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Restart Radio Takeover: Why we repair in the community

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We’re trying something new. Our volunteers are a crucial part of our work at Restart, and frequently appear as guests on our show. This week, and once a month from this week onwards, we hand them the reins. This is a volunteer “takeover”.

Dave Lukes and Ben Skidmore are two passionate tinkerers and repairers who are equally fascinated by the wider ecological and community benefits of repair. They kick off the show by taking us through two noteworthy items of tech news.

First, the reports that electronics retailer Maplin has faced financial troubles and is in talks with buyers, which raises questions about whether any other brick-and-mortar high street business selling electronic components would step in to take its place. Second, the news that Windows 7 and 8 are losing support for two important features: push notifications, and find my phone. Is this a definitive admission from Microsoft that they have lost the smartphone race?

Next, Dave and Ben turn to wider considerations about the upgrade cycle, and the role of community repair. They muse on the pace with which technology has exploded into every corner of our lives: as Dave points out, there is now more computing power in his pocket than there was in the entire world when he was born.

Dave Lukes fixing a radio at the Museum of London Restart Party
Dave Lukes fixing a radio at the Museum of London Restart Party

With a whole range of devices now becoming ‘smart’, the demand for things like memory chips is skyrocketing, and manufacturers simply can’t keep up. This naturally leads to a healthy second-hand market: but is this growth due to the desire not to purchase new, or the desire – quite simply – to purchase?

The role of repair in all this is that of a movement towards longer product lifecycles. But it also has benefits for community cohesion that are far more localised and personal than that.

Finally, Dave and Ben discuss tinkering for tinkering’s sake, and the value of creative hacking of hardware. Sometimes, taking apart a gadget doesn’t need to have any evident benefit at all – it’s enough simply to remind ourselves, occasionally, that we can choose what to do with the devices we own.

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