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Meet Montreal's 'radio doctor', the man who practises the dying trade of repairing electronics

Since 1960 Joseph Hovsepian has been repairing radios, turntables and other electronics from his Mile End store on Parc Avenue.

Joseph Hovsepian says he is part of the last generation that knows how to repair electronics

Joseph Hovsepian immigrated to Canada from Greece in 1960. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Joseph Hovsepian has been repairing​ radios for so long that he claims that he can sometimes smell the problem. 

"When I pick up a radio, I turn it on or I plug it in and the way it smells, the way it sounds or doesn't sound, the way it crackles and fades away, all these things are recorded in my brain and I know exactly how to start and how to fix it," he said. 

Since 1960, Hovsepian has been fixing radios, turntables and other electronic gadgets from his Parc Ave. repair shop. 

The 79-year-old sees himself as part of the last generation of people trained in the art of repair. 

"We have lost the ability to touch things, fix things, repair them and feel good for doing it," he said. 

An old radio is under repair on Joseph Hovsepian's work bench. (Craig Desson/CBC)
For almost his entire life, Hovsepian has been tinkering with radios. He built a crystal radio when he was 12, and his first tube radio at 15.   

The shop has many items, such as these volume indicators for sale near the cash register. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Hovsepian said that electronics, such as radios, used to take days and sometimes months to manufacture and it would often be done by hand. 

"Today we have these automatic machines that just stamp them out instead of human hands putting them together. We don't even know how to fix them anymore." 

This tool helps Hovsepian check vacuum tubes. (Craig Desson/CBC)

He believes that today's electronics lack the warmth that the old radios offered. Hovsepian said smartphones look dead to him compared to old technology.

"Even the sound of the old radios, a little scratch here, a little scratch there…This is radio." 

The walls of Radio Hovsep are lined to the ceiling with vacuum tubes. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Radio Hovsep is a museum of old technology. The walls are stacked with thousands of old vacuum tubes and in little drawers you'll find antique objects, like 100-year-old record needles. 

Joseph Hovsepian's inventory includes a collection of antique record needles, some as old as 100 years. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Hovsepian said he plans to stay open, "as long as God gives me life and enables me to continue." 

Joseph Hovsepian stands at the entrance of the repair section of his shop on Parc Ave. (Craig Desson/CBC)

Take a trip inside Radio Hovsep

Meet Montreal's 'radio doctor' 2:34

About the Author

Craig Desson

Journalist

Craig Desson is a journalist at CBC Montreal. He was born in Montreal and has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Germany and Sierra Leone. Craig has also worked for CBC Radio.