postheadericon Tech Talk: This is NOT about the iPhone 4S

As a sit-at-home-behind-the-internet technologist, I am constantly amazed by how much free publicity Apple gets from the mainstream media these days; from the death of a CEO to an announcement of a minor smartphone upgrade, major news outlets like CNN and the NYT seem obsessed with write-ups on little “i” products.

The iPhone 4S is no exception to Apple’s rule over the media, and now weeks after the introduction, papers are still running articles on the device titled as such: “The 5 biggest gripes so far about the iPhone 4S” and “The Amazing Things the iPhone 4S Can’t Do.”

But this tech report is NOT about the iPhone 4S, even though I’ve just added a few more keywords to the overflowing SEO pool on Apple. This week I wanted to say something about good old-fashioned tech, the kind you can roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with. The type of technology that is no longer spoken of, that has moving parts and springs and levers and makes lots of noise when it’s not working right...the Flex 3 Long Dog Lead!

This device has neither batteries nor OLED touchscreen display. It is, however, a handheld device that even has a handle along with two buttons. There is 16 feet of cord rolled up inside on a reel system that allows your dog to walk that far ahead of you, and like a fish on a line, the cord will roll back into the device as the dog comes back by your side.

I love this dog-walking gadget, and not millions - but tens of thousands - of western dog owners and trainers swear by the Flexi. In the EU (where the Flexi 3 is made) you won’t see a dog on the street not attached to one of these. They are the next best thing to sliced bread.

Mine is as old as my 50kg Alsatian, about 5 years now, and was working flawlessly until yesterday when at the heavy-use end, the cord frayed and got all jammed up inside the reel case. I was devastated and stuck on the road with 16-feet of cord wrapped around the legs of my pet monster, who wanted to chase some keti kukur down the lane but couldn’t.

So I actually had to fix something yesterday, which surprisingly, being the self-proclaimed geek that I am, I don’t get a chance to do very often. (When was the last time something in your home broke, and you tried to fix instead of just going to the mall and buying another?)

So I dug around for an old-fashioned screwdriver, instead of the newfangled torque driver I usually have to use on computers, and puzzled over how to open up the Flexi 3. But here is where high-tech meets low-tech, as the answer was posted many times on the Goog. I’ve forgotten how I used to fix things before there was an Internet, haven’t you?

But inside the Flexi there was grease and grime and lots of dog hair, and my geeky clean hands were initially repulsed. Barbaric! But once I got into figuring out how 16 feet of heavy cord is wrapped around a disk the size of a CD, and then controlled by a push-button spring and lock assembly, I really got excited about the repair. Even if I totally destroyed the Flexi, I would have still learned a lot about mechanical engineering, which in these days of the i-device, seems like it may become a lost art.

Obviously the Flexi is not meant to ever be taken apart by the user, as is most gadgets sold on the market today, but doing so reminded me of the man on my Dhobighat street corner, who sits there repairing umbrellas during the wet season, and shoes during the dry season. Like this relic from the day when things were actually fixed and not tossed, I felt accomplished when I actually completed my Flexi repair by cutting out the frayed bit and reassembling the reel.

My wife peeked into my man-cave and commented, “You really are becoming Nepali.”

And for this I think we can all take pride in, as Nepal is a country where even newer technology is more-often-then-not fixed, instead of being thrown away broken. Long live the art of repair!


Who the heck is he?

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Kathmandu, Nepal
I'm retired, and I walk my dog... a lot.

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