The Decline Of Keeper Culture
With the advent of technology, things are becoming more complicated and less repairable. I don’t remember where I read this, but in the early days when cars were first invented, everyone who owned a car knew how the car worked very well. It is not unexpected to have the car halt every so often and the owner is expected to be able to diagnose and repair it on the road. That means they would have to understand the workings of a car very well. Whether that was true or my memory serves me right or not is debatable. But what is not debatable is my personal experience.
In the past when a something broke in the house, my dad would try his best to repair it. When it was beyond his expertise, he would call a technician and get it repaired. These repairs could be ranging from stove to refrigerator to TV and everything in between. But now, if something stops working, like a phone, we just throw it away and buy a new one.
There could be several reasons for this to be happening now. One of them is that the technology is so complex that replacing the whole device is cheaper than getting it repaired. Take the case of my Pioneer Audio Video Receiver (AVR) that stopped working. When I wanted to get it repaired, the cost of repair quoted was almost as much as half the price of the AVR itself! For that price I could buy a new budget AVR. The reason given by the technician was that these days the devices are coming with boards containing chips that have a lot of functionality baked into each chip. They handle HDMI functions, decoding various audio codecs like Dolby, DTS etc, digital EQs and much more. Replacing the chips was supposedly not a cheap affair.
On the other hand, the amplifiers of the past were mostly just based on power transistors, regular transistors, a bunch of resistors, capacitors and heat sinks. If something fails, you would simply desolder the part and replace the identical part and you are done. Tracing the components and testing them according to specification was something anyone could do and many enthusiasts actually used to do it. Now the scenario is different.
I remember when I was a kid, my parents would take great care of things at home to make them last for as long as possible. Back when I was a kid I used to watch my dad clean the pipes and every single hole of gas stove every few months. Not sure if anyone remembers the water filters of yore, which used to come with ceramic filter candles that used to purify water ever so slowly. I remember the days when dad would carefully clean the candles every few weeks to make them efficient and to make them last long.
Mom would cover every gadget in the house from tape recorder deck to TV to sewing machine in cloth. This is to avoid dust going in and reducing the life span. Then she had to remove them and get them washed every few weeks. All this effort to extend the life of things that they purchased with hard earned money. That is the advantage of living in a middle class family, to see how much they cared about money. At the time it was about saving money, but now it could be about saving the environment.
If my parents tell me that something is not working, like a phone or TV, or fridge, I just tell them to buy a new one without even thinking for a moment. In the past I have seen visits by several repair personnel coming to fix a TV or fridge. Or the times when we would take a broken tape deck to a local electronics shop. Gone are those days. We rarely keep things anymore. And we don’t even think that there is a possibility of getting something repaired instead of just exchanging it for a new one. Of course the repairs have become expensive as well.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that we are leaving the keeper culture and entering into the realm of consumerism. We should try to learn to repair or try to get things repaired before thinking of buying a new one. If not about the money at least for the environment. We should take more care about our things, cleaning, oiling them often and trying to extend the life for as long as possible. We may look like a miser to the outside world, but we may be serving a higher purpose. A lesson to learn for me.
In case you are wondering, I buy expensive branded gadgets when I intend to keep them for a long time, and buy cheap one for ones that I like to replace frequently. I wrote a post on how I buy as a minimalist if you are interested. Then I try to take good care of the expensive ones to make them last as long as possible. I will probably write another post on what kind of upkeep I do to make them last.