The march of the black boxes

darth vader by Flickr user trustypics

Used on a CC license by Flickr user trustypics

This post was originally published in Electronics Weekly in our new series called Unscrewed.

No doubt about it, tablets and mobiles are getting thinner and harder to open. More parts are glued, fused and soldered together, all in the pursuit of these sleek sealed gadgets.

We’re reminded of an anecdote about the late Steve Jobs, who supposedly took a poor engineer’s prototype of the first iPod, walked to the aquarium, and dropped it in. Air bubbles floated to the surface, and Jobs said “make it smaller”.

This obsession with sleek, thin, sealed black boxes has spread well beyond Apple, and well beyond handheld data-enabled devices.

Recently we’ve started to wonder: are we facing a whole new generation of electronics which even we cannot save during our three hour, fun and free community events? Continue reading

A repairable Fairphone

fairphone teardown

This post was first published as a guest post on the Fairphone blog.

Two weeks ago we ran a workshop in the Fairphone Pop-Up Shop as part of London Design Festival. We were invited to create a participatory event built around the latest prototype of the Fairphone, the first smartphone designed and produced with transparency and fairness in mind.

Our organisation promotes a positive change in people’s relationship with electronics: regaining control of the devices we own, by learning to take them apart, troubleshoot them, repair them and prolong their life span. When it comes to mobiles, our motto is that “the most ethical phone is the one you already have,” meaning that we should always try our best to make the most of the devices we have before thinking of upgrading.

It comes as no surprise that we decided to perform a “gentle teardown” of the Fairphone, to investigate whether the ethical direction of the project is also reflected in a design for durability and repairability. Even before dismantling the phone, we already appreciated that the device is Dual SIM, expandable with microSD and with user-replaceable battery. But we wanted to find out more.

Five Restarters took apart the Fairphone, sharing the experience with 15 other participants and a few Fairphone staff members, answering our questions as we made progress. Here is what we found out.

Continue reading

A repairable, hackable lamp named Clyde

In April, I saw an old friend at the Reclaiming Repair workshop in Paris. After years in quite separate directions, Amanda and I marveled at how our projects are related. Hers: a hackable and repairable lamp. Small projects like this help us envision a different future, where we take back ownership of domestic electricals like the loveable lamp.

Amanda’s lamp, named “Clyde” reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, got some great press, and will go into production soon. It’s not too late to pre-order your own!

We interviewed Amanda to learn more and share her inspiring approach. Continue reading