I have a dream of a future where all technology is modular, easily replacable, and recyclable.

You phone screen broke? Just replace it and recycle the old one. Your laptop's getting a little slow? Replace the CPU.

This would also require a set of universal adaptors and fittings, so that everything would be compatible with everything else.

And I honestly don't feel like this is a lot to ask?

@InvaderXan BUT MONEY!

This seems like actually sensible stuff that makes sense but how would large corporations get filthy rich if you can just replace a screen and not buy an entire new phone?

To be fair this is challenging with rapidly advancing technology. Would you rather still be using USB 1 for everything? Should we still be driving old 70s cars? You can upgrade a few things - switch to unleaded gasoline, for example, or even replace the engine, but the basic design was huge, inefficient, and unsafe. We know better now.

Of course even in established technology we don't do this either...

@anne @julia
Within reason, nothing lasts for ever. But making things upgradable and able to last for at least a decade or two would make everything much more sustainable.

I have a 10 year old laptop. There's only one reason I'm considering getting a new one and that's because the CPU is now too slow for modern software. But if I could just upgrade the CPU...

@InvaderXan @anne @julia Yeah, and asking for near-universal chargers is also pretty reasonable. Remember when all phones used different chargers? And different headphone jacks?

Yeah USB replacing wall warts has been a wonderful improvement. Though I believe that happened as soon as DC-to-DC converters became cheap and efficient.
@InvaderXan @julia

@anne @InvaderXan @julia AFAIK there was also a politician in the EU who was pushing for that to reduce waste.

@anne @grainloom @InvaderXan @julia It's going back to charger-per-device, especially now that the USB SIG approved DRM for chargers.

Yes, you read that right.

@InvaderXan @anne @julia yes the EU is who killed every nokia phone model having a charger proprietary to that model. they passed some regulation where every phone must USB charge. this was back when the EU was more or less a positive trade agreement and not a freedom hating disease.

@InvaderXan @anne @julia component upgrades get real weird with computers. it might be possible to have an upgradable cpu chassis (facebook is working on a generic plug for "AI" accelerators...) but usually the address bus and mobo stuff has to be designed FOR a particular chipset, like back when the extra power rails were added for bigger pentiums, you would have a hard time being forward compatible to that.

@InvaderXan @anne @julia Same feeling, with a side of "I'm not doing anything on this laptop now that I wasn't doing ten years ago, WHY HAS THE SOFTWARE GOTTEN SO MUCH SLOWER."

@ifixcoinops @anne @julia
That's probably the most irritating thing.There is no valid reason why it should take 5 seconds to open a .txt file!

It's not unrelated to the way I don't understand why an app like Tootdon needs 109.6 MB of storage space on my phone. Like, is using that much space really necessary?

@zig @ifixcoinops @InvaderXan @julia I actually get a good feeling when I do something that legitimately makes my computer sweat. Topology-preserving boolean operations on kiloelement meshes? OK I get why it takes a while.

@anne @zig @ifixcoinops @julia
I mean, if I was running density functional theory calculations or something, I'd understand the processor being a little preoccupied. Making a shopping list though, not so much.


Sorry, this is a total tangent, but a friend did some cool work with atomic force microscopy - molecules that looked just like DFT predicted - so I printed him up some of his data. It's fun visualizing actual data!

Oh, that is so cool! I was always amazed at the way AFM can give you a picture of an actual molecule...

The noisy one is so noisy because (technique introduced in this paper!) it's time-resolved: you can bang the molecule, then measure it a selected number of picoseconds later to see how it wobbles. Very cool stuff. He's now setting up his own lab in the US.
(Paywalled, sorry.)

Oh wow, it gives vibrational data too? By physically inducing the vibrations? Very neat. Hmmm... I think a few people in my institute might work on something similar.

Boo to paywalls. I'll take a look when I'm next on campus!

@InvaderXan @anne @ifixcoinops @julia I was running something intensive a few weeks ago, but then math came to the rescue and solved the problem efficiently πŸ₯‡

@InvaderXan @anne @ifixcoinops @julia I don't say sometime intesive computation is not required, I try to explain that sometimes a bit more thoughts help solve the problem better. Sure they are problems that can be not be "easily" solved.

@zig @anne
Yeah, I know what you mean. Sadly, molecular orbitals are not among those which are easy to solve!

@anne @julia @InvaderXan Hot take and unpopular opinion: I'd rather go back to using dedicated parallel and/or RS232 ports. In fact, I'd prefer if IEEE-488 came back.

USB is convenient only insofar as you don't have to worry about where in the processor's address space to put them. The technology that enabled 12Mbps throughput on USB-1 allows 12Mbps data rates on RS232 ports as well, and being point to point, is easier to both code for and design new hardware for.

@anne @julia @InvaderXan
(Well, in all likeliness, the "rs232" ports would be rs485 or rs422 ports. But, the actual clock/data recovery mechanism would be the same in either case.)

