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“The Tinkerers”: How corporations kill creativity

A few years ago I engaged my then two-month-old smartphone, a BlackBerry of some sort or another, in a very nontechnical road test: I sat on it. I only noticed the damage when one afternoon I reached to check my email. The small screen, usually jittering and scrolling with plenty of new messages, was suddenly a disconcerting Technicolor swirl with a huge black spot in the middle.

I drove in a mild panic to the nearest Verizon Wireless store and met with a sales representative. After asking for my vitals, he typed for a few seconds and waited. Then he typed, then he waited. Then he sighed.

“You can get a new phone,” he said. “At retail price.”

“How much is that?” I asked.

“Four hundred fifty dollars.”

Could I get my current BlackBerry fixed? The rep shook his head sadly. “They don’t let us repair the phones in the store anymore,” he said.

I felt his pain. Having grown up tinkering with Radio Shack electronic kits, I used to love taking things apart—radios, tape players, anything I could get my hands on.

But in the last twenty-five years or so, the number of household devices we can easily tinker with has dwindled.

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