Tech-savvy, but Stymied by a Toolbox

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It's pretty easy to make us techno punks happy. Small, shiny gadgets, a surprise hardware upgrade or even a free app will usually do the trick. Our needs are simple – just give us something to tinker with, to take apart, reassemble, investigate or crack, and we'll roll over and do whatever you ask. Holy Dungeons and Dragons! We're not talking about computer hacking. Most techno punks aren't code jockeys. We're just obsessed with unlocking technology's hidden potential.

At the same time, we're easily thrown off balance by antiquated technology. An air conditioner that doesn't cool or an intercom that won't stop buzzing – even though every wire appears perfectly connected – will immediately induce confusion and panic in your typical techno punk.

This is because there's a yawning abyss between digital technology and its primitive ancestors. Software programs, apps and sophisticated mobile devices can be upgraded, reformatted and reinstalled. But electric kettles don’t have reset buttons.

In the digital world, we're all professionals. There are no limits to investigation and experimentation. And mistakes are just whimsical detours on a magical journey of technological discovery.

Back in the Old World of technology, we're all at the mercy of a few professionals, some benevolent and some tyrants. Here and there – like Archibald Buttle in "Brazil" – a real techno punk can handle a basic home repair without having to supplicate before a repairman. A reassembled exhaust pipe, a blast of fresh air and some rough treatment can set a leaky air conditioner right. And, of course, a flat tire can be swapped without the help of an intimidating mechanic.

But beyond these small and relatively basic fixes we're at the mercy of the appliance repair elite. The beginning of typical monthly catastrophe always begins the same way.

"Sweetie, the air conditioner/boiler/electric kettle/ fridge/ microwave isn't working. Can you take a look to see what's going on with it?"

"Of course, sweetie, I'll take a look," we murmur uncomfortably.

One look at the threatening appliance and we know – we're toast. No matter which device breaks down, the techno punk regresses to a child-like state: slack jawed, confused and asking, "What the hell do we do now?"

After regaining our senses, our thoughts shift to the phone book (remember those?) with contact information for an abundance of seasoned repairmen. We vaguely recall tossing it in some dark corner of his apartment after the delivery guy left it outside because the building's intercom never seems to work.

The phonebook has listings for plenty of muscle-bound heroes with thick mustaches and a knack for fixing just about anything. We already know we'll waste half the day trying to find the nearest stud that sounds cheap and reliable. Another workday will be squandered waiting from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. only to get a call from chosen guy at 11:30, saying he's leaving a job in Dimona and will be there as soon as possible. It would help if we could save him a parking spot near your place.

Three hours later he shows up and – assuming your refrigerator is not the afflicted appliance – asks for a cold drink. Finally, our long-awaited savior pulls out an automatic screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, some steel wool and some valves and gets to work.

After three different trips to the roof, he comes down, wipes his brow and says, "Don't worry, bro. I can fix it for NIS 850, off the books." Or worst case he says, "Tough luck, man. The motor in the air conditioner is totally shot. If you want, I know a guy who can get you a refurbished one on the cheap."

Oh, the horror, the despair!

In the world of techno punks, there are no replacement parts. Things just get updated. Old gadgets are made obsolete by newer and better ones, extraneous apps get deleted from memory and corrupted software is reinstalled. When the day comes that a device can no longer be upgraded, we take a moment to reflect on its life of selfless service and then make use of its constituent parts or toss it into a drawer full of other technological relics.

But long after the iPhone and tablet computer are buried in the gadget drawer, the air conditioner will continue cooling the living room. Filled with coolant and held together by epoxy, it will growl away for eternity.

Year after year, contract after contract, the owner, his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will refer to paragraph 15a in the rental contract, which clearly states, "The air conditioner is part and parcel of the rented property and all repairs shall be the responsibility of the renter (hereto referred to as techno punk).

A techno punk might be a wizard with his smartphone, but he doesn't know what to do with a wrench and hammer.Credit: Guy Raivitz