Like any farmer, Guy Mills Jr. has had his share of equipment trouble. In the past, Mills, who grows corn, soybean and alfalfa on his 3,810-acre farm in Ansley, Neb., would have fixed his machinery himself. But like so many essential tools, Mills' equipment has become so technologically complex that he needs outside help when it breaks down. Unfortunately for him, that help can eat up time and money, both of which have been in short supply. "If you have a bad alternator, they connect a computer to your tractor and it tells them the alternator is bad," says Mills, 57.
If you've ever wondered why nobody other than Apple is officially licensed to fix your iPhone, it's because the device titan has locked out everyone else from accessing manuals or spare parts. This pushes small electronics shops to buy used or counterfeit parts of dubious quality. But back in January, five states introduced "right to repair" bills that would force Apple and other device manufacturers to give the public access to proper instructions and components. Surprising no one, tech titans have been lobbying to kill those bills in at least two of those states. According to a report by New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the companies that lobbied against the state's bill include: Apple, Verizon, Toyota, Lexmark, Caterpillar, Asurion, and Medtronic, as well as the Consumer Technology Association (which represents electronics manufacturers).
He then opened his own mechanic shop, but religious persecution persisted. There was no U.S. Embassy in Iran, so in 1987, he and a cousin finally sought political asylum in Lahore, Pakistan, and applied to go to an English-speaking country. Farsi was his native language, but he had always been fascinated with English, especially after listening to the music of Pink Floyd. For that reason, he applied to go to Australia, England, New Zealand or the U.S.
My co-worker, Tracey, held her iPhone like a baby bird with a bent wing. I stared at the dark screen. The device was still on, but stuck between the worlds of being living technology, and a busted iPhone. She explained that while making a phone call shortly after having third-party iPhone screen repair company iCracked replace her shattered iPhone 6 screen, the device made a popping sound, and got really hot in one corner. Then, her screen cracked, and burnt her ear.
Michael Oberdick owns two small gadget repair shops in northwestern Ohio. He and his technicians spend their days at iOutlet replacing busted screens, repairing battered motherboards, and generally making life easier for people who've done something stupid with their gadgets. He found this job far easier just five years ago, when he started repairing phones for friends. Back then, anyone with basic tools, a little patience, and an instruction manual could fix just about anything. But these days, performing all but the most basic repairs requires specialized tools and knowledge that companies like Apple and Samsung guard jealously.