by Ed Sobey
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Let’s go on a treasure hunt—let’s plunder old gizmos and gadgets for the good parts inside! The hunt will take us deep into the dark recesses where only engineers usually venture as we search for useable components, understanding, and techno-entertainment. If you are curious, if you want to know what’s on the inside of that plastic or metal case, if you like to know how things work, this hunt is for you.
What might you find when you open up some piece of inoperative technology? You might discover component parts that you can use: motors, switches, magnets, gears, shafts, pulleys, belts, lenses, and lots of screws. Some of the parts will have no immediate utility but might inspire creative thinking on your part. Your curiosity and creativity, empowered by a pile of parts, might equal something new and cool. Totally Edison!
Operating on a broken device may lead you to find out why the gizmo isn’t working, and then maybe you will be able to return it to serviceable duty. For sure, you will find things you didn’t expect to find, and you’ll uncover things that you can’t identify. Like any good treasure hunt, you can’t predict exactly what you’ll find or exactly how you’ll get there.
But better than an X on a map or MapQuest directions, this book will guide you to the treasures. It will steer you away from danger and help you overcome the obstacles of the engineered world.
Rules of the Hunt
In over 30 years of teaching reverse engineering, I have come up with important guidelines to ensure a safe process. All of the rules have stories behind them that I won’t tell. Trust me—these rules are good ones to follow.
Make sure the device owner agrees to your treasure hunt. Make no promises to fix the device or even return it in as good a condition as it was delivered to you. If the owner doesn’t agree, don’t accept the device.
Cut off any power cords. Mistakes with power cords can be serious. Remove cords and bend the prongs outward so that the plugs cannot be inserted into outlets. Toss the cords into the trash where kids won’t find them.
Protect your eyes. Your eyes are your most vulnerable components. Springs jump, bits of metal and plastic fly, and tools slip. Wear glasses or, better yet, safety goggles.
Pry away from you. Most take-apart accidents occur when someone is pushing very hard on a screwdriver and it slips. It’s okay if it slips—as long as it slips away from you and your buddy.
Don’t torture that VCR! No hammering. No retribution by sawing. You can almost always get the components out without beating them up. It’s a puzzle. If you’re stuck, try a different approach. The person who put the device together didn’t whack that component into place, so you shouldn’t need to whack it out.
Watch out for capacitors. Most are innocuous, but some pack a serious, toss-you-on-the-floor-and-make-you-scream wallop. Cameras, even disposable ones that have strobes, have highvoltage capacitors. Microwave ovens, refrigerators, and blenders also have capacitors to watch out for. Those in televisions and computer monitors (CRTs) can send you to the Big Take-Apart Lab in the Sky—which is why I don’t include them here. This book will alert you to potentially dangerous capacitors in the featured devices and will tell you how to render them harmless.
About the Author-
- Ed Sobey is the founder of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the author of A Field Guide to Household Technology, The Way Kitchens Work, and The Way Toys Work. He lives in Redmond, Washington.
June 15, 2011
Sobey (How Kitchens Work, 2010, etc.) provides instructions for dismantling unwanted electronics and offers suggestions on how to repurpose what you mine.
Wondering what to do with your old scanner? Unscrew it piece-by-piece, set the motors aside for future projects and use the remaining parts to construct a desk lamp, of course! Sobey, a master in the art of salvage, has the basics covered with instructions for how to start repurposing more than 50 of your most unwanted possessions, from joysticks to guitars to hairdryers. While the author's intentions are noble, with increasing attention paid to conservation and sustainability, he falls flat with this guide. Sobey thoroughly covers the steps to taking apart the devices, but he fails to provide instructions on how to repurpose them, merely suggesting alternate uses in a lackluster and uninformative conclusion to each chapter. Guiding readers step-by-illustrated-step through stripping a discarded bubble gun for gears, springs and switches, the author then suggests that its pump be retrofitted into a small irrigation system for houseplants. But readers are left to their own devices to figure out how.
Perfect for readers who like to take things apart to see what's inside but useless for those with intentions of putting them back together.
(COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
May 1, 2011
Tinkerers, do-it-yourselfers, and hobbyists will get a kick out of this new book from the author of The Way Toys Work (2008). With clear, step-by-step instructions and some very helpful photographs, Sobey shows readers how to disassemble a variety of electronic gadgets (digital camera, typewriter, floppy drive, piano keyboard, DVD player, etc.) and mine them for the reusable odds and ends within. For example, tiny motors inside a digital camera could be used to power a mechanical sculpture. A typewriters spring-loaded pulley would be a nifty power system for a model car. Ferrite chokesthose little bulby things at the ends of computer power cordscould be made into offbeat jewelry. Sobey is primarily interested in showing readers how to take things apart, but youre more or less on your own when it comes to building something new (he makes suggestions but doesnt show you what to do). But its probably safe to assume that readers with the interest and skills to do the taking-apart should have no trouble finding something to do with the treasures they uncover. Great fun for former readers of the late, lamented Popular Electronics.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)
PublisherChicago Review Press
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