So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the right to repair laws that are practically nonexistent in our country. Britain recently passed their right to repair law, but of course, because that’s how these things go, they left out the two biggest concerns of right to repair, namely cellphones and laptops.
Of course they did because lobbyists know that a right to repair law is practically useless without the two biggest players.
I recently saw a Cameo.com video of Apple founder Steve Wozniak advocating the right to repair. It was an amazing video, and I highly recommend y’all check it out. Wozniak talked about how in the old days, back when he started Apple, everything was open source. Appliances like televisions and radios came with a full manual that included all the parts and instructions on how to replace different parts.
In the video, he also talked about how with the old tube televisions, you could open up the back end, remove one of the gas tubes in the back if you suspected it was bad, take it to an electronic shop or even sometimes the grocery store, and test it. If it worked, fine, if it didn’t, then you bought a new tube, and even somebody who was technologically illiterate could put a new tube back in their television.
I remember a while ago our managing editor here at The Paris News, Klark Byrd, talked about how he hated seeing the cracked screens on the cellphones for myself and Mary Madewell. The two of us were just making do until we could buy a new phone, and he said it made his fingers itch to just replace the screen — something he had recently done with his wife’s phone.
I am a minimally technologically literate millennial. That means I do have basic computer skills — I can find files, I can move files, I can send email, I can troubleshoot basic things — the old IT joke, ‘have you turned it off and on again?’ But anything outside the basics, I have to either go to an IT person or check out Senor Google.
These right to repair laws are so important for how we move forward with technology. In his Cameo video, Wozniak says the companies that were open source about their product often did better than those that weren’t. He makes the comparison to the old Ma Bell company, where nobody could mess with anything from Ma Bell, until the government actually finally used its antitrust laws to break up the Bell company. When that happened, there was an explosion in the market of new products, new phones, new answering machines and the works.
I think we’re at this point now with our technology. There needs to be an antitrust reckoning. Too much money is going to lobbyists who then advocate against the right to repair, leaving us stuck with not only the bill to purchase our technology, but also the bill for continued use of our technology and repair and maintenance for our technology. At the end of the video, Wozniak says, “do you own your computer or does the company still own your computer?”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.