Peace of Mind

Intelligent Deterrence

Repairability & Upgradeability

Notice: As of May 2024, this product is no longer set up for replacement of parts, or upgrades, by the user.

Heard across a street. Highly intelligent. A bike alarm like no other! $210 CAD. Direct from manufacturer: $120 CAD.

Updated: Saturday 13 August 2022.

It has been a goal of mine to have the M!nder be repairable and upgradeable. That is a _goal_; whether or not that materializes, I cannot be certain. I am a single engineer, without any investor backing, with a new invention as yet unproven in the market, with consumers long unused to the notion of ‘repairing something’.
But. the device, as it has been designed, as of 3 August 2022, is expected to have laid a foundation for that.

The Story of Stuff, and Closed-Loop Manufacturing

Electronic Waste and the Myth of Their Recyclability

The consumer devices which have proliferated over the last half a century are dominated by integrated circuits (ICs). To state the obvious, this has particularly been the case for the past quarter of a century.

And integrated-circuit electronics are not recyclable! Period!

If you’re old enough to remember transistor radios, then you should not be surprised that the building block of _all_ of today’s electronics is the transistor. You open any IC (‘computer chip’), you are likely to find transistors. If you open any phone or computer, there will be billions upon billions upon billions of transistors. They are invisible to you, but they are there. Nearly all of those tiny (or not so tiny) computer chips will contain innumerable transistors, and the CPU (or GPU) will contain billions upon billions.
That’s what the word integrated refers to: Integration of unimaginable amount of electronics into the unimaginably tiniest of spaces.
The entire essence of semiconductor-based electronics is to ‘integrate’ electronics circuits into tinier and tinier spaces. To paraphrase one of my professors at McGill University, a computer is, in essence, billions of switches (i.e. transistors) crammed into a tiny space.
That phone in the palm of your hand, if to be made with 1950s technology, will be at least the size of an aircraft hangar, if not the airport!

This is not an exaggeration.
And its implication is what everyone would rather ignore: Modern electronics are not recyclable. They’re, indirectly, _designed_ not to be.
No, not some conspiracy theory about some evil cabal causing you to generate waste; rather, you like smaller phones, or larger screens, or this and that feature you never knew you ‘needed’. You want it (or you’d be willing to pay for it), so they make it for you.

There may not be anything intrinsically _wrong_ with that. Where it breaks is that neither the manufacturer nor the consumer directly pays the costs of the purchase. There is a pipeline, from the children working in the mines of the D.R. Congo, to the Filipinos working on the shipping lines, to the various factories with little control over their effluents, to your local/online shop, until less than a decade later when ‘support’ ceases for some app or OS or device or service, and your gadget begins its journey towards getting discarded or conveniently disappearing so you won’t have to face the absence of any practical ‘recycling’ option you can delude yourself with.

This is a one-way street. From the mines feeding the manufacturing, to the landfill.
And, in the case at least of consumer electronics (TVs, computers, phones, etc), the resource will deplete. There is no renewing of it. It will run out.
Even when, inevitably, another technology replaces ICs, the waste created thus far will remain in the landfills and oceans. For ever!

Costing the Costs

This comes about because neither the consumer nor the manufacturer directly pays the cost of this damage. Were clean-up, and depletion of non-renewable resources, counted into the price, the situation would have been very different.
Were the environmental damage of cars and their suburban houses factored into their prices, we’d not have had melting icecaps now.

‘Convenience’, Featuritis and Modular Design

Paradoxically, you can have your new ‘features’ without having to periodically toss out your phone! With a modular approach, designed for replaceable, interoperable parts, you can extend the life of a product for a much longer time.
Look at your desktop computer. You can replace parts, and you do not have to purchase from the original manufacturer. They could have gone a different way about this (and some did), but interoperability and repairability allowed PCs to last much longer than locked-in, proprietary computers do.
Yes, there are limitations. And, certainly, there is a limit to how far ahead you can design for. And it is rarely something that a bold, new product could cater to. But, once a market has been established, or created, design for sustainability is very possible.

Design for Sustainability (DfS)

If the manufacturer was responsible for reclamation of the product sold, including the costs of any environmental damage, I can _guarantee_ you that your gadgets could be designed without you needing to worry about the environmental damage that your running on the consumer-treadmill of upgrades is costing you and you children’s future. The sole reason why that is not being done at the moment is your continuing to vote for the current practice, by purchasing the product.
In a consumer democracy, your purchase affects change much more than your electoral vote. (For one thing, too many countries use outdated mathematics in their electoral systems, resulting in half of the votes routinely being discarded!)

And engineers can design sustainable products. The only reason they don’t is because the manufacturer is too busy trying to survive in a competitive market. It’s up to you, the consumer-voter.


Your gadgets are hardware. Nowadays, you rarely pay for software; so, companies try to make money by other means. For software, they sell who-you-are to advertisers. For hardware, it is easier: They sell you new gadgets. 2.0, 3.0, etc!
You rarely ask for these features; but, once in your hand, your life gets tied into them because everyone else is using them.
And, whether or not you’re content with what you have, ‘support’ ends for something in your device/service, forcing you to buy anew.

Why do they cease support?
That actually is not a conspiracy: It costs a hell of a lot of money to cater to old versions. Then again, it’s neither impossible nor impractical. Ever heard of your device no longer being ‘supported’ by the Internet? No. It continues to work. I can use a computer from the early 1970s, and it will use the Internet. The Internet has not ceased to support it.

That is not by accident. It is by design.

The Technical Perspective

For electrical/computer engineers and computer scientists, I’ll present a technical outline.

Computing & Abstraction

Computing is all about abstraction. We design systems more complex than one person can understand, and we do so by abstracting complexity away. A very obvious such abstraction is the virtual machine; another is the OSI stack. It is layers of abstraction that allow us to reduce complexity, maintain compatibility, and create interoperability.
While the above is a set of truisms, I’ll cite one instance of what will come as a surprise to most computer engineers–until it’s pointed out! CISC computers are no longer CISC. They’ve not been so since the Pentium. Your Intel desktop runs a Reduced Instruction Set!
For the incredulous many to whom that came as a surprise, I’ll mention only one word: Transmeta.

For a less esoteric example: VMWare.

Viewed in that light, extending the compatibility of phones, and creating upgradeability and repairability is very doable. Not a cinch, but highly doable. Set it as a requirement, and engineers will do it.

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