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Top Fixes of 2015

Well 2015 was a great year – we spent less time telling the story of repairs, partly because our podcaster Dave Pickering is doing such an excellent job of this. And we dedicated ourselves to building a tool to calculate our cumulative impact, and generate quantitative data on repairs.

As we “restart” in 2016, we still have some memorable stories to share.

5. Fairphone screen repairs

We love helping repair Fairphone 1 screens, because Fairphone owners are so dedicated to their devices, and because the iFixit guide is good. It is not the easiest repair. We had a Fairphone table at Kentish Town Community Centre in the autumn, with three repairs happening together and people helping each other. Fairphone 1 owners have invested in the organisation that brought us Fairphone 2, the first modular mobile on the market. (Repairing the Fairphone 2 will be the easiest screen repair ever.)

Lesson: repair is so much better when people are dedicated to their devices
 

4. USB replacement on a laptop

This repair challenged the skills of the owner and Restarters. The laptop owner really wanted a broken USB port to work again. The offending USB port casing was soldered in a really tough way to a printed circuit board. Restarter Faraz tells us that the owner brought the right replacement, but “as there were two big solder points holding the case to the board, it took a lot of heat before solder flowed. And then there were four connections at the back that you ideally need to heat all at the same time. We accidentally ripped some of the traces of the board but still managed to fixed it by some fine wire soldered from the pins to a nearby surface mount resistor”. Faraz says that he was really surprised when the repair worked!

Lesson: some repairs may seem really difficult, require risk-taking and challenge our skills, but are possible
 

3. A two-stage keyboard/piano repair

roland keyboard

At one Restart Party, we saw this brilliant old 70s-vintage Roland keyboard where a couple of the keys had gone. Some Restarters opened it up, identified some suspect bulging capacitors (for more on these, see below) which we sadly did not have with us. The tenacious owner of the keyboard brought it back, with the correct capacitors in hand, and some notes. And another Restarter unfamiliar with the case was able to complete the repair, by desoldering and removing the faulty ones and fitting the new ones. We particularly love musical instrument and coffee machine repairs, because the positive results can be enjoyed by all.

Lesson: sometimes multiple trips are needed to complete a fix!
 

2. Victory over TV “badcaps”

Restarter Ten reports that his best repair was identifying and switching out the bad capacitors in an LCD TV, at the Goldfinger Factory. Bulging, bad capacitors affect numerous screens and TVs, and they cost next to nothing. The owner wrote in advance with some details on our Meetup, which allowed us to do some research. It was also an example of good teamwork by our volunteers. We love fixing big TVs because they are very difficult to recycle and have a huge footprint in manufacture. Ten talks about this repair on Restart Radio, starting at 1:16 here:

Lesson: research is the most crucial part of a repair – and teamwork goes a long way
 

1. A vintage device good for a laugh

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Once word got out at Selfridges that we were working on this device, people came to take a look. There are *ahem* mixed opinions on what this was used for and/or intended for. The bottom line is, this 1950s “Pifco Vibratory Massager” has quite a name, at least by today’s standards! Restarter Andrew got it working again. He writes “Fault was that both the live and neutral conductors had broken somewhere in the mains lead (and not just at one end). New mains lead was fitted with the addition of an earth connection to the metalwork as, although the product was not originally earthed, it did not meet today’s requirements for being double-insulated.”

Lesson: part of the fun of what we do is the serendipity and variety of devices – some of which have historical significance

Lastly, for those who are curious, there is plenty of extra reading on these early “massagers” — their cultural and social significance. It’s all fascinating. We’ll leave it at that. For fun, here is an original advertisement:

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2 responses

  1. Pete

    I love the Restart projectand everything you stand for, but this annoyed me.
    Re the USB repair:
    “And then there were four connections at the back that you ideally need to heat all at the same time. We accidentally ripped some of the traces of the board”
    Ever thought of investing in a solder sucker or some desolder braid? That’s what it is designed for, so you don’t have to overheat PCBs and damage tracks when getting inflexible multi-leg parts out. Just a thought.

    1. Faraz

      I think we tried all that, but still found it tricky. The shell of the usb is like a giant heatsink, and is needed to be removed before the 4 wires. I didn’t have any flux that might have helped with the wick.

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