Getting A Tune-Up For An Old Timey Radio

“Iconoclastic economist Herman Daly helped popularize the term ‘steady state economics.’ … [A]t its essence steady state economics is a closed loop system that mimics nature in that it does not need new inputs or materials to keep running. It runs at a steady state and doesn’t grow lest it overshoot the carrying capacity of the natural resources on which it depends. Repair, repurposing, and recycling are what make the system work.” – Stet Hollbrook in Make Magazine

I get my first glimpse of the inside of a radio.

I fall into that gray area between “worrisome hoarder” and “worried environmentalist” when it comes to dealing with STUFF. My floor fan that blows as much air as a kitten could breathe onto you? Not dead yet! My grandparents’ little radios from the 1950s? Sentimental and retro! But having a lot of STUFF, especially stuff that isn’t working well, is a bummer. After years—literally years!—of knowing about this group called The Fixers Collective, who meet monthly to tinker with broken stuff, I managed to get myself coordinated enough to bring two old radios and a rotating floor fan to one of their Thursday evening sessions.

I was probably there for three hours. You might say that’s a lot of time to get some electronic appliances repaired, but I promise you I would have spent as much time trying to find a repair shop and schlepping there and back. Plus, this way I got to see the magic that happens behind the (plastic) curtain!

I asked the curly-haired, skateboarding young guy working on my fan how he got involved in this unglamorous volunteer gig and he said he “just liked doing it.” Another gal about my age with very Etsy-chic style seemed to have an art/design background.

At a very pleasant evening’s end, they had cracked the mystery of my very cantankerous fan and had it finally blowing at a proper speed. But it still wouldn’t rotate. The radios were really fun to look at and play with, and I got to lend my fingers to the task, holding this or that in place while others tinkered. I left with both radios seeming to work better (they used to lose their connection to the stations at the slightest nudge or breeze) and a sense of relief similar to when you finally get that dentist’s appointment over with.

Then, just this week, Vincent, who oversaw the whole evening, sent me an email saying that he had a knob belonging to one of my radios, and that Make Magazine had written an article about them! See Make Magazine’s article on the Fixers Collective and the stubborn niche of people who refuse to go along with planned obsolescence. 

I don’t wish any of my things to break, but if they do, I’ll be excited to get them fixed.


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