On Saturday I went biking around San Francisco. It was a mild sunny day and I took lots of pictures of graffiti on Folsom and Howard. I was looking forward to sharing them with you, but my camera broke. The lens won't retract and I can't turn it on or off (to get it into picture-downloading mode). Whenever I try it beeps at me and shows "E18" on the display.
I looked it up on the internet and it turns out this is a *very* common problem with Canon digital cameras. For the sake of google, let me emphasize:
CANON E-18 ERROR BEWARE DO NOT BUY SHODDY LENS WON'T RETRACT POWERSHOT A-70 SUCKS!
Now with that being said, I have to admit I did get two years of good use out of this camera. But it got me thinking. My phone broke recently too-- the LCD screen stopped working and T-Mobile claims this is "physical damage" and thus isn't covered by warranty. I spent some time arguing with them about what *other* type of damage there is-- psychic damage? ineffable aesthetic damage?-- but to no avail.
In both cases, with the phone and computer, it costs so much to get fixed that I might as well just buy a new one. And this is pretty much how it goes for all kinds of electronics in our modern age. Companies have incorporated planned obsolence into their business plans, but they also sell you items knowing that they'll break and you'll have to get them replaced. When the ipod first came out Apple didn't even sell replacement ipod batteries!
But here's what I'm wondering. While it's true that stuff ain't made to last no more, it also seems true that more people have access to more technology than ever before. Lots of people own digital cameras, and it seems like almost everybody owns a cellphone. Is shoddy craftsmanship and unrepairability the price we pay for (relatively) cheap high tech made available to the masses? If cameras and cellphones were built to a much higher standard, would anybody be able to afford them?
I guess in the end companies do whatever they think will make the most money, and consumers like me continue the cycle by purchasing. I don't want shoddy merchandise but I do want a working camera and phone, and I'll probably end up buying new ones despite my misgivings. But I'm definitely going to write to Canon & T-Mobile, and more importantly to buy different brands this time around. If anyone has camera or phone suggestions, drop me a line. I was on T-Mobile before because they have good 1-year contracts, and most everybody else wants you for two. 2 years?! I'm not gonna fucking marry my cellphone company. Do they want a ring and champagne?
Since my camera's not on warranty and it's so expensive to fix, I'm thinking about trying to disassemble it and clean it myself. On the other hand, the
scary, dodgily translated internet guide to disassembling your Canon makes it sound only slightly less complicated than building a functional nuclear reactor in your bathtub. "Preserve screws well!!" indeed. Maybe I can get my brother to do it.