The recently released new Apple Macbook caused a minor stir recently when iFixit took one apart and found that it was so tightly integrated that nothing could be easily repaired by an enthusiastic techie, the memory was soldered to the board, the SSD storage was custom and even the battery was glued in so if any of these failed it would be an expensive repair and in addition upgrading was out of the question. All of this was in the name of making the laptop thinner and shinier.
The same is true of cars where less and less can be fixed or tinkered with on the nations driveways and garages start to look more like F1 pitlanes. More and more of our world relies on modular electronics in smaller and smaller packages, sealed (often due to the complexity of their components) and the only option on failure is to replace the whole thing, repairing no longer involves a soldering iron and screwdriver but a laptop and a plug and play black box.
So it gave me some satisfaction to actually be able to get my hands dirty and fix something for a change tonight. My bike’s rear deraileur has been playing up recently, refusing to change into higher gears. This may have been its attempt to improve my health (pedalling faster burns more fat, apparently) or it may have been trying to make me look silly or kill me, whatever it was I needed to get it sorted – engineering’s in the family and this bit of engineering was not gonna get the better of me.
The cable was slack but not broken, but when I pushed the mechanism into the higher gears the chain became slack. A short period of pushing the arms up and down to identify the cause of the slackness revealed an adjustment screw pointing into thin air and adjusting nothing. A brief period of what we used to call “passive maintenance” with a hammer to realign the bracket and a new machine screw later all was tensioned again and I’m again calling the shots as to which gear I want to use.
I have a toolbox and I’m not afraid to use it.