Imagine you’ve just escaped the apes and riding along the beach you see the Statue of Liberty; it turns out that it was Earth along.
You discover the cave and instead of a doll and a broken pair of spectacles you find…
At this point substitute those items with any modern piece of technology against it’s predecessor and the game begins. For example, a Ford Focus and a Ford Fiesta, a Kindle and a quality printed book, a Raspberry Pi and a Sinclair Spectrum. You have no tools and are thinking about surviving, possibly even rebooting civilisation.
Well, I could read the printed book on survival, but how would I charge my Kindle, and if it would charge, would it still work? I could have a crack at getting the Fiesta started but would the Focus engine management system cause problems?
It quickly becomes apparent that the race for complexity and miniaturisation has now excluded the vast majority of the population from maintaining and repairing the machines that they own. Designers freed from the constraint of user (or indeed any) servicing have designed products that are not only difficult to service but are designed from the outset not to be. Think of the battery in your new Apple product or the headlight in your Renault.
This built in obsolescence has given the twin evils of Sales and Marketing the reason for selling the public devices they don’t need. A handful of companies pay lip service to saving the planet by including many recyclables in their products. Perhaps they could start by designing products that don’t need to be thrown away in the first place.
It’s not completely bleak. I’ve recently repaired two of my kids Nintendo DS Lites; they both required a new top LCD screen and one required a complete new shell. Total cost to me was around £30 and 4 hours of my time. I’m also repairing a Sinclair Spectrum.
Part of my day job includes assessing business continuity. I heard a story last night of a business continuity plan that was stored on hard drive. Perhaps the first step in that plan should have been “Print out a hard copy of this document”. I personally think that civilisation’s continuity plan is a little like this; much as I like the fact that we’re heading towards Star Trek Federation technology I think we need to keep a few Model T Fords in the basement, just in case…
Bottom line is that come the Monkey Apocalypse I will be sat in my treehouse playing Manic Miner on my potato battery powered Sinclair Spectrum. What will you be doing?