THERE’S rejoicing aplenty in our household when a device breaks. It means we can buy a new one without a guilty conscience.
Filling your country mansion with gadgets by the thousand is all well and good if you’re a moneyed technophile like Stephen Fry – though to be fair to the great man, manufacturers probably throw scads of free stuff at him in the hope he’ll promote it to his 13 million Twitter followers.
As a lesser mortal I grew up with the constricting ethic that you only buy what you will actually use, and you don’t replace it until it breaks. And I’ve never got over it.
In fact until repairing stuff started becoming something of a dead art a decade or two ago, I would even give up precious free time in hand-to-hand combat with a dodgy toaster, menacing an innocent amplifier with a deadly soldering iron or perhaps the most futile exercise of all, using a couple of euros’ worth of glue to do a reverse Humpty Dumpty on a vase costing just half that in the local second-hand emporium.
Now when stuff dies we buy new stuff. Lots of new stuff. We’ve all got drawers full of dead phones, and even the poor in Africa would sneer at my old Nokia 1100.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to even open up our technology, though the web has any number of people doing ‘teardowns’ of the latest devices – even on a thousand euros’ worth of new iPhone, the spoiled brats.
Fortunately there is still some stuff you can build yourself if you are so waywardly minded.
When my computer died at the ripe old age of 10, I felt like a child with a new Meccano set (rather dubiously renamed Erector sets in the USA, where they don’t do double entendres).
I got to work happily assembling my own Dagwood-sandwich-type computer from a case, a power supply, a motherboard, RAM chips, a hard drive, a gaggle of YouTube videos and more bad language than the average sailor.
For the most part though, we just buy.
It’s an ethic hard to knock when a friend recently spent more to fix an ageing laptop than it would have cost him to buy another one on eBay, or a new one for €50 extra.
Oops, I just ‘accidentally’ dropped that irritating bedside clock I’ve hated with a passion every morning for years. Hooray I can finally buy a new one. As Groucho Marx said, if you don’t like my principles, I have others.
Make do and mend
THE ‘Maker Movement’ is a worthy one but they’re fighting a losing battle.
Look them up on the internet and perhaps there’s one near you, kindly souls with technical expertise, meeting locally over a weekend to repair all sorts of dead technology brought in by members of the public.
‘Makers’ even produce their own cookbooks of repair recipes.
Some are printed but they are mainly found online, if you’re brave enough to tackle technology designed to resist even the most determined siege.
It certainly is morally satisfying to breathe new life into an old toaster, or to get that old Apple Newton back up and running again – even if only to find that Steve Jobs took its proprietary software with him to the grave.