Carbon-based gadgets

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We can easily get attached to our silicon based gadgets, and upset when they go wrong or die, but many people are even more attached to their carbon-based ones. These require a different skill set but they have things in common in such areas as reliability, care and maintenance, and recycling. (This was first published on 1st April 2018 - draw your own conclusions!)


Unlike the silicon-based variety, carbon-based gadgets have been popular for thousands of years. Many people find them more responsive, yet they too need to be looked after in order to give the best possible service life.


Warning: some varieties scratch or bite if not treated properly.


Carbon-based gadgets, unlike the other sort, unfortunately can't be opened or disassembled for repair or hacking. Should this become necessary it can only be undertaken by a qualified vet. A common hack, particularly for cats and dogs, is to remove unwanted reproductive functionality. Another common hack is to add an RFID microchip for identification in case of loss or theft. More recent smartphones often come with this functionality built-in, but it's unfortunately still not possible to use your cat with ApplePay.


A goldfish.

Being such a low functionality device you might expect a goldfish to last practically for ever like an ancient Nokia phone. Sadly, the reality is rather different. Although a goldfish can theoretically live for many years, in practice they quite often die unexpectedly and without warning. The options for repair are extremely limited if not non-existent. Many people upgrade to a hamster, or better still a cat.


A hamster.

In common with many other small gadgets, a hamster has quite a short service life, typically only around 18 months. Unfortunately they are not repairable and there is no alternative but to replace or upgrade when yours inevitably dies. Also, like other small gadgets, you will probably find that although the latest model may have a shiny new coat, it has no extra functionality that you would ever be likely to need. Fortunately, a hamster is very easy to recycle: you simply bury it in the vegetable patch under the runner beans.


A cat.

Unique amongst portable devices, a cat comes with nine lives built in. A good quality cat should therefore give you at least 15 years reliable service, though you may find it a little less responsive and with a greater tendency to go into sleep mode as it ages. In the event of malfunction during its normal service life you can often get a successful repair from a qualified vet. We are lobbying smart phone manufacturers to follow similar sustainability best practice by building nine lives into their products.

(There is a useful repair guide for your cat's scratching post at


A dog.

A dog can give 10 to 15 years of faithful service, but if it goes wrong it can be expensive to repair in terms of vet's bills. Many faults are the result of poor initial set-up, which can only be corrected by a skilled dog trainer. Good maintenance requires daily walks and much attention, all of which can be time consuming. Regular pat testing gives good results. Whilst keeping a dog can be very rewarding, many people prefer a cat, which is largely self-maintaining, only requiring regular food and a warm lap on which to dry itself when it's been out in the rain.

Human partner

Human partner.

Never ever try to fix your human partner, it never works and often only makes things worse. Instead, try telling them maybe you were wrong, and buy them some flowers or cook them their favourite meal, and always give them your respect, even when they're clearly wrong. But in fact, if you're treating them like just another gadget you probably need to adopt a more sustainable approach to your relationships.

Further Reading

  • Head over to our Main Page for tips about how to understand and fix your silicon-based gadgets.
  • Our Podcast #12 "A Natural History of our Gadgets" explores how the study of carbon-based life forms can shed light on the silicon-based realm.