My grandfather was typical of a generation haunted by the shadow of the Great Depression. Out of necessity, people like my grandfather eked every bit of usefulness from what little they had. They drove their cars into the ground, hitched them back together with baling wire, and kept driving for another 100,000 miles. They taught their children how to patch their tires and patch their jeans. So it makes sense that it’s people like my grandfather who are teaching the world how to repair again.
A group of young female students sit around a table, laughing and talking. But they’re not discussing school, boys, or music. Instead, they’re talking how to replace a dead hard drive, how to install a case fan, and how to salvage a water-damaged motherboard. This isn’t a new topic of conversation for the young women of St. Joseph’s Academy. These young women are computer repair experts—and they’ll run IT circles right around you.
Outside a grocery store in Zurich, Roland Roos is fixing a broken sign. The cracked sign that once said “Denner” now reads just “Denne.” Roland gets up on a ladder and replaces the cracked plate with a fixed one. An employee steps out of the store and nods approvingly: “Oh, finally there’s someone here to repair it! It’s about time.” But Roland doesn’t work for Denner. He isn’t a repairman, just an artist. He isn’t getting paid. He hasn’t even asked for permission to fix the sign—he just did it.
When something breaks, most people run through the usual gamut of emotions—disappointment, frustration, a feeling of helplessness. But over at the Fixers Collective in Brooklyn, they’re teaching people to approach broken stuff a little differently: with curiosity. For the master techs that make up the Fixers Collective, repair is the new Rubik’s Cube. It’s a puzzle that must be teased out by trial and error—a Sherlockian game of wits that pits man against machine. Can you outsmart entropy?
About 20 years ago, the mom-and-pop repair shops that used to be a staple of every community started to disappear—shunted out of business by an onslaught of goods designed to be cheap and disposable. And as repair shops disappeared, so did the possibility of repair for people without the skill or time to fix things on their own. So NYC residents Sandra Goldmark and Michael Banta started Pop-up Repair—and now they are filling the holes in our neighborhoods where repair shops used to be.
Here at the iFixit offices, most of us Reddit… hard. And while the “front page of the internet” is great for aww-some animal gifs, it can be a good resource for other things, too. There are around 70 million users on Reddit every month, and they can teach you how to make, build, hack, and fix just about anything—you just have to know which subreddits to look in.
Since I announced to the world that I’m a Female Fixoholic back in September, my inbox has been pretty full. Apparently, people think I’m a repair expert. I don’t know how to fix everything, but I don’t think that makes or breaks me as a fixoholic. I’m a fixoholic because I learned not be afraid of fixing. I’m a fixoholic because—even when I fail—I’m not afraid to try, try again. Judging by the anxious emails in my inbox, I think that lack of fear is something most people, well, lack.
The more people that repair their garments, the bigger the impact will be. Fixing must become a global initiative. Everyone should have the resources to repair every thing—including clothing. That’s why Patagonia is partnering with us, iFixit, to publish an open source repair manual for Patagonia garments. That information is free, and online right now.
I knew little about the “Maker” movement when I first stepped into the World Maker Faire in New York last month. It felt kinda like going to Disneyland and not knowing about Mickey Mouse. From the first moment I walked into this celebration of creative tinkering, I was awed and overwhelmed by wandering robots, a life sized game of mousetrap, and machines I couldn’t even begin to describe or comprehend. Suddenly, I spied a banner that read: “Zero to Maker.” I knew where I needed to start.
The sprawling metropolis of Black Rock City doesn’t emerge overnight, but it doesn’t take much longer than that. Built from the ground up every year for Burning Man, the city is a hodgepodge of geodesic domes, yurts, and stories-tall steel sculptures. Building a city from scratch is a monumental task, beyond the reach of mere human strength. But that’s what we build machines for. Rick Rea is the mechanic that keeps these big beasts barreling along the desert.
Dropping a tiny screw into the carpet can be a headache when working on a repair. Dropping a screw while working on a repair in space can be deadly. But these repairs, while amazing, aren’t really exceptional. Repair happens in space all the time. And while every repair has its challenges, in space those challenges are amplified a thousandfold. There are a lot of reasons we should be at least a little impressed with out-of-this-world repair technicians.