Gadget Funeral – The Lucrative Service of Preserving Old and Broken Gadgets

A unique “gadget funeral” service allows people to preserve outdated and broken devices that they have become attached to.

They say you shouldn’t get attached to material things, but most of us can’t really help it. Whether it’s our first car, the house we grew up in, or even an old phone, we tend to get attached to our worldly possessions. And since mobile phones and tablets have become almost an extension of ourselves, it makes sense that some of us have trouble upgrading even when it is obvious that our old gadgets are struggling. That’s where China’s gadget funeral service businesses come in, allowing users to preserve their obsolete devices as framed, deconstructed works of art that can be hung around and admired forever.

Lin Xi, a young woman from Weifang, in China’s Shandong Province, started her lucrative gadget funeral business in 2019. She had studied in the UK and came into contact with electronic mounting art, which she found very interesting as a repurposing concept. One day she asked herself: since I have so many old electronics around, why don’t I turn them into works of art?

After honing her skills with her own old tech, Lin started advertising her service online using the slogan: “don’t lose your used mobile phone, let me design it for you!” She posted a few examples of her work, and in just a few days, she had received over 200 orders via social media, which she struggled for half a year to fulfill.

At first, people came to Lin Xi with true electronic relics, like a first-generation Motorola mobile phone from 1970, a Nokia 3650, a rare Vertu phone worth 200,000 yuan, or the first mass-produced Android smartphone, the HTC G1. She honored them all, but as more people learned about her service, more common smartphones started coming in.

Last year, a young man came to her with a 2014 handheld that was no longer working, but that he had become emotionally attached to. The memories tied to the old smartphone were apparently unforgettable and he couldn’t simply throw it away. So he asked Lin Xi to give the old gadget her special treatment, so he could keep it forever as a souvenir.

The so-called “gadget burial” is essentially an art of dismantling and mounting. Practitioners carefully take old or broken devices apart and rearrange their components onto framed canvases as a form of “cyber aesthetics”. The technical threshold for dismantling and mounting is very low, but practitioners need to have some kind of artistic inclination and mountains of patience.

Lin Xi is just one of the hundreds, probably even thousands of entrepreneurs specializing in gadget burials. Another such young artisan, Chen Xingyi, told Apple Daily that he sometimes works from 8 am to 12 am at night trying to fill out orders, and earns up to 1 million yuan ($140,000) per year.

Both Chen Xingyi and Lin Xi feel like they are helping clients preserve the memories tied to their obsolete or broken gadgets, and at the same time preserving the environment.

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