One time I cleaned out my backpack and found two cracked plastic laptop feet and a small handful of tiny metal screws. Talking to other MacBook users, I realized I was not alone: The aluminum case flexes when you pick up your laptop, and it shakes the little screws loose. And the heat from the processor loosens the adhesive on the feet over time. In case your MacBook is a little unstable or not-quite-screwy enough (same, MacBook, same), we’re now selling underbelly repair kits.
Repair can be a rather male domain: women make up just 7% of computer repair techs, and only 2% of car repair techs. But we know a lot of fixy women, some of whom we’ve featured before: the micro-soldering mom (Jessa Jones-Burdett of iPad Rehab), grandma the fix-it girl (Jodi Spangler of Lakeshore Mac), and the women behind the nomadic repair service Pop-Up Repair (Sandra Goldmark, founder, and workers like Flora Vassar). Today, we’re highlighting a few more repair-savvy women.
Why don’t people fix things? Some UK design researchers have a reasonable, but not shocking, answer: Repair means we have to work for our stuff, when we expect our stuff to work for us. They surveyed 507 vacuum cleaner owners last year about their repair attitudes. 80% said they’d consider getting a broken vacuum repaired—but only 18% had ever actually done it. Nearly as many people (16%) admitted that they never perform any vacuum maintenance, such as cleaning the filter or brush bar.
For over a year, owners of a Samsung smart fridge have been unable to use their fridge’s pre-installed Google Calendar app, proving what we all suspected: the Internet of Things can quickly become an Internet of Broken Things. Apparently, the Samsung fridge depends on an old version of the Google API, and Samsung hasn’t yet pushed out necessary updates to all fridges. Before you go out and educate all your appliances, consider how smart they’ll be when their software is out of date next year.
Are you the MacGyver of your family, making plant hangers out of old wine bottles and removing stripped screws with the help of a rubber band? Do you feel proudest when you find a new use for a thing someone would have thrown away, like building a lampshade from an old book or a portable Wii from a broken DVD player? If so, you might be a high repair propensity person, research says.
Not only is this keyboard repairable—it’s got repair instructions actually printed on the circuit board. Designing a product for repair means making it durable, making it modular, and making repair documentation available from the get-go. The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard does all that and more.
At Pacific Lutheran University, a student-run help desk will service “anything with a current.” David Domask has trained 17 student techs, many of whom arrive with no prior repair experience—and together, they keep the university whirring, buzzing, and ticking.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Fixing things yourself saves you money. But how much money? We heard recently from six fixers who got quotes from repair professionals before deciding to crack open their devices themselves. And together, these six DIY repair folks saved over $4000.
Disposable electric toothbrushes have built-in batteries that can’t be replaced. Sometimes stuff that seems convenient is a big pain in the long run—it breaks, and it can’t be fixed. Buy something more durable and repairable instead.
Thinking about buying a FitBit? Our suggestion: don’t. Online reviews are full of complaints about devices that die, fast. And the FitBit Flex is among the least repairable things we’ve ever torn down. Save your money for something fixable.
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.
You’ve played old arcade games. Maybe you’ve even played old arcade games on your tablet. But have you ever played old arcade games with all the components of your tablet? Martin Spengler and his friends from LAB BINÆR disassembled two tablets—the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7—and made a fantastic stop-motion animation with all the components. Martin confirms what we discovered in making our Tablet Repairability Guide: the iPad Mini is much harder to disassemble than the Nexus 7.