Sat. Oct 23rd, 2021


Technological sector updates

At first glance, the Framework laptop I used last week is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a sturdy, stylish machine that works on Windows and borrows the look of the Apple MacBook.

And yet it is one of the most ambitious technology products of the past year. And the fact that it feels like the excitement of a revolution is a sign of how far we have dropped things.

Because there’s something in the frame cabinet that Apple would never include: a screwdriver. Unlike almost every technology I have ever purchased, this laptop begs to be taken apart, tampered with and kept above everything for as long as possible.

Since products designed to be repaired are not thrown away, frame framework to change the attitude to what ‘ownership’ of our devices really means.

Consider it the ‘Faster see broom“From laptops. Just like the 20-year-old Only Fools and Horses character sweeper: ‘This old broom has 17 new heads and 14 new handles’ – you can separate each part and, if necessary, upgrade or replace it.

Removing five screws on the bottom of the laptop reveals a whole range of guts – a battery, motherboard, hard drive, memory, trackpad, speakers and more.

QR codes on the components help you identify exactly what you are looking for, and by scanning each one with your phone, you come to a website that explains how to safely remove it – as well as replace options to upgrade it or to sell.

“A consumer needs to be able to configure their product to meet exactly what they want it to do,” said Framework CEO Nirav Patel, who previously told the Oculus VR Headset, obtained by Facebook in 2014 for $ 2 billion. ‘And if their needs change, they need to be able to change the product to meet it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the same words? Impossible. Like most personal laptops, MacBook components are soldered together and are not intended to be accessible to users.

It forces people to replace entire devices if only one part – for example the battery – causes a problem. Is that just Apple’s problem? Absolutely not, although the company regularly enjoys independent sites like iFixIt the worst recoverability.

The impact of this approach on the environment is increasing. A UN report published last year said we were on track to produce 74.7 million tonnes of e-waste worldwide by 2030 – a doubling in the last 16 years. “This makes it the world’s fastest growing household waste stream,” wrote UN researcher Vanessa Forti.

In the US, the debate on “right to recovery” has become part of the Biden administration’s aggressive campaign to combat the power of Big Tech, and it must be said, Big Agriculture.

Equipment manufacturer John Deere has the reputation of being the tractor’s apple-farmers want to be able to fix these computers on wheels themselves. A lack of recoverability is now understood for what it is: another expression of corporate power.

In a recent policy statement, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission acknowledged that recovery in the past was not a priority, but that it would certainly be now.

Among the supporters of the right to recovery is Steve “Woz” Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. “We would not have had an Apple if I did not grow up in a very open technology world,” he said, referring to the early start of the Homebrew Computing Club business, a group of hobbies in Menlo Park based and that will break down and rebuild computers.

Nowadays, businesses say that shutting down their devices makes things thinner and lighter, and that it provides security due to poor repairs. But we live in an era where most of our devices are thin and light enough. This has been achieved.

“I do not think people necessarily wanted to be thin at the expense of durability and recoverability,” says Kevin Purdy, an iFixIt author and legal representative. “Did someone really say, ‘I’d rather pay $ 1,500 and replace it in two years, than carry an extra 0.6 grams?’ ‘

Still, even if Apple is forced to repair its products more easily, it’s unlikely to extend to Framework. Another question is whether consumers even want such a device.

Previous attempts with highly adaptable or “modular” devices – such as Google’s unfortunate Project Ara phone – have failed. Apple’s one-time motto, “It just works,” is powerful. To which Purdy says Framework’s outfit “does not have to be a laptop that everyone can fix themselves. It does not matter who fixes it, as long as someone can. ”

Dave Lee is the FT’s correspondent in San Francisco

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