Recently I wrote an article about Louis Rossman and the Free To Repair Bill he is fighting for. (It failed but I don't consider it dead.) So, today being the 4th of July and a day that we Americans celebrate our Independence from what was a tyrannical and over-reaching government; I would like to focus on another type of independence. The independence to own and repair our devices, appliances, cars, farm equipment, etc... This form of independence is crumbling before our very eyes and not many people are noticing. That's how it usually happens. That is why we have the fable of the frog that is happy to sit in the pot of warm water until it is too late and then realizes it is being cooked...
If you have visited our site before, you may have read my two articles on e-cycling. If you haven't, you should take a look at them. They are two of our most popular posts right behind: “Ever Since You Worked on my Computer.” Fellow computer techs have a soft spot in their heart for that article. Back to what I was talking about....
My 4th of July weekend started with a major shock to my system. As I walked into the shop Friday morning, my husband said, “Quick before you get started, you need to sit and watch this. It is scary.” That is an awesome way to start the work day!
I looked up on the screen and there sat new video from one of our favorite YouTube channels: Louis Rossman. He is an incredible repairman that lives and works in Manhattan. His specialty is Apple board repairs. As the video started, I began to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that took me back to my teenage years when I watched my dad lose his business.
Louis was telling everyone that he had been contacted by a law firm that handled copyright issues and he was telling everyone that he didn't know what was in his immediate future but there was a strong possibility that his repair videos and quite possibly his business were going to disappear. At the heart of this issue: major corporations like Apple do not want third-party repairmen working on their devices. They want you to pay for a long-term warranty that amounts to you leasing your device, not owning it.
I've written a little about this issue in the past from the side of e-cycling because that is also something that is important to me. I know the amount of toxic materials that are in those computers and smart phones flooding the market. I also know that many corporations like Apple aren't doing the bang-up job that they are claiming when it comes to responsible recycling. These corporations are driving consumers to buy new devices every year and toss the old. Our landfills are flooded with these devices and this isn't just happening in America. It is a worldwide epidemic. So, while I have focused on this side of the argument, I have skirted the other argument that corporations are trying to rub out the repairman. I have danced around this subject because of old memories that shaped who I am today.
When I was about 11 years old, I watched my dad build a computer company while the personal computer was still being whispered about in homebrew tech clubs. He built complete systems – hardware and software – for city governments, hospitals, you name it. He worked around the clock and logged many miles. Many times I slept on the floor in the front office while he worked. (Don't worry, it was the 70's and true shag carpeting can make a pretty soft bed.)
He was constantly fighting off the big guys who threatened to shut him down. What finally did take his business was a city government that wanted to take a particular piece of billing software he wrote from him. He fought them in court for far too long and in the end, the judge threw it out as a nuisance lawsuit. It didn't matter though, dad had spent so much time and money fighting the lawsuit, he had nothing left for his company. He shut it down and all that incredible hardware (he never let go of the software) was sold to pay off debts. I remember as a teenager, standing in a hot warehouse in the middle of a swampy Texas summer, tearing apart what was left of the big DASDs scrapping every bit of aluminum we could find. It was a sad time....it was why I hated movies where the machine was being torn apart to save the creator. It hit close to home.
So, when Phil said, “Hey, lets leave the corporate rat race and open a computer repair shop.” At first, I was excited about the prospect but then those old memories started to flood in. I chose to move forward anyway and make the ending different this time.
Over the last several years, I've felt the the threat from corporations growing once again. This time it is coming from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, even John Deere. Many self-employed repairmen are throwing in the towel because the stakes are becoming too high.
Just one look at websites like ifixit.org or iPadRehab.com or Louis Rossman's Channel and you will see the roadblocks we have to traverse in order to fix customer's devices. It pains me when I have to turn away a customer who has a problem that would have been an easy fix if their technology was open architecture but because they have a device that is “locked down” by the corporation that built it, we can't touch it. There is less and less that we are able to touch and that is the beginning of the end for repair shops.
And it's not just computer repairmen....this plague is hitting the appliance repairmen and the auto and farm equipment mechanics as well. Try finding a TV repair shop or camera repair shop these days. John Deere has even made it impossible for farmers to repair their tractors. Think about that before you buy the next Samsung HE front loading washer for $1,000.00. When it breaks down, I hope you have a solid warranty.
I've been watching this event closely this weekend and so far it looks like the law firm isn't taking down his channel or business (yet.) I agree with Louis. Even though the initial response from the law firm is positive, he isn't ready to jump into the frog pot yet. I hope that corporations will see the dust that has been kicked up by this shot across the bow and will choose to make the right decision. Having devices that we can own and repair is the responsible way to go. If one of these corporations made a move to offer a device that was easy to repair and maintain, that would sway a lot of customers to their side. I am keeping my eye on HP for the moment and their new Elite x2 1012 G1. This is a tablet that HP wants you to be able to repair. That makes the $1,300.00 price tag a little easier to accept. How many people buy an MacBook Pro at over $1,000.00 only to discover that when something like the keyboard or display give out, even with a warranty, the repair will cost them several hundred dollars and they will loose any data not saved to iCloud.
Be aware of the devices you buy and the repairability of those devices. For some of you, I understand, the price is not a factor but one day it might. If you enable the corporations to provide you with devices, appliances and cars that you lease at ownership prices, then you can't be angry when they take those things away from you. Please, back the Free To Repair movement with your words and your dollars. Don't let corporations put repair shops like ours or Louis Rossman out of business. Put people back to work and make sure that we don't become a society of users.