@InvaderXan The Right to Repair is an important thing, political, non-technical issue. And so is recycling β€” even plastics can be recycled just fine, although with pyrolysis: if only we could make the manufacturers pay for the entire life-cycle of the product.

@InvaderXan P.S. Sure it would make the products made from cheap plastic much more expensive, but that's desirable.

@InvaderXan opinions on EOMA68? it's probably the closest thing to that ideal I've seen so far
that and the Fairphone

Yeah, this is where the @Fairphone dream comes from too. I've had my F2 since they came out, and have replaced the case and upgraded the camera. No other issues except now we're starting to see tech progress take over - software is king because capitalism, and hardware exists purely to serve software. The Fairphone lot are doing a decent job porting to old hardware, but it's resource intensive.

@quarky @Fairphone @InvaderXan
Or, in short, drivers are hard work :) "Standards" change all the time, for good reason, and maintenance is hard. Feels like there's a compromise/balance between sustainable hardware and staying compatible with newer software, which raises interesting questions about diversity and equality.

I've no opinions, because I hadn't seen this before. Thanks, I'll take a look.

To be fair we already do have all necessary fittings for modular laptops. But Lenovo would not want you to know that.


I don't even think it's about scarcity but rather complete denial of the resource.

They don't want you to think there's not enough fittings to go for everybody, they want you to think that while fittings are there and enough for everyone, you see them your entire life (open your PC box if you have it), there is no way to use them on laptops.

That monoboards are "thinner" and thus "better" and if you use fittings you get a thick, bad laptop, that to think otherwise is foolish.


Rather than creating artificial scarcity they create artificial obsolesence.

@Deiru i dunno enough about computers to grok this whole but will take your word for it :)

@InvaderXan it is though because that would require a worldwide industry to cooperate and settle on a bunch of standards. Having everything pluggable will also require proper, easy to use connectirs, that also do not break after a few uses. It would be really expensive. Also, this sucks but is just true: Making everything __too__ replaceable would reduce profits for device makers in such a way that it would hardly be viable to be in the business.

I would gladly be proven wrong by the future though... :)
@aetios @InvaderXan We've managed this before with desktop PC's and the fittings and all that exist for laptops. We even used to have phone batteries that you could take out and replace.

There isn't much of a technical barrier, it's just that people want small and light phones and laptops and making things modular makes them more bulky.
@stolas @InvaderXan Right, I forgot to say that. It's just... not what the general consumer seems to want.

@aetios @stolas @InvaderXan The general consumer doesn't know what is good to have sustainable life. It would still be the stone age if we relied on what is readily available.

@stolas @aetios @InvaderXan

Sometimes the bulkiness makes the device stabile and durable as a cockroach - see the Nokia models 3110 and 3310. (The old one, not the HMD Global one whose gimmick was that one could play an Android port of β€œSnake” on it. πŸ™„)

@aetios @InvaderXan

> Making everything __too__ replaceable would reduce profits for device makers in such a way that it would hardly be viable to be in the business.

I challenge that. It is not like the rich have "not enough money" to live like the rest. The problem is why give incentive to get rich when one can live a normal life ie. like 99% people.

It is viable to standardize otherwise Compact Disk would not exists for instance.

@InvaderXan unpopular opinion maybe, but thanks to ifixit and the like, iphones have become really good for the repairability aspect of this, and imo that’s incredibly heartening - the least designed to be repairable phones on the market, and here we are where anyone who’s good with their hands and has a couple hours to spare can refurb them at something like 15-20% in parts cost of what a new phone would run. i literally did replace and recycle a broken screen like 2 weeks ago!

As a related unpopular opinion, one reason I actually buy Apple tech is that it lasts a long time. In my experience, years longer than most other things. For the sake of reducing my waste and environmental impact, this seems like a good thing to do.

@InvaderXan same! i’ve got three iphone se’s now, one already refurbed and another soon to go on the bench for a new battery, and once i lay in a good stock of batteries and a couple spare screens i expect to be using them until at least 2025.

@InvaderXan I share that dream of a #CircularEconomy and so do @Fairphone #iFixit @eff and many other companies and organizations that will change the industry one day.

Btw, I love iFixit's #RepairManifesto. I have it hanging in my room where I repair Fairphones for everybody who comes by for free.



You phone screen broke? Just replace it and recycle the old one.

Imagine compostable phone screens.

It's within the realm of possibilty TBH!

Related: Some scientists invented a way to make microchips from wood.


This sounds interesting. I wonder when it will be good enough to be used in actual devices e.g. a laptop by Dell.

@InvaderXan Not a lot to ask, but the trend is in the other direction. Less modular, fewer parts the user can replace or service.

Which figures, considering the trend is engineered by the people making more money from people repeatedly buying new things.

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