You really can

One of the things about modern life is the belief that you can’t do anything. That other people are experts. That someone knows better than you do. And when they’ve trained to do that, it’s true. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that simply because he’s always been best mates with the Prime Minister from uni onwards, it patently isn’t true at all.

It’s the same with the things we use. I know I’m supposed to throw things away, but the thing is: I paid for them. I bought them in the expectation that they’d keep working and when they don’t I firstly get annoyed and then more usefully, try to repair them.

All you need for this project. Not including sticky-backed plastic and tea.

When my Macbook battery started to die, so much so that it even asked for help in a desperate little note on the screen, I know I’m supposed to have gone to a Mac repair place. They could have done a lot of sucking of air between teeth and the compulsory “can’t get the bolts, see, Fella?’ which enrages me more than almost anything else (being called that, even by policemen, who at my age should be calling me ‘sir,’ always preferable to ‘do you mind if I call you Carl?’ but let’s move on) as (a) I am not anyone’s fellow and (b) you could if you could be bothered, which was always true).

You say carbon-fibre spludger, I say chip fork.
You say carbon-fibre spludger, I say chip fork.

Then I could have been embarrassed on the Mac shop person’s total failure to know how to repair anything at all without sending it to be somebody else’s problem and weeks later I would have got a bill for a couple of hundred pounds and it might or might not have worked. So forget that.

Instead, I bought a new battery on Ebay for £17 which arrived less than 48 hours later, looked online for how to do it and got my toolkit out. The first thing the web page listed was the three tools you need for the job. A tiny crosshead screwdriver, a triangular screwdriver and a bit of plastic called a spludger they wanted £2.49 plus post and packing for.

It’s just more pretend nonsense. A pair of wooden chip forks work just as well. They’re free and more to the point, are there in the car ashtray in case they come in handy for something. Which they did. And they’re recyclable too.

The black bit's the battery. Recycling it around here is a 20 mile round trip.
The black bit’s the battery. Recycling it around here is a 20-mile round trip.

First switch it all off and take the plug out. Obviously. Then you turn the Powerbook upside down and take the screws off the back of it. The only thing that can go wrong (apart from dropping the whole thing, or losing the screws, so that teacup she never even noticed, not least because I didn’t know she didn’t like tea when I bought it came in handy at last) is shorting the entire thing out with the static electricity in your body. You get rid of it by shorting yourself out to earth, which literally means that: take your shoes off and do the job with your feet on the brick tiles in the kitchen. If that’s not an effective earth I don’t really know what is.

A half hour screwing

The only iffy bit is getting the stupid triangular screws out, put there by some total arse who was trying to be clever in Cupertino, or maybe they just had a load of triangular screws they got cheap because nobody else wanted them, which seems likely. I have a few triangular screwdrivers but nothing that size. A tiny flathead screwdriver works just as well. Sort of.

Gently feel where it goes and press it just a bit. Come on guys, you should know how to do this.
Gently feel where it goes and press it just a bit. Come on guys, you should know how to do this.

Undo all the screws, flip the connector off the battery with the wooden chip forks (do check for vinegar and lumps of batter first; a good wipe down with your fingers works nicely, take the old one out, put the new one in, plug the connector, put all the old screws back and start it up. It altered the clock, but otherwise it’s fine and charging happily. And a lot faster than the old one.

I gave it all a good clean with a camelhair brush I had in a box of art supplies someone keeps forgetting to come and get out of my spare room however many times I say I’ll throw it all in the bin as she knows perfectly well I won’t.

No, I don't know why most of my stuff is German, either. It just is.
No, I don’t know why most of my stuff is German, either.

And it all works. Because you can do this stuff. Anyone can. It’s just there’s a whole industry devoted to telling you that you need to give other people money instead of doing anything yourself. There was one slight problem – one of the screws holding the battery in didn’t want to bite. Given that the battery is held in place by the other ten screws holding the back cover on anyway I don’t really think it matters. It’s not as if it’s going anywhere nor as if the screw can fall out because it’s a long one. Maybe it’s like those parts on old British motorcycles, the metal thing you have leftover after any engine job, that has no noticeable effect on the engine running whatsoever.

We learned to be helpless. And you can learn not to be.

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