I Now Understand The DIY Boom

So far, in the past month, I have taken apart a PS4 controller, a Nintendo 64, two Super Nintendos, a wireless headset (three times), a blender, my computer (which is probably a lot less impressive than the rest considering I’m the person who built it in the first place), and a backpack, on top of all the things I take apart at my workplace as part of my day-to-day work. I managed to put everything back together correctly, and fix all of the problems I was trying to diagnose aside from the PS4 controller. I managed to diagnose the issue with the PS4 controller, but I would have had to take it apart even further and I just don’t have those tools on hand at home. I’d need to bring it into work and, since I’ve already replaced the controller, I feel a lot less urgency when it comes to getting that particular problem solved. I also managed to achieve my goal with the backpack, which was to free up the straps and a bunch of heavy-duty fabric so I could use them to create a modified carrying case for my video game consoles, since I’ve got a bunch of spare padded briefcases/laptop bags I’ve accumulated as a part of various promotions and mobile computing purchases I’ve made over the years that weren’t quite the right size or shape for video game consoles.

Most of these projects were fairly simple. The N64 needed to be cleaned (the cartridge reader was dirty and causing problems as a result), so that was a simple job. The Super Nintendos needed to be combined since they both had simple but significant issues (one’s power port had come loose, so I couldn’t power it on and the other’s video port had been glitching out in a way that made me think it was either dirty or loose), so that took only a few hours, most of which was me obsessively checking online tutorials so I could make sure I didn’t mess anything up. The PS4 controller had consistent joystick drift and while I wasn’t able to fix that, I was able to determine that I’d need to take the joystick entirely apart or replace it with a new joystick in order to fix the issue, so at least I know what to do next time. The wireless headset needed a minor repair to the mic (repair one), to be deep-cleaned and all of the worn-out vinyl removed (repair two) and to have some wires reconnected because the audio in the right speaker has been flickering in and out (repair three).

The backpack thing was a mixture of boredom and a “can I do this?” fact-finding mission. I don’t need a fancy carrying case for my consoles, much less a ghoulish looking bag amalgamation, but now I have one and I’m certain that I possess the skills required to potentially entend the life of the satchel I’ve been using almost daily for the last seven or eight years. The computer was routine cleaning and a reminder of my various open ports on my motherboard since I’m considering adding a third monitor and I’d want to replace my video card if I went for it. I haven’t touched a thing (other than a RAM upgrade/replacement in 2018) on that old beast since I built it back in 2016, so it is overdue for some upgrades. Nowhere near as intense-feeling as the other disassembly and repair jobs, but still a part of the effort I’ve been making over the last year to find ways to repair or otherwise extend the life of the things I own rather than replacing them.

I’m not quite to the extent of trying to go zero-waste, but I’ve become increasingly conscious of electronic waste that I and others like me produce (people living in consumption-centric economies with little regard for the waste produced). After all, if a decent flat-screen TV now costs barely one hundred bucks, the old trashy little flatscreen TV I’ve had since I went to college in 2009 must be worth nothing. Which makes it incredibly tempting to just toss it and get a bigger one to fill my completely unnecessary and unsused third-TV slot in my apartment. Which is, uh, in my closet. On a shelf. Unplugged. Pretty much only gets used when I went to play SNES games since it’s the right size and with the right lack of defined pixels for older games like that, which is also a good reason to keep it since old games look worse on newer TVs with higher definition than older ones.

Regardless, it also just feels good to be able to fix stuff. I get why people work on their cars. It feels great to know there’s a problem, figure it out, and then fix it. I just don’t have the patience for car stuff since I’m not interested in it in the slightest. I’m at least sort of interested in electronics, video game consoles, and computers, so I can leverage that to push myself into learning more about how one might maintain them. Most of my other repair skills have to do with home maintenance, and that’s not really something I get to use a lot living in apartments the way I do. Landlords get a little angry at you if you’re doing your own repairs instead of notifying maintenance that the ceiling’s leaking again and, like, I couldn’t fix that problem even if I wanted to since it’s in either another apartment or the roof of my building. I could definitely remove the moldy and stained plaster from my ceiling, but I couldn’t stop the leak unless I got really lucky and the water is coming in through one tiny little spot rather than seeping in through where the upper apartment’s wall/floor meets my wall/ceiling.

It just feels nice to be able to exercise skill and control over something in my life by solving a persistant problem, even if it’s mostly a minor one. Most of my problems aren’t issues I can solve with a couple hours of earnest effort and internet research, so I’ll admit that these much smaller ones give me a much-needed chance to feel like I actually control my own life a little bit.

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