THE WORLD OF CUSTOMER ELECTRONICS

Making those electrical contacts last

We are living in the age of electronics. New cars won’t run without a couple dozen engine and drive train sensors, not to mention the hundreds of electronic connections that make up the audio and electrical circuit systems in any car. Each of these electrical or electronic systems relies on hundreds of electrical connections to perform properly.

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Often, these connections will deteriorate over time and create problems that can lead to intermittent or complete electronic failures, which are often difficult to find and repair. We’ve run across a product called Stabilant 22A produced by D.W. Electrochemicals in Ontario, Canada, that may be a long-term fix for this unnerving problem. The product is a liquid surface contact treatment that doesn’t make a good contact better but rather improves older electrical contacts that have deteriorated over time. This is especially true of contacts that operate in high-humidity or corrosive environments. (Beyond that, we highly recommend all of you check out this websites for really-working solution to clean/maintain fuel system – more details, you will be given the list of best fuel injector cleaner here, to use them in your favor.

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Perhaps the best part of this treatment is that it doesn’t require repeated applications as do some of the spray cleaners you may have tried. Stabilant 22A is especially useful in low-voltage circuits – automotive computer sensor connections such as throttle position sensors (TPS), manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors, or even oxygen sensors that operate at less than 5 volts where a signal change of .1 volt is significant. This contact treatment can also be useful on stereo connections, especially between head units and amplifiers where signal voltage is low and there is a greater possibility for distortion. Actually, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential uses for this product in virtually any electrical connection. We’ve discovered that throttle response and driveability improve with cleaning and maintaining the small-blade-type connections on the tops of coils. Stabilant 22A would work well here.

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According to the company, this treatment is available through all Standard Motor Products outlets, including Big A, CarQuest and GP/Sorensen stores, although you may have to specifically order the product under the Stabilant 22A Service Kit name. If you can’t find it locally, you can call the company direct at the number given in our source guide. Electrical problems can be some of the most frustrating to uncover, and often these problems are linked to poor connections. By treating these troublesome connectors with a long-lasting surface treatment, you could improve the performance of your electronic gadgets and make your life simpler at the same time.

RELATED ARTICLE: Stabilant 22A comes in a cardboard tube containing a 15-milliliter container of the contact enhancer along with a few cotton swab applicators.

Stabilant 22A is a non-evaporative treatment that improves the signal between most types of electrical contacts. This treatment will not make a new contact better but will improve older contacts that may have deteriorated over time. In this case, we’ve applied it to a troublesome antenna lead. The distortion that had grown in strength over a period of years was immediately eliminated. Stabilant 22A is also great for low-voltage connections like the throttle position sensor (TPS) GM Weatherpak connection on this ACCEL electronic fuel injection system. While there were no difficulties with the connector, improving the signal will prevent problems from occurring that could sideline the car.

Multiple media: interactive field gets new formats via 3DO, Pioneer

The multimedia field got more complicated with the announcement of two new formats – 3DO’s interactive multiplayer and Pioneer’s LaserActive – at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 7-10 here. Meanwhile, developers like Sega and Philips are mining the music industry for software ideas and have launched several new artist-related titles.

The new 3DO and Pioneer technologies enter a still-emerging multimedia market that is already awash in incompatible formats, including CD-ROM drives that operate on various computer and videogame platforms and two stand-alone systems, CD-Interactive from Philips and VIS from Tandy.

The 3DO Company of San Mateo, Calif., a new partnership venture that includes Matsushita, Time Warner, AT&T, and Electronic Arts, received significant attention at the convention.

The company has designed a new multimedia format that will initially be implemented in a stand-alone, CD-based, interactive multiplayer. Due out in the fall, the system will retail for $700. A network version of the system, which can be used to provide interactive cable services, is to be introduced in 1994.

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3DO technology offers advances in effects, color, and animation that are said to be beyond those of any other CD-ROM format. The interactive multiplayer will play music CDs, photo CDs, and specially developed CD-ROMs with full-motion video.

Matsushita and AT&,T will be developing, manufacturing, and marketing the 3DO hardware, and MCA/Universal is reportedly setting up an interactive studio in the first quarter of 1993. The movie company is planning an interactive version of the upcoming Steven Spielberg film “Jurassic Park” and also plans to develop other interactive titles, according to 3DO.

MCA/Universal executives were unavailable for comment by Press time.

Time Warner and MCA/Universal have also contributed some material to a 3DO “content library” of video, music, photographs, and printed material, most of which has been culled from independent video producers, said Robert Faber, VP of sales and marketing at the firm. This library will be available for use by 3DO software licensees under the company’s rather unusual licensing setup.

