Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Masters of Technology: Repair Culture vs. Throwaway Society

Venture out on any "garbage night" in any neighborhood in America and you'll find a treasure trove of abandoned electronic equipment. I enjoy long walks in the late evening, and in recent times have chanced upon discarded items people in other lands would consider highly useful.

Early in the Summer, someone on a nearby street put a combo VHS-DVD player/recorder out with the trash. I was looking for a back-up VHS, and carried it home. On checking the machine out, I found neither DVD nor VHS were operational. I removed the cover and vacuumed a considerable amount of dust from the circuitry. I used a VHS cleaning cassette and a DVD/CD cleaning disc. Voila! Nothing wrong with the player!

A few weeks later, someone along that same stretch tossed a computer. I carried the 17" monitor home on one shoulder, the large CPU box on the other, and picked up the keyboard, mouse, printer and speakers later. Normally I wouldn't have bothered, but this particular unit had a new Philips DVD recorder installed. When I got it home, re-assembled it and fired it up, I found the previous owner had made two fatal errors: the PC was overrun with worms and virusses acquired on the Net, slowing it to a crawl despite the presence of an outdated version of Norton AV. Second error: the harddrive was way too small to allow the DVD copying software to do it's job. The owner had tried to copy several DVD's (there was a log) but all terminated early, because there was not enough disk space! The DVD was moved to my IBM PC, and I wrote zeroes to the HDD (but not before transferring some of the 150+ mp3's on the machine to CD's).

Just last night, there were several TV's set outside, some with notes on them saying "Works Fine" that apparently never sold at garage sales. I also saw several computer printers, a few CD/casssette radios, a turntable, an older model police scanner--- bunches of stuff that may have needed minor repair--- but that's the catch--- these days repairing these items sometimes exceeds the cost of a brand-new replacement!

In many third-world nations, American-style trash gives way to ingenuity and recycling--- if there's a way to make something work by repair or reconditioning or simply rebuilding and reconfiguring, it shall and will be done!

Dina Mehta explores thrifty 'Repair Cultures' in Qualitative user research reports - mobile technologies

Perhaps we Americans need to be a bit more frugal... repair and recycle!
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  1. Glad the "Digg This Post" button worked for you!

    It's such a great coincidence having found this post you made on the repair of DVDs. I happen to have a DVD player I need to fix!

  2. Hey that is an inperesting post - thanx a lot! It was my pleasure to read it... also if you have some time - here is some useful information about Electronic Equipment Repair Services



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