Sunday, October 24, 2010

Idea to Lower Cost of Electronics in Appliances

Electronic controls for even very simple home appliances have become the norm. As noted, I am not a fan of this development, because they have several drawbacks, including adding completely unnecessary complexity, and actually reducing useability (hard to beat a big, fat, nicely-weighted dial for setting volume on a stereo; or temperature in an oven). But the biggie is that they are more failure-prone and when they fail, WAY more expensive to repair. Often, an electronics failure effectively "totals" the appliance.

It almost feels like this is a new version of the dreaded, semi-mythical concept of planned obsolescence. If that is truly the case, my idea will never work. But I'm going to assume that is it not the case. So here is my idea.

Commodity electronics and computing power are SO cheap now. It seems like there should be some reasonable way to standardize the electronics to use modular layouts and modular processing capability, so that repairs involve a relatively small number, of relatively inexpensive,  DIY-serviceable standard components.

I guess my rough analogy would be to take the realm of electronic-control design out of the hands of manufacturers, the way Android has taken mobile OS design out of the hands of handset makers. Let the manufacturers focus on the hardware, and most of all, on reliability!

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