Getting Inside Our Gadgets: The Need For The Teardown

Getting Inside Our Gadgets: The Need For The Teardown

The desire to find out what's hidden beneath the slick, impenetrable screens of our devices has a long history, and interesting motivations.

Dory Carr-Harris, PSFK
  • 1 april 2011

What is our growing obsession with seeing inside the technical devices that run our lives? Is the fact that most of us really have no idea¬†how these little bits of plastic and metal meld together to create the gadgets that we can’t live without? Perhaps it is because they have come to play such a crucial and controlling role in our lives, that opening them up, dissecting them, rendering them powerless helps us to reaffirm our dominance over technology.

There’s also a growing resentment against the tech industry giants that force consumers to buy constant upgrades, and pay for a ton of simple maintenance that could easily be done with a little DIY magic, except that there are no manuals available to give you a hand. Apple apparently uses legal threats to keep their manuals beyond public access.

Popsci has a very comprehensive write up that delves into these issues, and gives the entire history of the teardown: our quest to see within.

From the article:

It has become inevitable. A day or two after a high-profile gadget hits stores, two stories pop up on the gadget blogs, the tech sites and magazines: A review, and photos of the gadget taken apart, most often courtesy of a website called iFixit. The latest and most evolved actor in the storied history of “teardowns,” iFixit is the logical conclusion of the entire idea of stripping a gadget down to its barest components, photographing and disseminating the findings. An iFixit teardown is at once a 21st-century repair manual, a work of art, an exhibition of a curiosity, and an activist gesture.


iFixit was established in 2003 in a dorm room at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a smallish college town in California’s central coast, by students Kyle Wiens and Luke Soules. Wiens repaired Apple computers in high school and had been a lifelong tinkerer, so when he accidentally dropped his iBook G3, breaking the power cord housing, he figured it’d be an easy fix. “I managed to get my computer apart, fixed the power plug, but could not get it back together for the life of me,” he says. “I needed a manual, but Apple actually uses legal threats to keep their manuals out of the public domain.” Despite his frustration, or maybe because of it, Wiens saw a problem to which he could provide a solution.

Popsci¬†“The History of the Teardown: The Need to See Our Gear Undressed”


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