U.K. and Texas, enabling us to see our parents more and to give our two sons a better chance of access to varied employment in the future. But I never really left Guernsey as whilst I was at Texas Instruments, I was lucky enough to return back to Guernsey six times, for New Product retraining courses.
These covered the New 7,000 series and Sampling systems, both quite complex and fast, so now used by our Design Teams all over the production areas and top security departments. [re Colin Hinson and my Index Page & Blunham.com] I was now employed in running the company Computerised Calibration Department, or repairs, back to their original Factory Standards as new. Engineers used them as a pass or fail of a product, like a 'Spirit Level' it's got to be trusted.
Later in 1994 I left Texas Inst. after 24 years, being closed down by Italian management. When I started in 1969 we had over 3,000 staff and very profitable, at the end we were reduced to 900, and still making huge profits. /. C 'est la Vie.