Don With Truck

400 Columns + One Farewell

May 1, 2022
Don McCarty, ISE magazine's Copper Expert, reflects on his career as a trainer and columnist.

Thirty-three years ago in March 1989, the publisher of what was then OSP Magazine, now ISE Magazine, asked me to write a monthly column digging into issues of locating, repairing and maintaining the copper infrastructure. Now, at 78 years old and having written just over 400 articles, it’s time to pass the torch to others with a richer background than I have in the crossover from copper to fiber. However, make no mistake, copper will be around serving more remote areas and will maintain a role in the communication infrastructure.

In our professional lives, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the most important element in work—the people. Us. You and me, as individuals with hearts, minds, and feelings.

That’s why I’m so pleased to have stumbled into the telco industry initially as a telephone repair technician in Minnesota. When people ask when my job as a telephone field technician began, I tell them “before we had the green telephone trucks, we had green horses and that’s when I started”. Later, I transitioned to a sales support role at Dynatel Corporation who made test sets for field technicians. My role was to provide test set training to companies who purchased equipment. When Dynatel was purchased by 3M, I continued with sales support until I eventually launched my business as a trainer of copper cable technicians.

Over so many years, I’ve trained field techs in nearly every state and in Canada multiple times. I also trained in Guam, Micronesia, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong to name a few. Often, the techs I trained (or their managers) would insist I have home cooked meals with their families—much appreciated given how little I was in my own home. The folks in Guam had a huge outdoor BBQ when I visited. Sometimes I was taken on fishing or hunting trips and the occasional golf game. I was and am still honored.

I worked in Bismark, ND, in the dead of winter every other year and it could be -30°F or worse. Regardless of the location or time of year, the repair technicians I trained were desperate to learn. Many of them had only a few test sets that were shared between several techs. Often, I would show up and find their test sets rarely left the trucks because they hadn’t been taught how to effectively use the equipment.

Many technicians were frustrated yet tried their best to keep an already decaying infrastructure working. Their desire to do their best under tough conditions drove me to give 200%.

You see, long before fiber was installed, we were fully dependent upon copper. Yet, there were many companies that didn’t invest in the technicians and the maintenance of a healthy copper infrastructure. They acted like the number of copper pairs was limitless so they used a “cut to clear” approach. Don’t fix it, just jump to a new pair and save time. Eventually, the good pairs were exhausted and expensive new cable had to be laid.

That said, many independent telcos that were deeply invested in delivering quality service knew the only way to do that was to support their technicians. Today, those companies still have a copper infrastructure that is fast and highly reliable. Thank you to all of those who invested in the plant AND their people.

During my training sessions, seminars, and at the end of my monthly column, I always provided my phone number and my email and invited techs to reach out to me with any questions. And they did call and email. Some were green techs desperately trying to fix a problem. Others were experienced in troubleshooting but dealing with a particularly tough case. No matter who it was, I wanted to help.

Thank you to some of the amazing folks I’ve kept as friends through the years: Forrest Collier at Telephone Electronics Corporation (TEC), Randy Lis at PRTC, Ed Russulot semi-retired but still working for Megger, Tony Wilson semi-retired but still doing consulting, and Mike Townes, Bell South (ret). There are many, many others who made my time in this business fun and meaningful. I may not have mentioned you because I’ve forgotten your names—that happens at 78. Nevertheless, I picture your faces often.

These past many years have left me with memories of some of the best times of my life besides time with my family. Thank you to the loyal readers and hard working technicians who were my students. I appreciate the telecom managers who fought to make a difference at their companies and I’m forever grateful to the many ISE EXPO attendees who came to my seminars.

Thank you for listening. And equally as important, for teaching me as much as I taught, and for inviting me into your lives.

Signing off

I do hope you will all consider attending ISE EXPO 2022 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, August 24-25. It’s a great opportunity to network and to learn. And, Denver is a favorite town for me and has some great restaurants! You won’t be sorry. Finally, as always, I invite you to call, text or email me with questions, tips or just to chat: [email protected]; 831.818.3930.

About the Author

Don McCarty

Don McCarty is the OSP EXPERT columnist for ISE magazine, discussing the issues around provisioning, testing, and maintaining copper for all services from POTs to IPTV. Don is also president of and the lead trainer for McCarty Products, a technical training and products company training field technicians, cable maintenance, installation repair, and Central Office technicians and managers. For more information, email [email protected] or visit