Kyle Wiens of iFixIt posted a call to action today asking all good hackers to require everything they buy to be repairable. We asked him to comment on the current state of the gadget industry and the problems facing folks who want to fix their own gadgets.
Our relationship with our gadgets has spiraled out of control. We buy things, use them for a short while, and then replace them with the next model. Manufacturers build products that break quickly so we are forced to buy another.
The entire technology industry is constantly pushing consumers toward the new. GM invented the concept of planned obsolescence in the 1920s and corporations have since perfected it. We constantly promote cutting edge, sometimes-better-but-always-different products. I’ve certainly lost track of the year-to-year differences of the iPod Nano—but gosh, the latest ones have multi-touch! The latest iPod Nano also has a built-in non-replaceable battery limiting its lifespan to 300 cycles. If you use your iPod every day, that’s less than a year!
There’s a dark side to our gadgets, a sub-surface tension that we all know about rarely speak of. Every time we upgrade to a new smartphone or computer, we leave behind a physical trail of boring old electronic waste. That waste is real—I’ve been to the fields in Africa where children burn electronics to mine them for copper. Our never-ending quest for the new is dramatically impacting our environment. The people who are burning our old electronics don’t know how toxic this stuff is. It’s our waste, and it’s our responsibility.
That needs to stop. We have to make the things we have last longer. The 18 months we use these things are just a blip in their long lifecycle.
Let’s take a stand. Let’s start making our things last longer. Let’s tell the manufacturers that we demand the right to repair our own things. Let’s post this manifesto in every coffee house, repair shop, gadget lab, and garage in the world.
Read more on the manifesto here.