Designed obsolescence | Bleader

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Designed obsolescence

Posted By on 06.26.07 at 02:48 PM

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Mark J. Konkol has a nice profile of Mitch Lewczuk, a Ravenswood TV repairman, and his dying industry in the Sun-Times's Neighborhood section. What's interesting about it is the way it's really about the scam of technological obsolescence:

"The other day, a guy brought in a broken 26-inch JVC LCD flat-screen TV to Lewczuk's shop. The manufacturer wanted $3,917.18 for the part to fix the problem on a TV that retails for about 2,000 bucks, Mitch says."

Technology is increasingly designed to be used for a few years and tossed when it breaks. This is the main reason I'm skeptical of the iPhone. Apple is notorious for designing products that are difficult or impossible to repair. The vaunted iPod was the subject of a class-action lawsuit when users discovered that the battery would cease to function after 300-500 cycles, or a year or two depending on use. A cottage industry of DIY iPod battery replacement has developed, but you still need to order special tools to get inside it. It's cute that iPods are so sleek, but I'd prefer something with exposed screws.

iPods also developed a tendency to just up and die after a couple years, resulting in the infamous, condescending "sad mac" screen. I shudder to think of the iPods that got scrapped because of this, because you can just hit it against a table when all else fails. I fixed a busted one using this method, and now I have a free iPod. I certainly wasn't going to buy one. I'm currently working up the guts to buy a fried Xbox 360 and trying the towel trick or something more sophisticated.

Point being: electronic repair shops are going the way of the dinosaur thanks in part to the rapacious greed of tech companies, but they're being replaced by a vibrant community of DIY repairmen who are willing to screw around with their busted hardware and share their wisdom for the good of humanity. Before you scrap your expensive piece of out-of-warranty electronic equipment, ask Google. Good chance you can just fix it yourself.

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