Almost the same thing happened to me.
I had been on the lookout for a second music synthesizer of the type I had (for back up as well as use in a second location). After scouring the usual internet sites for used synths, I came up empty at a price range I was willing to pay. So I just cast a broad net (no pun intended) to see if anyone out on the web had it. Sure enough, someone was offering to sell it at effectively $100 plus shipping, way below "used retail". The catch was that there was an audio problem they had not been able to resolve. Long story short...I bought it as I do have some experience in audio electronics and figured I could fix it.
Got the unit...opened it up, and NO bulging capacitors, no burn marks...etc....nothing obvious to indicate a problem in the audio circuitry except that it didn't work. There was a lot of SMD components so I didn't want to fool around with them until I had a better clue as to the issue.
Once more to the net to look for similar complaints and solutions. Again, long story short...other owners had found repeated problems with 2 under-rated SMD resistors in the output amplifiers stages which failed 'open'. I replaced those and we were off to the races again. Good as new. While under the hood, I also replaced the headphone jack which had been damaged by leaving the plug in place while moving the synth, effectively leveraging the plug so as to crack the jack completely.
Total cost to me for a synth worth about $2K was about $150, with $3+tax being for parts.
And also a cheer to Mike for keeping yet another 20 or so lbs of e-Waste from landfill, in defiance to what the TV place was recommending.
I think there's a particular stripe that runs through the boomer generation of engineers that I don't see anymore. We see something electronic broken and our minds immediately race with quick diagnosis and potential repair approach. This calling orginates from back before the birth of the PC, in budding young (future) electronic designers eagerly building Archer kits and projects featured in electronics hobby magazines of the time. I recall literally dozens of electronic hobby component shops around the city through the 70's. Nowadays, I count perhaps 2 or 3, serving a population that is about 4 times what it was back then. I visit one regularly when I'm visiting relatives (I live in a different city now), and can't help but notice that most of the other patrons are middle-aged men such as myself. 3 decades ago, this place would have been overrun by guys in their teens and early 20's (counting myself among them), eagerly searching the rows of shelves with parts lists in hand.
I'm sure Mike has similar memories and a background that allowed him to confidently crack open an "unrepairable" device, and succeed. Power to ya Mike! We are a fast disappearing breed!
I'm with you there Rick! One of my favorite rants-um, I mean "topics" is the disappearence of the "real" engineers. I too started by building my own stuff when I was a "kid"; p-p wiring, etching my own boards (layed out with tape and donuts). Kits, "repurposed" stuff. My first "computer" was hand wired and programmed by flipping switches. When I started my "professional career" I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of working with guys that were REAL Engineers (they were always 10-15 years within retirement). These were the guys that regardless of their "discipline" would tackle anything; EE's that built hot-rods, ME's that were into shortwave radio and had 60 foot antenna's in their backyards. They were "thinkers and do'ers". You could ask them something and if they didn't know they could at least point you in the right direction. Guys that paid attention in Physics class and could recite equations off the top of their heads. If you could get them talking they had great stories of one problem or another and how they tackled and fixed them. Not now (now I'll sound "old"). Now we have "engineers" (small e) that can't solder (I myself am proud to say that years back I passed HP's soldering exam for mil-spec hand soldering- you "used" to put this on your resume!), can't spec, don't read data sheets, build stuff that ON PAPER won't work, build everything from "demo" and "eval" boards - I could go on and on. If you talk to them about component level trouble-shooting their eyes glass over... it really is a sad state of affairs.
Last year I tried to start an "electronics club" locally. After four months there were three, yes 3 people that showed interest...
And don't get me started on e-waste and the "no lead" thing... lookup "tin whiskers" if you want to get a good picture of where we're headed on e-waste...
Actually the confidence to crack open something, for me, came from my father.
An immigrant with not a lot of money and not even a high school education would fix cars, toasters, TV's (remember the tube testers?), basically anything that broke. This was out of necessity.
I do this now for friends. When they ask me how I have the confidence to open it up, I sum up my fathers philosophy as "Why not open it up? It's already broken and you might see something simple like a wire. Even if you don't fix it, you might learn something."
I was working outdoors, in my backyard, near a friendly neighbor who had pulled the transmission out of his daughter's used car, to repair it. He was doing it himself to save $. I called over the fence and teased him sayting, "You don't know anything about rebuilding transmissions!" Without missing a beat he replied, "I'm at least as good as the hung-over high school drop-out, that assembled it in the first place."
The next day I saw him drive by in that car.
My best resurrection was to a magnetic wire recorder, that predated tape recorders in the late 40's and early 50's. It was a console model that could record from microphone or AM radio, and it could play 78rpm records. I was asked by my grandparents if I could get it working, because it had several precious memories on it, such as the time my grandfather's barbershop quartet sang on the first day of broadcasting, of a radio station in their hometown.
I was able to get it working (just bad tubes), but had to resort to using a variac transformer to feed greater than 110Vac to the drive the motor, to compensate for the friction in the worn-out transmission. (I tuned it by listening to the pitch of my dad's voice, on one of the recordings.) Of course I had to cobble it together with about 5 fans aimed at it, to keep the motor and drive train from overheating, due to the higher-than rated voltage.
Worked great, and held together long enough for me to dub all the wire recordings over to to cassette tape. Copies of those tapes were a great hit at the next family get-together.
Cool! I remember years ago as a kid, someone wrote a letter to Popular Electronics asking if there was a way to convert a wire recorder to a tape record. The editor's response was, "Short of being brutal about it, no." The cartoon above the letter showed someone hammering wire on an anvil to flatten it. That image has stuck with me all these years!