This week, Bloomberg's Adam Minter covers an important new front in the battle to repair your stuff. Seems the CTIA (a cell phone group, similar to the Anti-Gray-Market-Alliance) is seeking sponsors for a bill to keep a geek from unlocking a chip so you can use your cell phone with a different carrier.
The cell phone unlocking is an important story. IFIXIT.org has previously sounded the alarm about your right to fiddle around with your used gadgets. And everyone should get to know the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). Very smart, following the core (first use doctrine) for longer than anyone.
Most Poor People are not a threat to most Rich People. The two percent get along great with 90% of the 98%. It is the rapidly rising poor, the ones who have figured something out, and are on a trajectory to compete with the rich, that get smacked. And there's no bigger threat than dirt poor geeks reverse-engineering, copying, innovating, and remarketing materials in competition with Big Electronics. This is where Sony meets its Terry Gou, where HP meets its Simon Lin, where IBM meets its Steve Wozniak. The first born of the emerging markets have a pesky way of becoming rivals to capitalist monarchies.
If the gap between the haves and the have nots is becoming more of an ocean than a gulf, there is a wave of other geographic and historic analogies behind the efforts to repurpose the mountains of electronic stuff piling up in attics and garages.
Lexmark vs. Arizona Cartridge Refurbishers, Fuji vs. Jazz camera, there is a very frightening multi-million dollar lawsuit industry trying to turn patents into extended copyrights. You could do several stories on planned obsolescence, good idea to spread them out and not burn out your editors. It's a Japan and Korea law approach which is incredibly short sighted for Apple to side with.
All the case law goes back to 1860s baling wire and the repair of a downstroke cotton baling machine, by the way. It seems the post-slavery South was having a hard time recovering from the economic adjustments of free labor, and started to repair and fix and re-engineer cotton balers. And the southern plantation farmers began paying freed negros to re-tie baling wire to be used over and over again, cutting the need to purchase it from factories in the North.
|ragpicker wikipedia Italian or Jew?|
As a writer, morality (law violation, or "exploiting" people who need a job by giving them work, or "polluting" people who cannot afford a new flat screen and pay $20 to import a used CRT) being created to protect privilege is a theme that keeps on giving.
You can slice it so many ways. When poor Jewish immigrants landed in New York, they began rag-picking, to re-sew clothing that could be washed and resold. Remember "the poor tailor" from Fiddler on the Roof? Perhaps he becomes the New York Garment District. More likely, he becomes the Jewish cotton scrapper, employing the city "rag pickers" that controlled the stocks of scrap for the paper mills using cotton fiber. That led the immigrant Jews into scrap paper. Later, poor Italians and Sicilians arrived in New York, even poorer than the second and third generation Jews, and began fighting over scraps).
Who is behind the counter when you go to have your cell phone unlocked in Paris, New York, Boston or Miami? Immigrants. Africans. Indians. First generation immigrants who bring a repair skill across an ocean of poverty, a skill to fix and repair which the affluent haven't been hungry enough to learn.
The Battle for China's Good Enough Markets is a Peoples War, a war of reuse, repurposing, fixing, tinkering, making do. It's a war of Yankee Ingenuity, of Henry Ford putting salvaged used auto parts back into new vehicles, bringing the cost of Ford cars down to where Ford employees can afford them.
Part 3.5?: It's Called Rag Picking;