No, officer, it was already dead when I got here.
We have you completely surrounded
We’ve now started the third decade of this century, and miniaturized electronics have taken over the world. Metaphorically, so far. Fortunately for anyone concerned about the rise of SkyNet, none of these electronics seems to have a lifespan longer than an average parakeet, or a small-ish domestic dog at most. The nuclear annihilation of inferior carbon-based lifeforms by a self-aware silicon-based AI will no doubt be delayed indefinitely when when the former forgets to schedule a restart of the latter following the automatic install of Feature Update 9483, resulting in a sudden reboot midway through the trajectory calculations.
Meanwhile, we live like goldfish in a sea of technology. Devices that were once among the simplest things on earth — light bulbs, for example — now have a design schematic on file in a Chinese factory and depend, by degree, on the same supply chains that also bring us televisions. And then, because that isn’t trouble enough, somebody decides to add Bluetooth and WiFi integration.
The e-waste conundrum, and the long arm of the law
All things break, small cheap things often break faster, and repairability is often out of the question. When a commodity fails in regular use, it is usually more efficient to throw away and replace. Indeed, a repair isn’t even desirable in many cases. Nobody glues a broken drinking glass back together unless it’s a family heirloom, and there’s no point trying to fix a fried cell phone charger since the discount store up the block has a replacement available for $8. (Unless it’s a Genuine Apple charger, in which case there’s a mandatory sentencing enhancement.)
Meanwhile, many state or municipal jurisdictions are tightening the laws on e-waste disposal, which becomes downright interesting when, for example, that LED light bulb up and quits. The user may not even realize that the bulb falls under e-waste disposal laws. Can you, our loyal reader, be fined for throwing away that light bulb? Technically, yes, if your local e-waste laws are sufficiently rigid. In practice, unless you’re doing it regularly as a business, or perhaps dumping a truckload of fricasseed flatscreens into the local river in broad daylight, there will likely be no discovery or consequences. That being said, most communities have a location or two designated as suitable for hazardous waste disposal, and some big-box retailers offer in-store collection services for dead cell phones, light bulbs, and other small devices that the average household might need to lose in an average year.
As it happens, we have a different solution, referred to by some as the “reverse Johnny 5″(*): if it dies, disassemble.
(*) Nobody calls it that.
And now, our feature presentation
We had a few electronic failures recently around Chez Vienot, and they spanned a wide range: An older-style Apple iPad charger; a type-A/E27 LED light inside a full-glass bulb; and a GFCI power outlet. Two of these were merely inconvenient to lose. The third item was servicing our household refrigerator, which could have been catastrophic. Fortunately, we were around to discover it before anything spoiled.
Now, for your benefit and ours, we have started a camera while our resident M.E. dissects them, in hopes of revealing their darkest secrets. Join us, won’t you, as we launch into another exciting episode of…Workshop Quick Takes!