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Apple, always a trailblazer: Apple wrote the script when it came to planned obsolescence. From the first baby brick-shaped iPod, you couldn’t replace the batteries or even open the thing without risking the rights to your firstborn. That replacing, rather than repairing, has become the norm isn’t by accident. Apple has lobbied for years to maintain tight control of the repair market for its devices. Now, iPhone users shell out more than $100 for a cracked screen.
Right to Repair: The movement for consumers to be able to fix their own possession, or right to repair, touches on everything from smartphones to farm equipment. More appliances and tools run on software these days, from coffee makers to cars, and companies are using copyright protections to prevent consumers from modifying and repairing their own stuff.
I’m sorry, the OS on your tractor is out of date: John Deere and other farm equipment companies have taken the repair restrictions to new heights. Tractors and other farm equipment also use sophisticated software, and Deere and others have limited the extent to which farmers can tinker with these essential agricultural tools. Recently, the powerful California Farm Bureau agreed to limits on what farmers can do to their own combines, tractors and other equipment.
The manufacturers have agreed to offer up manuals and other diagnostic tools, but are playing hardball when it comes to access to the software, reprogramming engine and other system computers. Which is like telling someone to bake a cake by giving them the ingredients and recipe, but no pan or oven.
Are we headed for upgrade purgatory? Farmers are frustrated, and they’re not alone. Right to repair laws have been extremely popular with voters (one in Massachusetts passed in 2012 with 86 percent of the vote), and the legislation is spreading. California, where John Deere just scored its big win, introduced an electronics right to repair act in the spring.