Last summer, fourth-generation California farmer Dave Alford showed correspondent David Pogue around his 2004 John Deere tractor.
“Oh, man, it’s like a 747 cockpit over here!” Pogue laughed. “Not your grandfather’s tractor!”
But it was this tractor that caused him grief during last year’s planting season: “I got in the tractor, and it throws an error code up in that readout,” Alford said. “So, I called my dealer. ‘Hey, I’m in a bind.’ And they’re busy and they can’t come just like that.”
He lost two days of farming time waiting for a repair. He’d much rather have just fixed the thing himself. “In agriculture we’re kind of born, raised and bred that we like to fix all of our own stuff,” Alford said. “And that’s about the only way, especially a small family farmer, can make a living.”
“You don’t think of a tractor as high-tech as everything else we have,” said Kyle Wiens, the founder and CEO of iFixit. “But a tractor has a touchscreen in it; it’s got a computer.”
iFixit offers tools, parts and repair manuals for thousands of gadgets. Wiens told Pogue, “There is a special screw on the iPhone that Apple put on there just to keep you out. It’s a special five-pointed screw that no one had seen before the iPhone.”
He said that the big electronics makers try to stop you from fixing your own stuff.
“The manufacturers are cutting off all the things that we need in order to fix things – shortening life spans, and forcing us to go to them to just buy a new one rather than fixing what we already have,” said Wiens.
And why are they doing this? “To increase their service revenues,” he said. “They wanna make as much money fixing things as possible.”
Believe it or not, there was a time when manufacturers advertised how long their products lasted, like Maytag washing machines. But if a 2019 Microsoft laptop model is any indication, those days are over.
Wiens said, “There’s absolutely no way to get this thing open…