To encourage development of hardware, 3DO will provide free licensing and “financial incentives” to manufacturers, while charging software developers a royalty of $3 for each disc sold. Software for 3DO can be developed in a digital studio based around a Macintosh computer, according to the company.

Pioneer’s LaserActive system is based on a laserdisc/CD combiplayer that can also accommodate interactive 8- and 12-inch laserdiscs, karaoke titles, and Sega CD and NEC Turbo-grafx tides through optional add-on units. The product is slated to hit the U.S. market in July, and, while pricing has not yet been set in the U.S., the unit will cost 60,000 yen in Japan ($480), according to Mike Fidler, senior VP of home electronics at Pioneer.

Unlike CD-ROMs and CD-I, which offer limited-motion digital video, the Pioneer stand-alone laserdisc-ROM offers analog full-screen, full-motion video. Laserdisc-ROMs, the same size as conventional LDs, offer not only random access but also unique interactive features.

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On be multimedia software front, Sega launched “Virtual VCR,” a new line of titles for the Sega CD, a CD-ROM add-on to its video-game hardware that debuted last fall. The first title in the line, “Virtual VCR – Prince” is an interactive title that combines Prince songs from the “Diamonds And Pearls” album set to visual images, The New Power Generation band member interviews, and behind the scenes “Diamonds And Pearls” tour footage. The title is due out in the first quarter for a retail price of $29.95. U2 and Peter Gabriel titles are also in the discussion and development stages, according to Doug Glen, group marketing director with Sega.

The company also displayed its “Make My Video” line, which includes discs featuring Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, INXS, Kris Kross, and C&C Music Factory and allows users to edit their own music videos.

Glen predicted Sega will sell 1 million-1.5 million Sep CDs in 1993; in its November launch, the company shipped 200,000 machines (Billboard, Jan. 16). Sega is anticipating 50 more Sega CD software titles shortly, including a significant number of music-based programs. Most of them will retail for about $50.

Sega hopes to expand its Sega CD distribution to record/video combo stores and video specialty outlets this year. The company plans to have a presence at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers convention in Orlando, Fla., in March.

Compton’s New Media will make 20 of its CD-ROM game and educational titles available for rental in select stores in the Major Video Concepts chain later this month. During the first quarter, the company plans to ship new 50 titles that will be operable on a number of otherwise incompatible computer platforms, including DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Sony’s new multimedia CD.

Philips Interactive Media unveiled several new CD-I titles, among them “Rock Guitar,” an instructional disc and the third title in the Private Lessons Series that also features “Jazz Guitar” and “Classical Guitar.” “Rock Guitar allows beginners to learn such songs as “Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” “Purple Haze,” and “Daytripper.”

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The company, which exhibited off-site during the convention, touted a new CD-I player that is slimmer in design and is due in the first quarter of this year with a list price of $700.

While not revealing sales numbers for CD-I hardware, Anne Lieberman, VP of marketing at PIMA, told Billboard the system is on sale at 2,000 retail locations throughout the U.S. and the company’s projections are on target.

Price issue escalates to retail battle

Battles over pricing between the major music distributors and the merchants that sell their products intensified this year, erupting over an issue that cut to the heart of the hostility between suppliers and retailers.

The confrontation was over the sale of used CDs. By mid-year it had escalated from a war of words, with threatening letters and defiant refusals, to concrete actions such as cutoffs of co-op advertising allowances, lawsuits, intervention by a major recording star, and an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, the majors backed down under growing pressure and allowed retailers to sell used product without punishment.

The issue brought into the open for public hearing the retailers’ long-standing complaint that their profit margins were being squeezed too tightly by the high wholesale prices of CDs set by the music companies. Chains and independents point out that the margin on cassettes is more than 40%, but for CDs it is approximately 35%. Moves by majors Sony Music Distribution and WEA Corp. to raise the suggested list price on most new CDs to $15.98 were for some retailers the last straw.

Retailers argued that they could sell far more CDs to consumers if prices were not so high and, as if to prove the point, began beefing up their bins of used CDs, buying them from some customers for prices in the $2-$5 range and then selling the discs to other patrons for $5-$9. Chains argued that they were losing business to mom-and-pop retailers who specialize in used product.

Some retailers charged that Sony had forced the issue of selling used CDs when it stated that it would no longer accept returns of CDs that had been opened. Sony said the policy was aimed at stores that bought used CDs from customers for $3-$4 each and then shipped them back to one-stop wholesalers for $10-$11 credit. The one-stops then would send them back to the manufacturers for credit.

