The demise of Tinkering, Take 2

I’ve lamented before the disappearance in our time of the Tinkerer, that fix-everything general technology expert of ages past. I ran into a demonstration of how far he’s gone the other day when shopping online for a new bluetooth hands-free cellphone car kit (my old one conked out, and fixing it would of course have cost more than buying new – another sign of our times).

I found on Amazon the Motorola T305 Bluetooth Speaker, and dug into its customer reviews. Turns out it has excellent audio quality, but there was a recurring complaint: people hated its big, intense blue light, which at night would blink very distractingly at the edge of the driver’s field of vision. Motorola Bluetooth Handsfree speaker model T305

The discussion among reviewers was about whether the blue light was terribly distracting, mildly distracting, or maybe you could get used to it after a while. What amazed me is that none of the reviewers I read (admittedly, only a sample of almost 300 of them) had done the obvious thing – solve the problem by tinkering with the device. This could be done in two minutes, tops: all you’d need is to cover the light with a sticker, which can be cut to measure from paper, or some masking tape, or – if you’re so inclined – a thin gold foil with inlaid silver patterns. Anything opaque to light would do. Or if you still want to see the light, but at lower intensity, you could punch a small hole in the sticker, or use a semi-transparent dark material instead of tape. Once you did that you’d have the great sound quality and none of the annoyance.

The fact that this obvious idea never occurred to anyone is disturbing indeed. We’ve become so accustomed to ready made products that the notion of improving them to serve us better is entirely gone! 🙁

1 Response to “The demise of Tinkering, Take 2”


  1. 1 Cynthia Young

    I absolutely agree, tinkering is not something most people do, when it was so common to solve everyday problems with one’s own personal inventiveness.

    My theory is that this situation is due to two cultural developments. 1) The tinkerer/invetor is not viewed as a heretic anymore. For the most part, innovation is publicly condoned. And 2) Now that tinkerers are condoned by society they have been institutionalized, which means people who aren’t professional designers will get “someone else to do it” for them.

    Perhaps the recessionary times will compel more people to return to tinkering now that home budgets are shrinking. When you talk with someone who grew up in the 1930’s, she will say how everyone recycled, reused, and tinkered with what they had before even considering buying something new.

    Thanks for the post!

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