Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Fix Is In

When does your electronic gear die? Usually when it's too expensive to fix, or is superseded by better, more efficient technology. Fact is, we probably throw electronics out too soon, especially when you have dudes like Lance Ulanoff giving tips on how to fix them. Read the article and laugh, because most of the time Lance is fixing these broken items in under 5 minutes.

Add to this a wonderful expose of the repair cultures that exist in various parts of the world to fix electronic goods (powerpoint slides here). There can be something very beautiful about repairing objects when it becomes a national phenom; witness the American cars from the 1950's that are in Cuba, all lovingly restored and still on the road, and the Indian locomotives still tooting away. Most peoples of the world fix at least some things when they break; it's only in America where you get a virus and the computer gets thrown out. Reminds me of the classic image of the King taking a bite out of a chicken leg and throwing it over his shoulder - is there really no market for fixed things? And are we paid so much that repairing items is just not worth our time? :: PCMag :: Future Perfect

1 comment:

Keith said...

Well, actually, repair is discouraged in the US these days. When I was growing up, it was far cheaper to repair a watch, TV or common household appliance than it was to buy a new one. These days, it sometimes costs as much to simply diagnose the problem as it is to buy a new one altogether. When that is so, what is the consumer's natural impulse? Buy the newer, better looking with more cooler features model at same price as to repair my clunker.

Back in the dark ages of PCs (AT, XT, etc.), I often had repairs done because it was a fraction of the cost of a new unit. [There also were some replacement/upgrade tasks I could do myself, but today's interior designs of PCs does not seem to allow.] These days, it costs US$100 just for them to open and (mis-)diagnose a PC, and then the quoted costs of the 2-3 parts needed is often as much as a new machine, and I am asked to wait weeks for them to be installed and tested. And let's not even mention the cost of lost productivity because of the wait and time spent pursuing the repair shop about getting my job finished...

There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

I was thinking to myself the other day about how much maintenance and repair I used to be able to do myself on my own car, but how redesign has made most of those do-it-yourself jobs all but impossible -- raising the cost of owning/maintaining a vehicle, and in all likelihood, making us replace them sooner.

Why can't someone design an energy-efficient computer that is easy to repair/upgrade/expand and easy to dis-assemble and recycle? Is the engineering really so difficult?