Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says it’s ‘time to recognize’ right to repair

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Steve Wozniak
Woz disagrees with Apple on Right to Repair.
Photo: The DEMO Conference/Flickr CC

Steve Wozniak may be the co-founder of Apple, but that doesn’t mean that he’s always in lockstep with the company’s policies or opinions. One area of difference appears to be on the topic of right to repair.

While Apple lobbyists helped shoot down multiple right to repair proposals, Woz seems extremely receptive to the topic.

Responding to a Cameo request from right to repair advocate Louis Rossmann, Woz said “it’s time to recognize the right to repair more fully.” He continued that he believes “companies inhibit it because it gives the companies power [and] control over everything.”

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is a natural-born tinkerer

Wozniak’s impassioned support of right to repair isn’t a massive shocker. Woz, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne in 1976, came from Homebrew Computer Club and the hacker community, which was all about breaking from centralized power when it came to computing and putting tools in the hands of everyday consumers.

You can watch Wozniak’s nine-minute response on the Repair Preservation Group’s YouTube channel. In the video, he waxes nostalgic for the good ol’ days, when TV sets ran on vacuum tubes and electronics came with schematics.

He recounts how anyone — not just skilled technicians — could easily swap out a bad tube at a local store. It’s a fascinating trip down memory lane, filled with Woz’s recollections of the unique joy and sense of empowerment people felt fixing their own electronics.

Check it out:

Apple’s stance on right to repair

Although Apple can be said to do that by making its devices available to whoever can buy them, it’s long taken a more “closed” view of what consumers should be allowed to do. That doesn’t just make its products tough to repair, either. As far back as the 1980s, Apple customers could void their warranty by opening up their Macs.

The open versus closed debate at Apple, largely settled in favor of the latter, once fueled fierce arguments in Cupertino. Some, like Woz, believed in making devices expandable. Others, mainly Jobs, held the opposite view.

That same ethos carries over to repairs. Apple does offer initiatives like the Apple Independent Repair Provider program. But the company remains largely opposed to the wider right to repair movement.

A Bloomberg report from May noted that 27 states have considered right to repair bills this year. However, lobbyists and trade groups — frequently representing the likes of Apple — have used every tool at their disposal to quash them. Apple’s argument is that consumers could hurt themselves or damage their devices trying to repair them. Critics of Apple’s approach say the company is doing its utmost to get people to buy new devices rather than repairing old ones.

Woz backs right to repair

Woz doesn’t get into this all that deeply in his message on Cameo, a service that lets people ask questions of pop culture personalities. But he does say that, “We wouldn’t have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world. Back then, when you bought electronic thing like TVs and radios, every bit of the circuits and designs were included on paper. Total open source.”

He also addressed the issue of true ownership.

“Is it your computer [as the customer]? or is it some company’s computer?” Wozniak said. “Think about that. It’s time to start doing the right thing.”