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Restart Radio: Hackney Fixers’ laptop repair and reuse project

Hackney Fixers at Lauriston School

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On our first radio show back for the new season, Ugo is joined by James Diamond from Hackney Fixers. They talk about the laptop repair and reuse project that Hackney Fixers are undertaking to benefit the community. Over the last few months, it has become even clearer that we need to support those without the necessary access to electronics and the internet. Many community repair projects have taken it upon themselves to do something about it. We hear how. 

False alarm over right to repair

Before our interview, we take a look at some recent news stories involving the movement and our electronics ecosystem. In Massachusetts, The Alliance for Automotive Innovation has funded an advert against the right to repair for independent vehicle repair. Their claim is that a new proposition, aimed at expanding right to repair for independent mechanics, would make data collected by cars vulnerable to interference from stalkers and predators. This sends a very emotive warning to supposed potential victims. Ugo and James agree this is a scaremongering technique. Instead, they question the motives of those disrupting progress on the right to repair and the interests that back them. 

How sustainable are our supply chains?

We then look at the European Commission’s recently announced plans to create domestic supply chains for lithium and other raw materials. 93% of the magnesium currently used in EU products is sourced from China and this is not an anomaly in the way that our current – particularly electronics – supply chains operate. Ugo and James discuss what the solutions to these concerns could be. While the EU are planning to open more mines in Europe, they stress that the focus should be shifted towards sustainability and reuse in order to conserve these materials. 

Staying connected

James tells us how the pandemic has impacted Hackney Fixers, preventing them from running their Restart Party events, quintessential to their identity. These difficulties are something that we are sure all community repair groups have felt throughout the last few months. Recently though, Hackney Fixers have been spending time using their skills to refurbish laptops to donate to those in need. James tells us about how they started their collaboration with Mer-It, an Islington-based community project, and the effect that it has had on those who they have helped so far. 

Repair and reuse to enhance inclusion

During the pandemic, many of us have been pushed online – even more so than we already were. While this may not have been so problematic for some, for those who do not have their own computer or internet connection this has been a major barrier to their lives. Across all generations, the closure of communal spaces, schools, and workplaces has exposed the inequalities in access to what could be considered an essential resource. This is why the work that community repairers are doing to increase access is so vital. James emphasises that this need will continue even now that school is back in session. 

We also take a chance to express again how important it is to combat barriers to repair. During this time it is ever more important that people are able to repair, and that manufacturers reduce software and hardware barriers. This will help us stay connected and access the resources we need. To round out our discussion, James tells us about some unexpected repairs and his renewed belief that further life and utility can be found in even the least promising looking devices. 

Hackney Fixers are not currently looking for new donations, however they may start accepting them in later months. In the meantime, check out our database of UK projects to find out where you can donate your old devices!


[Photo courtesy of Hackney Fixers]

0 responses

  1. In response to the question about what we’ve learned about repair I’d like to add that most computers are pretty easy to repair. Parts are pretty easy to get and the most common parts we sourced during the project were memory upgrades (typically £10-15), batteries and chargers (typically £15-£20). There’s a lot of help and advice online, eg Restart Wiki and iFixit, and manufacturers websites often have manuals, device drivers and upgrades you can download for free. A set of small screwdrivers will suffice for many jobs.

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