I read an article on the BBC Website yesterday, called Right To Repair Gathers Force, which applies to the UK, Europe and the USA. It’s worth skimming it before continuing here, actually! That link opens in a new tab so you won’t lose your place here.
In a nutshell, the common people are fed up with consumer items having a ridiculously short working life, coupled with a dearth of spare parts and most importantly, a missing repair manual.
I would imagine that anyone reading this post will be shouting a resounding “Yes!”, as we makers and tinkerers are well-positioned to repair items given a reasonable chance at deciphering the wiring of some esoteric electrical item. Well, that and not having the case welded together with some special glue.
Nobody wants a consumer item, whether it’s a washing machine, a TV, a smartphone or even a toaster to give up the ghost a week after the warranty runs out. So there is a strong movement to make manufacturers ensure that their appliances last longer than they currently do. This desire is not exactly flavour of the month with those responsible for business models but it did actually used to be like this.
A Real World example. About 30 years ago my mum bought a front-loading washing machine. It was built like a tank and ran several times every week for years at home. When my mum and dad moved back to Germany many years ago the washing machine went with them. Yes, really. It currently sits in the communal washing room (Deutsch: Waschküche) in a block of flats, all plumbed in alongside about 8 other washers and dryers, each for a different occupant.
It’s seen all those years of service, has travelled hundreds of miles and is still going strong.
There’s more about early appliances (UK biased but probably applies everywhere).
In the meantime I bought a washer/dryer for my own house (in the UK) and had it regularly serviced (and repaired) over the years. It lasted 8 years before the repair guy threw up his hands and said, “The drum’s gone. It’s not repairable.” I count myself lucky it lasted that long, but the maintenance cost was probably about as much as the machine itself.
But the opposite happened too. My brother did an apprenticeship in an engineering firm in his teenage years, probably 40+ years ago. He had to assist designing a gearbox (or something similar, it had a shaft attached, anyway). Once the design was completed he was told to modify the ball-bearing seal around the shaft as it was “too good” and would “last forever”. He literally had to downgrade the seal so that it had a limited lifespan, thus ensuring it would require replacement after a few years.
I want full access to repair manuals for everything in my home. If it turns out that I can’t repair something, then so be it. But I suspect, like a lot of Arduinites out there, we’ll probably get it fixed one way or the other (and without burning the house down in the process). I wonder if it will ever happen.
What do you think?