When I first got to Washington to start my new job, I had to look all freshly scrubbed and nicely attired. And I was…except for my shoes. I walk with purpose, and my shoes look like I walk with purpose. To the outside observer they might also looked old and scuffed. But these were nice shoes (Nunn & Bush), so I certainly wasn’t going to throw them away. The only other option was to fix them. What they needed was to be re-stained (or dyed or whatever it’s called).
For about three seconds I considered doing it myself, then I pulled out my iphone and began to look for a cobbler. Yes, a cobbler. That word evokes images of an old Danish man dressed in a frock and hunched over a table, pounding tiny nails into the sole of a leather boot. As I typed cobbler into google maps, I wondered how far I would have to drive to find one.
There were three in downtown Everett. Apparently, people in Everett still take their shoes in to get repaired.
So I took my shoes in for their tanning (or dyeing or whatever) where I had to wait in line to get served. A line. At a cobbler’s. Who was neither old nor hunched. Nor Danish, for that matter. Bottom line: $25 bucks for both shoes. When I picked them up they looked like new. Which is a big savings compared to actually buying them new for $85 a pair.
This event got me to thinking (as pretty much every event does; it’s the philosopher in me): what if we applied the cobbler methodology to other things, like computers? First, let me explain what I mean by cobbler methodology. It’s simply this: just because something is old, worn, or even broken doesn’t necessitate throwing it away. It can be fixed, often to look and feel like new; sometimes it can even be made better than the original.
What if Apple took up this methodology? (I’m using them as an example for a few reasons: a) they’re super geekilicious; b) their new laptops are cut from a solid block of aluminum, making them very durable; c) they’re rapidly adopting green production methods). Instead of designing their computers to allow for minimal expansion, modification, or replacement, they could make them modular and significantly upgradable. Then, instead of buying a whole new laptop every time there’s an advance in, say, processor speeds, you just take it to your neighborhood Apple Store and have one of their icobblers swap out the processor for a new one. No need to waste all of those precious materials by tossing out the whole unit. Just adopt the cobbler methodology and extend the useful life of a resource-intensive product by years, maybe decades.
I realize that this is a return to the way that many computers (mostly PCs) used to be made. In fact, some still are made this way. The difference is the way in which it’s done. Formalize it; standardize it; coolifize it. Make a statement while making a positive change for our planet.
How’s that sound, Apple? You in?