Sunday, July 20, 2008

Makers and the Owner's Manifesto

My family didn't buy a lot of stuff, but they saved to buy good stuff, then kept things forever. Long time readers of this blog know that we finally bought a new washing machine last year when our 32 year old Maytag gave out and that I was pretty excited to find, a site dedicated to keeping old washers and driers alive.
Our first VW van lasted almost 25 years. Our Sony Triniton television is going on 33 years now - though it's having problems now which means we hardly watch any tv. I still have my Pentax camera that I bought in 1971, though it's been mostly sitting on the shelf since I finally went digital two years ago.

So when I caught this short piece from Day to Day on NPR about Mr. Jalopy my ears pricked up. [Once you get past all the intro stuff (about 1:15) you hear the story.] Everything about the story twitched some critical part of my being.

For example, one of the most visited posts on this blog was inspired by the Victor Lebow quote on how we had to be changed culturally, from humans to consumers. I like things that work, that are made well, that last. So everything about this show felt right.

My time in Thailand over the years has shown me how the rest of the world takes our discards and makes them live again. We've become so disconnected from the source of the things we depend on, that most of us couldn't function if we suddenly had to make our own environments. That's not good. There's nothing wrong with having fantastic technology. But there is something wrong when we have no idea how the things we depend on - food, clothing, shelter, music, transportation, etc. - are created and get to us and where they go afterward.

For all those reasons, I liked this interview. One part of the interviewe covered The Owner's Manifesto which I'm quoting below.


If you can't open it, you don't own it: a Maker's Bill of Rights to accessible, extensive, and repairable hardware.

By Mister Jalopy

The Maker's Bill of Rights

  • Meaningful and specific parts lists shall be included.

  • Cases shall be easy to open.

  • Batteries should be replaceable.

  • Special tools are allowed only for darn good reasons.

  • Profiting by selling expensive special tools is wrong and not making special tools available is even worse.

  • Torx is OK; tamperproof is rarely OK.

  • Components, not entire sub-assemblies, shall be replaceable.

  • Consumables, like fuses and filters, shall be easy to access.

  • Circuit boards shall be commented.

  • Power from USB is good; power from proprietary power adapters is bad.

  • Standard connecters shall have pinouts defined.

  • If it snaps shut, it shall snap open.

  • Screws better than glues.

  • Docs and drivers shall have permalinks and shall reside for all perpetuity at

  • Ease of repair shall be a design ideal, not an afterthought.

  • Metric or standard, not both.

  • Schematics shall be included.

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