No user Serviceable Parts Inside? The rise of the Fix-It Culture

[Source: 1950s Television]
My first job out of high school was in a TV shop. I was hired mainly for muscle; this was the early 1980s and we sold a lot of console TVs that always seemed to need to be delivered to the third floor of a walk up. But I also got to do repair work on TVs and stereos, and I loved it. Old TVs from the 60s and 70s would come in, with their pre-PCB construction and hand-wired chassis full of terminal strips and point to point wiring that must have been an absolute nightmare to manufacture. We’d replace dodgy caps, swap out tubes, clean the mechanical tuners, and sometimes put a new picture tube in  – always the diagnosis that customers dreaded the most, like being told they’d need a heart transplant. We kept those old sets alive, and our customers felt like they were protecting their investment in their magnificent Admiral or Magnavox console with the genuine – and very, very heavy – walnut cabinet.

I managed to learn a lot from my time as a TV repairman, and I got the bug for keeping things working well past the point which a reasonable person would recognize as the time to go shopping for a new one. Fixing stuff is where I really shine, and my house is full of epic (in my mind, at least) repairs that have saved the family tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Dishwasher making a funny noise? I’ll just pull it out to take a look. You say there’s a little shimmy in the front end when you brake? Pull the car into the garage and we’ll yank the wheels off. There’s basically nothing I won’t at least try to fix, and more often than not, I succeed.

I assumed that my fix-it bug made me part of a dying breed of cheapskates and skinflints, but it appears that I was wrong. The fix-it movement seems to be pretty healthy right now, fueled in part by the explosion in information that’s available to anyone with basic internet skills.

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FBI tracking device found; disassembled

[ifixit] has apparently grown tired of tearing apart Apple’s latest gizmos, and their latest display of un-engineering has a decidedly more federal flair. You may have heard about Yasir Afifi’s discovery of a FBI-installed tracking device on his car back in October of last year. Apparently, the feds abandoned a similar device with activist Kathy Thomas. Wired magazine managed to get their hands on it, and gave it to ifixit to take apart. There’ve even posted a video.

The hardware itself isn’t that remarkable, it’s essentially a GPS receiver designed before the turn of the century paired with a short range wireless transceiver. The whole device is powered by a set of D-sized lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which should be enough juice to run the whole setup for another few decades–long enough to outlast any reasonable expectations of privacy, with freedom and justice for all.

Peering in a the A4, the iPad’s brain

Sure, tearing down devices to see what components are in there is fun. But tearing down the components themselves is even more fun. iFixit sent off their iPad guts to be laid bare after they were done with their iPad teardown. We’ve seen pictures of stripped chips in the past, but the work that Chipworks is doing for iFixit is quite amazing. Get the skinny on just about every part in there from the package markings and the die photos provided in their analysis.

The iPad has already been rooted, but you never know what power can be unlocked if you know what you’re working with. We’re thinking of the 50MHz to 100Mhz oscilloscope hack.

iPad teardown

Its been quite a while since we’ve featured something from iFixit. But when we saw they had torn apart the next greatest Apple product, the iPadreleased today, and how everyone on our team loves it, we thought why not also let our user base enjoy the destruction informative teardown as well.

In both the original and the FCC teardown, we see some awesome features and tricks Apple implemented. Most notably the two separate 3.75V lithium polymer cells, not soldered to the motherboard, allowing users to easily replace the battery if need be. However, in the opposite respect, more components than ever are being epoxied to the board, making the iPad much more rugged.

We’re left wondering, with everyone able to see the beautiful insides, does it change anyone’s mind on getting an iPad? Or would you rather make your own?

iFixit licenses manuals under Creative Commons

Yesterday, announced that they are releasing all of their manuals under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. The site has long been an abundant source of tear-down photos for hardware and has been gaining momentum as the go-to source for Apple hardware repair information. With the move to Creative Commons, the gates are open to distribute and improve upon the site’s content. There are even plans in the works to host user-submitted improvements (something akin to a wiki?) to the guides but there are not yet any details. The news also includes mention of forthcoming support for translated guides around the end of 2010.

The Hackaday crowd would rather fix things than throw them away. As iFixit moves past Apple products to a wider range of repair manuals and starts working collaboratively with users, we hope to see an explosion of detailed tips, tricks, and guides to keep our stuff working better, longer.

Nikon Coolpix S1000pj (teardown)


Earlier this year, Nikon released the Coolpix S1000pj, a 12 megapixel point and shoot with the usual features, including image stabilization, face recognition, etc. However, the S1000pj features a built in projector into the usual diminutive point and shoot footprint, and also comes with a remote for controlling the projector in display mode, or for remote shooting. iFixit has gotten a hold of the unit, and detailed the difficult teardown process, which included component desoldering to get the extremely compact system completely apart. It is also interesting to compare this setup to other stand alone pico-projectors we have covered.

PSP Go gets butchered (teardown)


Not due to be released until the beginning of October, a PSP Go demo unit (shipped to G4TV) has already earned itself a teardown from [iFixit]. Among what was discovered:

– Once a few screws are removed, the battery is user replaceable (as-in: no soldering iron required)

– Wireless connectivity is only supplied through a 802.11b chip (no update to ‘n’, or even ‘g’, by Sony)

– Almost all chips are EMI-shielded (making them a bit more annoying to get to)

With a cheaper version of the PS3 ready to hit shelves, one can only wonder whether the relatively high price tag on this new PSP is worth it.

Update: It seems as though no party involved wanted the info leaked this early, which explains why the video and picture gallaries (up courtesy of Google) have been removed.

Update 2: The article (linked above) and video are now available. An explanation on why Sony had them remove the items for quite some time (plus some repair manuals) was posted by iFixit.