Now I am no luddite – that is obvious since I repair and own all sorts of high tech stuff – but I have to question just how far do we go with all of this electronic technology? Most of us are buying and using it so we obviously want to have it. But do we need it? Is it being forced on us by seductive marketing and the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses?
What prompted these thoughts was my discovery here on our roadside of a discarded vacuum cleaner hose (of all things) from some unknown brand of machine. I was interested to discover that it had a remote control with three buttons built into the hand piece of the hose. As an electronics tech my professional interest was aroused. My first thought was how does it interface to the vacuum cleaner? Does it have a set of contacts on the hose end?
It turns out that there were no wires or contacts at the vacuum cleaner end of the hose. So I unclipped the bezel surrounding the buttons – a simple matter of of using a small screwdriver as a lever in a slot on the bezel edge – and a circuit board assembly dropped out. It had some water damage but I could see that it was a little battery powered RF transmitter and a bit of control circuitry. The buttons still work because the LED comes on when they are pressed, and the battery is reading about 2.5 volts.
If I had the actual vacuum cleaner I could have repurposed the remote control into something else. Unfortunately it would probably have a very poor range because it only ever has to transmit the length of the hose and it is only powered by a CR2032 cell.
So all this effort has been put into designing and manufacturing this little gizmo to improve the owners vacuum cleaning experience. Or has it? Just how useful was it over its short lifetime? Given the materials and the unsustainable energy that went into making it, that these things are not likely to be recycled, and the relatively short useful lifetime of vacuum cleaners, it all makes a mockery of environmental protection.