We Need a Fixer Movement?

You’ve heard about the “maker movement,” the geeks who’ve been rebooting America’s craft tradition. The same kind of movement is also happening in other countries, including Finland.

Wired writes that We Need a Fixer (Not Just a Maker) Movement. We need to use our maker skills to something new: We need to apply those maker skills to what we already own, giving broken devices a new lease on life. The spectacle of dead goods coming back to life isn’t just useful, it can be transformative: “It made me realize I didn’t need to buy new every time something breaks.”

We need, in short, a fixer movement. This would be a huge cultural shift. In the 20th century, U.S. firms aggressively promoted planned obsolescence, designing things to break. Buying new was was even once considered a patriotic duty in USA, but today e-waste has become one of the fastest-growing categories of refuse.

I have written on this topic earlier on my blog for example in About Things We Build and Fix article. I have also repaired many devices I have owned and even documented several cases on article at Archive for the ‘Repair’ Category (together with pointers to other repair related articles). I think a fixer movement would be a good idea to promote.


  1. Roy says:

    Fixer Movement is already happening. See BBC news article “When recycling is the second-best option”
    which is an article on the Restart Project.

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  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Bigshot do-it-yourself camera hits the market

    When you buy a Bigshot camera, be prepared to go to work. These cameras, specifically designed for kids, come in a kit of all of the necessary parts to build your own simple digital camera. So if you have young kids who might be interested, be prepared to do it yourself to help them.

    The Bigshot camera dates back to early 2010, when we blogged about how prototypes of the kit had been sent out to kids in New York, Bengaluru, India, and Vung Tao, Vietnam. Now, following years of testing and tweaking the design based on feedback, the camera has finally hit the market.

    Developed by Shree Nayar, chairman of Columbia University’s computer science department and director of the Computer Vision Laboratory, Bigshots were created in order to educate children on how cameras work, and what exactly comprises them.

    “It’s about getting kids’ hands dirty,” Bigshot’s creator, Prof Shree Nayar, told the BBC News Network. “In an age when software rules I want kids to know how to build hardware.”

    Personally, I think the concept of the Bigshot is refreshing.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Share Your Repair/Redesign Tales & You Could Win a Tektronix Scope

    What does Dr. Victor Frankenstein have in common with engineers? You know you know the answer: It’s the ability to bring back objects from the dead.

    The doc’s most famous example is that big monster, of course, but who knows what else he reanimated in his lab?

    Like a modern-day engineer, Frankenstein didn’t just throw out a crappy product or demand his money back when something didn’t quite live up to his expectations. No sir, he applied his technical prowess and problem-solving ability to fixing it.

    So, in honor of Dr. Frankenstein and Halloween, Tektronix and EE Times have teamed up to recognize this special ability of engineers and mad doctors to get things to work.

    All qualifying entries will be published on the new Frankenstein’s Fix blog on EE Life and will be entered into a drawing for a Tektronix MSO2024B digital oscilloscope.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The case of the flat panel TV scream

    When the cable tech couldn’t fix it they called in a TV place to fix it. That person told them the panel couldn’t be fixed. Given that it is a waiting room they said replace it and put the old one aside to go in the trash.

    My wife (of 24 years) immediately thought “Mike can fix it” and asked if she could take it home. Her boss said “sure, but they said it can’t be fixed.”

    As soon as my wife told me the issue I had a pretty good idea what was wrong, but I had to open it up to be sure.

    I’ll give you the symptoms and if you’ve been around any piece of electronic equipment in the last 10 years you’ll most likely get it right away.

    The panel came on, the CCFLs lit and all controls worked. As it came on you could hear the “squealing” start and ramp up very fast to a high pitch.

    Look to the cap
    Having worked on SMPS and seen similar problems before I knew one of the power supplies had to be the culprit, and more to the point a filter cap had to be the source of the problem.

    A quick look around the boards and I found the culprit; two of the electrolytics on one of the supplies were bulging.

    I pulled the supply out and removed the caps.

