delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 36 NUMBER 11

Tech

Repair or replace?

Many hams take pride in the fact that they can repair stuff. I know I’ve blogged about my repair projects several times here on KB6NU.Com. The trend, though, is that electronic stuff, including amateur radio gear, is getting harder to fix. Most hams, for example, don’t have the soldering equipment—or sharp enough vision—to replace surface mount components. And, in lots of cases, it’s just not worth the time and energy to fix something. How much time would you spend trying to repair a Baofeng UV-5R when a replacement is only $25 or $30? Even so, there are compelling reasons for being able to fix your electronics, not the least of which is the enormous amount of electronic waste that we currently generate. A recent study reported that we throw away tens of millions of tons of electronic and electrical equipment every year. Repair.org is the website for The Repair Association. The Repair Association contends that one of the reasons that electronic devices are so difficult to repair is that manufacturers would rather sell you a new device than make their products repairable. In a recent IEEE Spectrum article, Kyle Wiens and Gay Gordon-Byrne, founders of the Repair Association, say that electronics manufacturers actually “work to make fixing their products too expensive or too impractical.” They are pushing “’right to repair’” legislation that would make it easier for consumers to fix broken digital equipment. Efforts are currently underway in 12 states to enact into law the right to repair. While the bills vary, in general, they would require manufacturers to provide access the documentation and replacement parts  to consumers and independent repair companies at reasonable prices. There’s a similar effort in the UK. There, a group called The Restart Project “encourages and empowers people to use their electronics longer in order to reduce waste.” The Restart Project is more of a grass-roots organization than The Repair Association. It hosts free community repair events at which volunteers help people learn to repair broken or slow devices. I’m not sure that these efforts are going to make ham radio gear more repairable in the near future. If my Baofeng goes belly-up, and the problem isn’t something easy to fix, I’m probably going to just buy a new one and toss the bad one in the junk box. Life’s too short to mess around with a $25 HT for very long. Having said that, I applaud these two groups for their efforts. I especially like The Restart Project’s community repair events. Makerspaces should really jump on this as a way to reach out to the communities they serve. Here in Ann Arbor, a for-profit makerspace, MakerWorks, hosts a “Fix-it Friday” once a month. On these days, people are available to help anyone fix whatever they have that needs fixing. What do you think? Do you think electronics should be more repairable, even though that might make the devices more expensive? Are there any groups promoting repairs in your community? The post Repair or replace? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.
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