Will we be repairing our iPods a hundred years from now?

Well, in a hundred years, I’ll probably be death (“Lost off the coast of … in a hurricane”), so this question is mainly relevant for our descendants [for those of you who have such].

In a recent post on the future, frugal bachelor commented:

I doubt the IPOD will be repaired in any conventional sense, yes the raw materials are valuable, it will make more sense to melt the whole thing down and recreate it from scratch. If in 100 years people will take apart an IPOD have a soldering iron and hook an oscilloscope, then we are truly screwed.

Now, it is quite possible that we are truly screwed. I will consider the peak oil predictions well known. Usually, economists, politicians, computer scientists, and other people with no grasp of reality will comment that the economy can grow regardless of falling energy output, this is referred to as increasing the energy intensity. True, if you outsource the energy costs to other countries.

The fact is that running electronics is quite cheap. However, building said electronics, that is, microchips in particular (let’s have a moment of silence for PV panels), is enormously expensive in terms of energy. Depending on exactly how high the price of energy goes, we may very well see a salvage operation and a repair of consumer electronics that goes beyond today’s efforts. And once those chips die, you might not see another one.

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Originally posted 2009-08-01 00:01:59.