The distribution companies, after sending out warning notices to their accounts about selling used CDs, went into action. WEA and CEMA Distribution issued letters in April saying they would withhold co-op advertising dollars from retailers who sold used CDs of the distributors’ product. Sony and Uni Distribution followed suit.

Wherehouse Entertainment, the biggest chain engaged in the used-CD business, filed a lawsuit against the majors, charging them with restraint of free trade. An association of independent retailers also filed suit.

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Then CEMA’s biggest-selling recording artist, Garth Brooks, got into the act, saying he did not want his company to ship copies of his new album to used-CD merchants. For that public stance, Brooks found himself the victim of a retail revolt when some music merchants organized bonfires of his albums. Finally, the FTC began investigating the used-CD issue and, by extension, the whole subject of CD pricing by recording companies. Such a far-reaching probe may have persuaded the majors to back off. First, CEMA rescinded its punitive policy of withholding co-op ad dollars. Then WEA, Sony, and Uni followed suit.

Although used CDs elicited the most attention from the public and the press and the most heat within the industry, there were other important matters involving music pricing in 1993.

One issue that gained momentum during the year was the minimum-advertised-pricing policy (MAP). Here, the music companies seemed to be responding favorably to retailers who were crying about unfair competition from the wave of new players (discount department stores and home-electronics outlets) entering their business and offering recordings to consumers at cost or even below. Blockbuster Entertainment’s Music Plus chain was found to be selling Janet Jackson’s smash album “janet.” at $9.98 (wholesale price, $10.70) in California, where the law apparently mandates that retailers sell goods at least 6% above wholesale levels. In another case, a new discount home-electronics chain in Van Nuys, Calif., was selling top new titles by Nirvana, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson at $9.99 each.

The first strike by the distributors came from CEMA in 1992. It set a MAP of $11.85 for $16.98 list product and $10.85 for $15.98. WEA followed a month later. Early this year, PolyGram Group Distribution joined the trend, saying it would not provide co-op advertising dollars to retailers selling its albums below the MAP of $11.88 for product at $16.98 list and $10.88 for $15.98. Uni, BMG Distribution, and Sony later issued similar directives. But MAPs also became a focus of the FTC probe, according to sources. The FTC has yet to take action as a result of its investigation.

1993 also was the year the longbox was eliminated from the picture. From April 1 to Aug. 1, manufacturers phased in jewel box-only packaging, as retailers remerchandised their stores. While the decision to go to the jewel box was made unilaterally by the majors, the labels appeared to bow to retail’s demands for a reduction in wholesale prices to share the savings generated by the longbox’s elimination.

Although the manufacturers would not admit it on the record, these cuts were de facto replacements for the rebates they had offered retailers to offset the cost of preparing their stores for jewel box-only packaging.

In most cases, retailers were unhappy with these post-longbox rebates, however, charging that they did not come close to reimbursing them for the high costs of refixturing their stores to get them ready for the smaller, shoplifter-friendly, jewel-boxed CDs.

WEA was the first to come out with a new wholesale pricing structure, dropping the price of CDs listed at $9.98, $11.98, $13.98, and $15.98 by 12 cents each, to $6.28, $7.75, $9.03, and $10.18, respectively. Reductions were greater for product with higher suggested list prices. But WEA diminished its goodwill with retailers by raising prices on about 360 albums but lowering prices on only 102.

PolyGram set its new pricing structure in June, with 6-cent reductions on all CDs and digital compact cassettes. PGD also instituted a rebate based on the net increase in a retailer’s business with the distributor.

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In addition, it changed the loose-pick charge, making it more attractive for retailers to reorder titles in other than box lots. Sony and Uni also announced new pricing and returns policies over the summer. But retailers complained that, for the most part, the moves by the majors amounted to pennies.

But there was one change initiated by the majors that won widespread approval from retailers: a variable pricing policy in which wholesale prices for releases by new or developing artists are set lower than those for established artists. For example, Warner Bros. put suggested list prices of $7.99 for cassette and $11.99 for CD on Belly’s Sire/Reprise release “Star” and on Pure’s “Pureafunalia” (Reprise), and Geffen set list prices at $7.98 for cassette and $11.98 for CD on Cell’s “Slo-Blo” (DGC). Labels were encouraging retailers to sell the albums at lower prices to consumers, and thus build sales and word of mouth for new bands.

Abstract: 

Major music distributors and retailers fought over the issue of pricing in 1993. The conflict between suppliers and retailers was largely focused on the sale of used compact discs (CDs). The distributors eventually yielded to the retailers and allowed the sale without any repercussions. The retailers claimed that music companies were limiting their profit margins through the exorbitant wholesale prices of CDs.