    I replaced them

    I turned the panel on and presto, no noise. So, a panel that had been deemed “unrepairable” was now mine for the cost of about 40 minutes of my time and a couple of replaced caps.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 is harder to repair than an iPad
    iFixit breaks it so you don’t have to

    WITHIN A DAY of Microsoft’s launch of the Surface Pro 2 tablet, iFixit has managed to disassemble one – all in the name of science, of course.

    As ever with iFixit teardowns, the question is, “How hard will this be to fix if it breaks?” In this case, the answer is an emphatic “very”. In fact, with a repairability score of one out of 10 the Surface Pro 2 tablet ranks even lower than the fourth-generation iPad, which scored a mere two out of 10 when it was tested.

    Over 90 screws and an awful lot of glue hold the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 together, and iFixit added that before you even get that far there is a high risk of snapping one of four ribbon cables just by prying open the casing.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    GSB: Circular economy hub
    Using copyright to keep repair manuals secret undermines circular economy
    Electronics manufacturers are denying consumers access to repair manuals, and it’s working against the environment

    Everything from tractors to home appliances came with detailed repair manuals. There was an expectation that if your tablesaw broke or your vacuum stopped working, you were going to open it up, figure out what was wrong, and fix it. If you got stuck, you called the manufacturer and they walked you through it.

    Ironically, we now live in an age where information has never been more abundant, and yet every day more repair manuals disappear.

    It’s not an accident. Manufacturers of computers, mobile phones, appliances, and cars still create repair manuals for every product they ship. You’re just not allowed to have them anymore. And that gap in repair information is hindering our efforts to create a circular economy.

    Last year, Toshiba enraged the wired generation when it issued a mass takedown to Tim Hicks, a young Australian laptop refurbisher. Hicks runs Future Proof, a site that hosts ad-free, virus-free manufacturer repair guides for laptops. In no uncertain terms, Toshiba Australia’s legal department told Hicks that he had to delete every one of its repair manuals.

    Toshiba’s actions are symptomatic of a much larger corporate tactic to quell independent repair. Only a handful of electronics producers, including Dell, HP, and Lenovo, voluntarily release service manuals to the public for free. Others, including Apple, Acer and Sony, refuse to release repair, maintenance, or service manuals to the public, using copyright claims to scrub internal manuals off the web when third parties post them.

    It’s unclear whether companies like Toshiba and Apple are within their rights. No one can legally copyright facts or procedures but you can copyright any form of creative work, like writing. Manuals, despite their lack of creative or artistic merit, are a form of writing. Companies aren’t going out on a limb by hiding them behind the shield of copyright.

    My company iFixit, a free repair manual for everything, has dodged copyright entanglements by taking apart products, writing our own guides from scratch and posting them online for free. We’re trying to fill the information gap left when manufacturers use copyright to keep their manuals offline. We’re making progress, one industry at a time

    Let me make one thing clear: copyrighting repair manuals doesn’t protect creative work and it doesn’t prevent knock-off artists from copying design. All it does is stop people from fixing their things. It prevents independent repair facilities and shops from having the information they need to repair your stuff at competitive prices. And it prevents refurbishers from having the resources they require to fix products and put them back on the market.

    Without critical repair information from the manufacturer, more and more of our goods will be shredded for recycling or worse, simply thrown away to make up part of the 1.37m tonnes of e-waste Britain disposes of each year.

    Repair and reuse is an important loop in a circular economy because they are the most resource-efficient way to manage end-of-life products. Unlike recycling, repair lengthens the life of goods without compromising material quality or expending any extra resources. Reuse means our stuff can go on to a second, third, or even fourth life before recycling.

    By limiting repair information, manufacturers are eliminating the possibility of repair for thousands of consumers and refurbishers.

    So, when buying a new gizmo, check to see if the manufacturer posts service and repair information on its website. Support the companies that are doing a good job, and pressure other companies

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Losing the ability to troubleshoot

    Scotty Deuty bemoans the lost art of troubleshooting and making do from first principles. He describes the loss as an American problem but perhaps it is just a consequence of advanced functionality born of complexity.


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