How many M.I.T. engineering Ph.D.s does it take to repair a dishwasher? In the case of a balky Maytag at Eric Wilhelm’s house in Oakland, Calif., one doctorate sufficed. After a plastic wheel on the dishwasher’s upper rack broke off of its assembly, Wilhelm faced a classic consumer conundrum. The same plastic part had broken and been replaced three times—and now the warranty had ended. Considering this history and Wilhelm’s mounting frustration, repairing the 3-year-old appliance seemed marginally less logical than buying a new one.
Yes, we live in a throwaway society. But a growing band of old-school tinkerers and new-school modders are rediscovering the joy of fixing what’s broken.