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The Philosophy of restoration and repair

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by callan, Oct 18, 2014.

  1. callan

    callan Member

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    Just thinking out loud.

    There is a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. It's a form of repair, which wholly encompasses the history of an item, and rather than masking the damage, incorporates the damage, the history of the item, and the repair itself into the essence of the object.

    The concepts of Kintsugi started floating in the back of my head whilst I have been working on the KU silver-label C64 as outlined elsewhere. Just how far should I go with it? Should I spray the case to attempt to bring it back to showroom condition, seal it with lacquer, or leave it bare - or have I already gone too far and devalued the item?

    Of course it's easy to over-think this. Let's face it - it is after all a 32 year old mass-produced device, not a priceless Ming Dynasty vase. But this is a question I've faced many times in my chequered career. My first career was as a watchmaker, with my greatest interest in antiquarian horology (antique clocks & watches) - and I came across far too many instances of bastardised or heavy-handed repairs, erasing the history of the object, and sometimes even it's origins.

    On his home renovations show "Grand Designs", Kevin Mcloud bangs on about much the same concern:- In his view renovations should be sympathetic to the full lifetime of the building, and stripping back everything to the "first incarnation" of a structure is often not the best way to approach projects - and he's taken would-be renovators to task on this many times.

    Now I've no quarrel with the board-level repairs I've done to this machine. it was dead, and it's now been revived with contemporary components, or components similar in appearance. I'm not going to put in 30 year old electrolytics, for example: the KU board was unstable enough without that - and old capacitors fail, leak and even explode.
    More generally, safety and reliability standards are vastly better than those of 30+ years ago, and power supplies in particular are ripe for modernisation. I've oft done this in the past, and as long as the visual and functional aspects are not impacted I have no compunction doing so again.
    And there are plenty of situations where Kintsugi has no place - Car panel repair, for example:lol: .


    And it shouldn't always be up to the current generation to determine the future historic value of even mass-produced items. So many times I've come across beautiful clocks totally ruined by having their 19th century movements (guts) ripped out, and synchronous electric movements substituted. This act was popular in the early 20th century, when older clocks were considered almost valueless. They were, after all being "improved" with the latest, accurate movements that never needed winding.
    Of course, to modern eyes the carcass of what remains is a travesty.

    I am beginning to think that trying to wind back the condition of gear to the instant of manufacture is not always the most appropriate course of action. Blindly doing so invites intervention that may make things worse, or may erase too much history in an item.

    So perhaps in our retro-computing endeavours we should tread just a little carefully in what we do. Even we ourselves may not always the best judge of future values of the electronic wonders we seek "preserve" and enjoy.


    Thoughts???

    Callan
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
  2. Grant

    Grant Member

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    There was a big spaz in the "What retro did you get up to today" thread with someone accusing qwertylesh of being a pure speculative flipper for buying the mega bulk lot of retro he did. He mentioned a few of the intangible things about just having and keeping retro, but I don't think this point came up. I didn't want to feed a troll, but basically what I wanted to say is he's purchased innumerable hours of entertainment/satisfaction in the restoration process :thumbup:

    In terms of accurate restoration vs. modernising vs. "soul" of an old thing, I think there's enough of this old hardware still around that there are enough enthusiasts that opt for all three ways - look at aXLe's Apple 1 build log for examples.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
  3. OP
    OP
    callan

    callan Member

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    I saw that, and thought "dafuq?" The lucky bastard had scored a fantastic pile of kit. It looks like it's gone to a good home, he's having a ball, and good on'im. I just couldn't see where the gainsayers were coming from. Sour grapes, probably.

    That's a very interesting, if very slow moving project, and as much reproduction as restoration. I was never much into Apple kit - it was too expensive for a flat-broke apprentice as I was then - but that in no way diminishes the worth of the project in my eyes.

    Callan
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
  4. Asteroid

    Asteroid Member

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    Electronics is a bit different to antique timepieces. I'd think it very unlikely a device would be devalued having been repaired/ restored with modern components vs one in original condition. This is because finding original antique electronics in full working order is basically a lottery - and even if it works right now, it may well not work tomorrow.

    A non working device is close to worthless. It is not possible to source period correct components that have not succumbed to age, therefore the only way to ensure correct function is with modern components.

    A good example of this is vintage Hifi amplifiers. While it is possible to still find them in working condition, they won't come close to original specifications due to the ageing of components. Restored units are much more desirable. Note this does not extend to modifications, only replacing the components with new production equivalents.

    Stuff like the Apple 1 is different, but they're not mass market anyway.
     
  5. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    Interesting post. This is something I've pondered a lot - not Kintsugi specifically, this is the first time I've heard of it! After oscillating between philosophies over the years (from "embrace the faults" to "make it brand new"), I've reached a nice middle ground where the actual restoration process is at least as important as the final product. It means much slower projects, with breaks for research or hunting for the appropriate bits. I put a lot more into it, and get a lot more out of it.

    There're always going to be compromises with any restoration I suppose, and for me it depends on the project. For example the C64 case I restored for a media center - that thing isn't a C64 anymore, the case became a soulless object the moment I gutted it, so I had no qualms about painting it.

    But I don't think I'd ever paint my actual C64, because it would be disrespectful to its history. I did install a SuperPLA in it recently because its original died. I'm OK with using a modern equivalent in that case (just), but I don't think I would accept a modern replacement for the SID, because it would change the machine's 'voice'.

    These lines in the sand are all arbitrary and I sometimes suspect that I draw them to complicate a project and make it last longer, but the satisfaction I feel from a job well done is real. The world would be a much better place if everyone restored something from time-to-time!
     
  6. shane41

    shane41 Member

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    dice que no sabe
    Well I see restoration like getting a hit.

    You can take forever to finish that piece & after 2 years you go wow,
    I done that.

    OR take on smaller project & every time you complete x1 you get that high.
    That's the whole point do something you enjoy & be rewarded. Often :D

    If I have a computer that need repair/ clean I'm not middle of the road.
    It has to be done thorough & I'm a fussy bastard.

    Modding though, not going to be busting up a beautiful machine for that!!
    If I have something rough though, different story.
     

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