The Woz Backs 'Right To Repair' Reform

from the this-isn't-going-away dept

We've repeatedly noted how the "right to repair" movement has been gaining a full head of steam as consumers, independent repair shops, schools, farmers, and countless others grow tired of corporations' attempts to monopolize repair. Whether it's Sony and Microsoft creating repair monopolies for their game consoles, Apple bullying independent repair shops, or John Deere making it a costly hassle just to fix a tractor, the more companies restrict access to cheap repair, parts, tools, and documentation, the more this movement seems to grow.

We're now reaching an obvious tipping point. The federal government and more than two dozen states have proposed new right to repair laws. The recent Biden executive order also urged the FTC to do everything in its power (which is limited under the FTC Act) to address the problem.

And last week, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak jumped into the fray to point out that after finally studying the issue at length (he insists his "busy schedule" prevented this until now), he's now a big fan of meaningful right to repair reform:

Ironically, the company Woz once founded has proven to be the most obnoxious player on this front. Apple's ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary as are the company's efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can't be refurbished and re-used, harming consumers and the environment alike). The company also routinely lies about what right to reform legislation actually does, trying to conflate its desire to protect revenues with altruistic worries about public safety.

After researching the issue, Woz says he now "totally supports" the right to repair movement and that open-source technology and standards were absolutely instrumental in Apple's early successes and popularity, whether it was their ability to manipulate video input on older TVs, or shipping the Apple I with full design specs so users could tinker with the device once they got it home:

"I do a lot of Cameos, but this one has really gotten to me. We wouldn't have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world."

A broad coalition of companies like Apple have spent the better part of the last five years demonizing reform efforts. These attacks almost always attempt to dress up vanilla greed as some deeper concern about public safety and security (see claims that reform will embolden sexual predators or turn states into dangerous hacker meccas). But a recent bipartisan FTC report showed how the majority of these claims are absolute self-serving bunk, and the more the public understands the benefits of right to repair, the tougher it becomes for companies like Apple to fight upstream against reform.

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Filed Under: right to repair, steve wozniak
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2021 @ 9:43am

    Jimmy Maher on the Apple II:

    When you open an Apple II, you see a lot of slots and a lot of empty space.

    All those slots were key to Woz’s vision of the machine as a hacker’s ultimate plaything; each was an invitation to extend it in some interesting way. Predictably, Jobs was nonplussed by Woz’s insistence on devoting all that space to theoretical future possibilities, as this did not jibe at all with his vision of the Apple II as a seamless piece of consumer electronics to be simply plugged in and used. Surely one or two slots is more than sufficient, he bargained. Normally Jobs, by far the more forceful personality of the two, inevitably won disputes like this — but this time Woz uncharacteristically held his ground and got his slots.

    Lucky that he did, too. Within months hackers, third-party companies, and Apple itself began finding ways to fill all of those slots — with sound boards, 80-column video boards, hard-disk and printer interfaces, modems, co-processor and accelerator cards, mouse interfaces, higher resolution graphics boards, video and audio digitizers, ad infinitum. The slots, combined with Woz’s dogged insistence that every technical nuance of his design be meticulously documented for the benefit of hackers everywhere, transformed the Apple II from a single, static machine into a dynamic engine of possibility. They are the one feature that, more than anything else, distinguished the Apple II from its contemporaries the PET and TRS-80, and allowed it to outlive those machines by a decade. Within months of the Apple II’s release, even Jobs would have reason to thank Woz for their existence.

    Had the Apple II been just another boring computer, the company might not exist today. Some of those other machines, after all, were considerably cheaper, and used the same processors.


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