Friday, December 15, 2017

Insights from destruction

August 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Be Present, Free and Laughing


I stared at the circa 1984 Canon calculator, trying to decide how to begin the process of pulling it apart. This was my task in a workshop I attended at Mindcamp ( I had chosen the calculator out of a pile of obsolete machines because it looked so basic and simple. I remember well using them in my pre-computer days to crunch numbers. They were state-of-the-art technology then. Now, they seemed so basic and mundane, relics of barely post-Stone Age.

I finally found one screw and started there. OK. What next? I turned the machine over and over. In desperation, about to dash the thing to the floor, I summoned (more like begged) the workshop facilitator. HELP! He obliged and we finally pried open the case. OH MY WORD! What a world this opened up! Hundreds of little pieces intricately and perfectly designed and assembled. The more I dismantled, the more I found to dismantle. And as always happens when your hands are focused on intricate tasks, my mind mulled:

On the brilliance of the pre-auto CAD designers who painstakingly drew the designs by hand. Mistakes would have been erased. Perhaps the entire drawing would have to be redone. All by hand.
The Japanese who made and assembled the parts; for there it was – evidence of long gone Japanese manufacturing competitiveness – the “Made in Japan” label.
The people who designed and built the machines that manufactured the parts. Was child labour used, I wondered, when I saw some of the tiny parts.
All those in a long supply chain who marketed, shipped, distributed, retailed and serviced the machines.

So many people involved in the manufacture and distribution of millions of adding machines. And where were they now? Where had all these people’s labour, intellect and energy ended up? In rubbish heaps all across the world and perhaps even floating in the gyre in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I felt very sobered by this experience.

Spare a moment today for the things you take for granted, and how much effort went into getting it to you. Say a silent “Thank you” to all the people who must have participated in the process. And as you discard, think about where the item will end up and take action to repurpose or dispose of it responsibly and respectfully.

disassembled calculator


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