Reliable and unreliable products

2022-01-31 @Technology

I’ve seen book covers gradually tear off, individual pages come loose, but never before the binding reach such a state of deterioration that my copy of Rayuela split entirely in two along the crease, the two parts barely sustained by scotch tape: a sign of quality reading abuse.

Even if your book binding undergoes similar mitosis, guess what, you’ve still got a readable copy. You might even prefer it this way, especially for the thicker literature. So now voilà Rayuela parts I and II, split midway the particularly delicious chapter 28.

With the books, whatever abuse they undergo: tearing, fading, folding, grease, water impact, etc, you can generally continue to extract words out of those pages.

I thus prefer the tools and find greater appeal in the rigid, simpler mechanics, inexpensive, semi (or mostly) usable, even when broken.

With coffee-prep equipment, for instance, drip coffee makers, espresso machines and tube dispensers, are all (to varying degrees) characteristic of complex machinery, more moving parts, more frequent maintenance, replacement and liability for failure.

Among the simpler alternatives, I even see the Italian Moca break down. Between the water basin, the grounds container, the upper receptor/dispenser, and the lid, the four components ideally must attach and seal the liquid from spill.

I’ve plenty seen the lid come loose, though this less of an issue. However, that precarious bipartite connection between the basin and the upper receptor employs a rubber insulating ring that deteriorates/loosens a time too often, rendering the Moca nearly useless, save for as a mere water-boiling pot. (Sure, these rings are replaceable, but not easily nor everywhere available).

Case point, at my last AirBnb, four out of five Italian Mocas, all of different sizes, served strictly as decorum.

The French Press, on the other hand, employs two components: the glass pot and the upper strainer, none of which I’ve ever seen decommissioned barring direct physical impact: not individually, not as a unit.

But the ridgiest of coffee equipment to which I mainly appeal: the Ibrik, or the plain kitchen pot that simply boils your coffee on the stove: one solid piece nearly immune to damage, save for a loose handle mitigated by strengthening some single screw.

As for coffee grinders, I’ve seen the automatic models occasionally fail, electric components involved after all. Now the retro, manual counterpart I imagine can serve for ages.

One of the inhabitants of my present guest-house employs one of these round-and-round spinning-handle grinders each morning. I timed the procedure: about a minute and twenty/thirty seconds for a single serving of coffee, compared to the typical thirty seconds of an automatic model. On the flip side, you gain in the simpler cleaning/maintenance, increased reliability, and zero electricity dependence.

I’ve long abandoned automatic toothbrushes in favor of the manual: electricity-free (which is great, as the cheap electric models strangely tend to support only one range of voltage, complicated for travel), compact, simpler to clean, immune to most damage, and often cheaper to replace (and acquire) than the mere brush head of the electric model.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t care for cars under most practical scenarios; if at all. However, between the modern - the ultra computerized, abundance of buttons, button engine starter, Bluetooth, GPS, tactile displays, cameras, smart climate control, the curvy space-shuttle aspect and whatever sensors and spyware they employ; and the older, the rugged, the key starter, the machinery feel, the fewer electronics - you know what I opt for.

But that’s a moot point. I don’t wish to drive anywhere but the jungle, the farmland, the pasture, the sahara.

With your smartphones, I tend to notice the similar: replaced every few years, cracked screens, other dysfunctions from faulty, constantly modified software components (or poor usage), extravagant prices frequently paid for these omnipotent inhibitors of liberty, as I shall hence classify them.

Anyone who’s followed me a while probably no longer cares for my cell-phone rants. So skip a few paragraphs.

My Blackberry Curve, purchased used in 2012-13, still serves. With the traditional BB internet services long defunct, the simple and static OS results in a continuously and predictably functioning device respecting just the classic functions of a phone, SMS messenger (and MP3 player).

I’ve dropped the device aplenty, yet the screen remains perfectly intact. Maybe the silicon case makes all the difference? Do people just refuse to invest a few bucks in a phone case? Or is the screen material rigider compared to these tactile machinations?

For the third time, however, one of those tiny keyboard buttons came loose, all of which I’ve glued back with little consequence save for the now heightened press resistance as a result of my ultra-potent glue. But at least parts of these mechanics are glueable. What could you glue back onto your damaged smartphone?

Concerning sheer reliability of music listening apparatus, it takes no great brainpower to devise the following relation:

Any digital music player > CD player > Tape player > Vinyl player.

Now concerning other intangible factors (ie scarcity), you can arguably reverse the above relationship.

I’ve already addressed laptops and tablets a great deal in this writing: Laptops, tablets, raspberries.

In retrospect, if already dealing with complex computerized tools, opt for the variant of greatest modularity: that is, components you can easily and seamlessly exchange and replace - easier than the Italian Moca insulating ring. Avoid the monolithic when possible. Potential cases:

Questions, comments? Connect.