Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What You Can Do « The Story of Electronics

I watched What You Can Do « The Story of Electronics, an online short movie about how manufacturer's 'design for the dump' instead of for continued use. If you've ever tried to get a piece of electronic equipment repaired, you'd quickly understand that, as the bench fee (the fee just to put it on their bench, and before they begin charging hourly labor costs) tends to be somewhere in the $50-$75 range. Buying a new unit is cheaper, and the old unit frequently goes to the local landfill ... or if someone is ecology-conscious, they dispose of it through special recycling programs.

For years, I've hoped to see, for example, manufacturer's of TVs make them more modular, sort of like PCs are a bit modular. With a PC you can either use the basic sound capabilities that are built in to the motherboard, or you can add anything from a basic sound card to one that can mimic how the audio should sound based on the setting in which one might be listening (arena, theatre, etc.). You can either use the motherboard's built-in video, or you can buy a card that displays video in more colors, better screen resolutions, on more than one monitor simultaneously, etc. My point is, my PC is modular and I can add additional functionality merely by adding another card, more memory, another or a bigger hard drive, a different processing unit, etc.

Other electronic items that we buy should also be more modular. Take a TV as an example. I should be able to buy a basic model at one of several standard screen sizes. Each model should have a number of slots in which I can add additional capabilities. Like PCs, some might have more slots than others (a 720p TV might have fewer, whereas a 1080p might have more; or 32" models might have fewer slots/add-on capabilities than 65" models).  My point is, that I should be able to add additional functionality to my basic TV like:
  1. Internet access to certain online media (a number of new TVs are coming out with that now),
  2. A cable tuner card (to eliminate having to have that cable box), 
  3. A satellite tuner card (to eliminate having to have either a DISH/DirecTV box), 
  4. A DVD/BlueRay player (to eliminate having to have a separate box to view DVDs/BlueRay disks), 
  5. A card reader unit (to enable viewing pictures/video from all those other cards, vidcams, etc.), 
  6. A DVR unit with an e-sata pop-out hard drive (so when one gets full, you can pop in another one, or so you can play those movies on your laptop or PC as well), 
  7. A home network module that links your home PC network to your PC so you can access various media on your network from your PC.
  8. A video camera unit capable of making a skype audio/video call to friends and family.
I'm sure there are may more things more of you could imagine as well.  The manufacturer's just need to come up with a standard that could be used for the 'add-ins' ... and then they could stop designing for disposal and start designing for continued use and easy upgrade.

I hope you'll take the time to watch What You Can Do « The Story of Electronics, it's great food for thought not just for gadget geeks, but for all of us.

1 comment:

Desert Beacon said...

Amen! I have a box of "stuff" ready to add to the Electronics pile at the county recycle center... some of which was, as you note, cheaper to replace than to repair!