I interrupt my regular Tech Enabled Entrepreneur blog for a short rant. I must profess that I love the digital world, and all the great things that it brings us – including the ability for me to talk to friends in Europe and Australia without breaking the bank, to play games with other friends in equally distant parts of the world and to see TV that sometimes looks better than real life.
All that is fine. But in both my business profession and my personal life, nothing is worse than when there is even a slight digital breakdown. Because digital data is essentially a collection of on/off data… broken down as “0” or “1” in the digital language it means things either work or they don’t work. Unlike with many analog devices we don’t get a “it’s breaking” warning, things just stops working.
I bring this up because my SLR digital camera won’t auto-focus. I need to take this camera to a trade show next week, and basically it isn’t working. OK, the manual focus works but I really need the auto-focus. In fairness if this was a 35mm film SLR I wouldn’t have an auto-focus, but I’ve come to rely on it. It isn’t working and I’m basically left in a lurch. The kicker is that the camera is only about a year old.
Last fall I similar experience when I had to replace my LCD TV, which was 13 months old. A bad chip – a part that probably cost about $2 – knocked out a $3,000 TV, making it virtually impossible to repair. A friend mentioned a similar problem with his two-year old LCD computer monitor. I told him, “You might as well store it on the curb, because these small parts are cheap but replacing a bad chip can end up costing more to repair the device than it would to just buy a new one.”
And I should add that one of my many computers also decided to call it quits after my recent move. Another bad chip on the motherboard means an otherwise perfectly good PC is dead. At least in this case I could recycle the case, reuse the hard drive, possibly salvage the video cards… but after doing some checking I found that a new PC isn’t that expensive. I’ll save the monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers but I’m not bothering with the rest. It is easier, and more cost effective for me to buy a new computer instead! So while many of the parts are usable I’m not going to bother even trying. Nor would most people.
So how did we get to this point where devices either work perfectly or are completely useless? And why is that one small part can make an otherwise perfectly good device unusable? On the one end I keep hearing about efforts to recycle and reuse. But most digital devices can’t affordably be repaired. Worse, the recycling costs so much money that it isn’t worth it. That means to me that you can bike it to work for a month, reuse the same canvas bag instead of plastic when shopping and compost all your biodegradable rubbish – but you still can’t make up for the environmental impact of one single broken LCD TV!