Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Keep the receipt



By G.D. Maxwell

I pretty much gave up trying to understand electronics around the time soldering irons became extinct. Yeah, yeah, I know, soldering irons are still around and still have uses. So am I. But neither of us are as useful as we once might have been.

Take a soldering iron to the guts of any malfunctioning electronic device – assuming (1) you can even begin to figure out how to get inside its infuriating, seamless plastic shell and (2) exactly what the guts look like once you’ve broken the plastic to reach them – and you will, more likely than not, accomplish exactly what you set out to do... destroy what ever the thing used to be so thoroughly you’ll be completely justified in going out and buying a new, modern, updated one. After all, the one you just destroyed was at least 18 months old. Chances are good the only reason soldering irons are even sold any more is because they are the perfect tool with which to apply the final death blow to something you’re just itching to replace.

I have been unfortunate enough in my life to accidentally buy several crucial electronic appliances that were surprisingly well put together. Try as I might – and we’re talking about adding a hammer to the task force led by a hot soldering iron – they won’t die and refuse even to be killed by anything less dramatic than a fall from an open window. When you live in a basement suite, that’s not much of a fall.

For example, I have a hulking, geriatric Pioneer stereo receiver/amplifier/food processor still seeing service after several close encounters with a soldering iron. It continues to suffer all the maladies for which I assaulted it with a soldering iron – and sports a couple of interesting burn patterns where, logic having failed, I resorted to torture – but it stubbornly works just enough to make replacing it an irresponsible act of frivolity. I mean, how important is it if the "receiver" module doesn’t actually receive anything when you live in a town with next to nothing to receive? There is a small, portable radio nearby with its own interesting history of attempted repairs that pulls in CBC One which, according to a deal worked out with the CRTC, isn’t allowed to broadcast anything even remotely requiring "hi-fidelity" or stereo capability, so what does it matter?

Perched atop the amplifier/non-receiver is a portable CD player. It could be considered a great-great-great grandmother of today’s portable CD players since it (a) plays CDs, more or less; and (b) can be carried from place to place… carefully. New portable CD players are marvels of technology. They can be slipped into cargo pockets of droopy boarder pants and play perfectly while their wearers perform 1080 methods, Misty 7s, and Skodeos and keep playing while Patrol perform intubations, CPR and compound fracture reductions after their owners screw up the landing.

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