I started working in the tech field way back in 1998, at the age of 19. This was the early era of desktop computers and they were expensive compared to the price we can get now (and the power).
Computer shows and warehouse part catalogs were all the rage. You would hunt for parts to upgrade your computer with more ram or a new CPU. A do it yourself approach was necessary because almost any computer you could buy was a couple of thousand dollars.
The only item that was cheap back then, that is still cheap now, was HP inkjet printers. Not the ink. But the printer itself.
It’s funny the stories that stick with you. I distinctly remember someone that had one of the only inkjet printers in the company (circa 1999). It broke. He wanted it fixed. I was more than capable of fixing big, bulky HP LaserJet III and IVs. But I had no idea what to do with a flimsy HP cheapo ($100) printer.
I called HP, and the customer service rep informed me that the devices were so cheap they don’t fix them and to buy a new one. So that’s what we did.
It’s so cheap now!
We are now firmly in the era of cheapo electronics. Yes, you can still go to Best Buy, Newegg, or Amazon and buy parts to upgrade a computer. But now you can buy laptops for a few hundred bucks, Amazon Fire tablets, and E-Readers for less than $100, and the Internet of things devices can start at $20.
But these devices are also produced with a disposable mindset.
Warranty Void if Removed
Many of the manufacturers today do not provide a do-it-yourself approach to repairing their devices that need minor repairs, such as a new battery. Apple requires you to go to an Apple Store and speak to the Genius Bar. Amazon has essentially zero parts available for items that are out of warranty.
Even computers started to face this to a lesser degree when Windows became “locked” to certain hardware. “Significant hardware changes” could make the PC unusable and require re-activation.
There is a movement started to establish “Right to Repair” for technology devices you bought and owned. The pushback from the technology industry is that many of the devices come preloaded with software with digital locks or other protection methods designed to recognize being manipulated. The tech industry doesn’t want potential competitors or freelancers to reverse engineer their devices.
The mindset behind the right to repair movement is without the ability to fix devices you own; do you truly own them? Isn’t this more like a lease or rent? Look at the junk piling up!
Additionally, the amount of toxic technology waste is significant with these cheap to produce devices. People trash the equipment the moment it breaks without a second thought.
I think it takes a very specific, niche person to want to tear down a $60 Amazon fire tablet to replace a $30 battery and solder (maybe a ribbon connector) that onto the mainboard. The time investment doesn’t make sense to me unless the exercise is purely for educational purposes.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
I think a better option is more advocacy on recycling these types of devices.
Best Buy has had a recycling drop off in the front of their stores for years. Amazon has a recycling program that needs better promotion. If the device still works, you can trade it in to receive a possible credit.
I strongly urge you to find a proper recycling center to dispose of old electronics.
Computer Recycling of Virginia, located in Tappahannock, has a list of toxic chemicals in computers. This includes lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium to name a few. These are items you don’t want sitting in a landfill.
A bit closer to home is Potomac eCycle, located in Manassas. Their recycling services include items they will pay you for by the pound such as network equipment, computer parts, phones.
Find that pile of old, broken equipment in your home or office and do some research on recycling centers near you. Or find someone willing to put in the elbow grease to repair the equipment and donate to a worthy cause.
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