Behind the scenes of InfoRea, the Twitch channel that repairs live
Several times a week, it’s the same ritual. Thomas Rea, 33, turns on his computer and cameras, repositions the mic, grabs one of the computers he’s piling up behind him and starts fixing it live on the Twitch streaming platform. There are dozens, sometimes hundreds of them, watching him draw his screwdrivers and pliers, and interact with him while he changes the glass of a smartphone, replaces the RAM of a laptop PC, repairs the analog stick of a game console controller.
Hours of repairs and discussions
“I experienced the Covid period very badly. I needed to get into something that made sense to me. I wanted to film repair tutorials and post them on YouTube, but eventually I tried Twitch and immediately realized that it’s the best format for what I want to do.explains the founder of the chain InfoRea. With Twitch, you can’t cheat, it’s without a net and there are interactions. Repairs sometimes take a long time and it is interesting to be able to comment on everything, leaving room to drift into more philosophical or personal discussions.”
Indeed, just watch a few streams ofInfoRea to realize that it is about computer repairs, but not only. We learn a lot about the manufacture of everyday digital objects, the market, brands, frequent breakdowns, in the company of Thomas who – we quickly realize – is as passionate as he is an expert. And then, sometimes, it’s an opportunity for him to tackle other dear themes, such as ecology or the invisible handicap.
“I was diagnosed with asperry some time ago and it’s something I don’t want to hide. On the contrary, I hope that talking about it can help some people”, he admits. As for ecology, “It’s a huge challenge, and at some point I felt the need to do things on my humble level to have a positive impact, however small.”
I built my first tower on my own at the age of 10
But if at InfoReawe repair computers before donating them to schools or associations, it’s above all because computer hacks have always been in our DNA. “I was propelled into DIY and IT by my father from the age of 6. Very early on, he interested me in tools, in the manual aspect, and as his company replaced its computer equipment, he began to bring home computers to tweak. I built my first tower on my own when I was 10 and I tinkered with my first laptop when I was 12. I never quit, because I had access to a lot of recovery gear.”
An invasive passion that also allowed Thomas to equip himself inexpensively during his studies: “When I was studying engineering at Supinfo, the computers I used were all machines that I had picked up from right to left and that I had repaired. They lasted as long as they lasted, but I had neither the desire nor the means to spend crazy sums on PCs powerful enough to run virtual machines”he recalls.
A distaste for electronic waste
Very early on, he is identified in a wide family and friendly circle as the person capable of troubleshooting and retyping a computer. Another way to avoid electronic waste: “I quickly understood that the computers, if we don’t take pains to maintain them a minimum, it turns into waste. And really, throwing away devices that are still functional and repairable at low cost, it disgusts me”protests the handyman.
Suffice to say that he lived his six years of experience as a computer park manager very badly, during which he saw tons of PCs thrown in the trash “for nothing”. Today, for his activity, InfoRea recovers computers, phones, tablets, headsets, NAS and consoles that it repairs in a disparate manner. He too accepts donations and is on the lookout for lots of reputable machines, to be picked up from the liquidators, for example. This ideally allows him to build up small stocks of identical references, which allows him to borrow from one to repair the other.
“Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff, sometimes just thinking that maybe it’ll make me a piece at some point. I also work with people who are in the same process, there is mutual aid. I also have phones ready for repair, Galaxys, iPhones, etc., but I’m waiting to find the models that will allow me to recover the necessary parts.
If it’s a school, I give priority
There is plenty to do, Thomas has plenty of it: “I have donation requests that come in and it’s really something that boosts me. I don’t want to let down those I promise to help.” Asked how he manages this part, he explains to us that he gives priority to requests from schools. “I have now an Internet site where I can be asked for a donation, and my way of proceeding is always the same: if it’s a school, I give priority. That kids can have access to computer training is essential for me.”
Then come the various associations and projects, which Thomas will select according to common values. “I favor everything that has a social purpose, he explains. Recently, for example, I helped the creation of the fablab Fabrico in Valencia, I provided them with 55 machines. It spoke to me, because they have a dual objective of DIY and training, but also of social inclusion and reduction of the digital divide by going to target people with difficult social profiles. It’s really the kind of projects that make me want to invest time, money, whatever.”
Nearly 2 t of devices saved in 2022
One thing is certain, Thomas spends a lot of hours opening, dismantling, tweaking devices. “I have no idea how many computers have passed through my hands since I started the streamshe laughs. On the other hand, what I do know is that in 2022, I repaired just over 500 devices of all kinds and that InfoRea saved 1.8 t from ending up in the dumpster. And out of that quantity, I donated around 300 devices.”
From experience, Thomas Rea knows well what are the main weak points of computers and smartphones: “Without a doubt, the first weak point of a portable PC is its hinge. As for smartphones, in the vast majority of cases, it is a faulty battery or a broken screen that precipitates their replacement.
In the future, Thomas obviously hopes to increase the volume of devices he saves from landfills overflowing with electronic waste, but this is no longer his only ambition. What is particularly close to his heart is to emulate and network to promote and accelerate reconditioning at all levels.
“The more, the better. I have friends who are getting into the repair stream and that’s a win for me. We also manage to make repair more visible within communities of content creators. This is what is exhilarating on Twitch: we are not alone, because we are accompanied by the viewers during the broadcasts. But little by little we are also integrating into the big family of streamers and I have made real friends and partners there, as in the circuit of brokers and refurbishers with the people from Touche De Clavier or RepriseOrdi.”
Create vocations and encourage as many people as possible to repair and reuse rather than throw away, this is how we could summarize the mission 2 that has been set InfoRea.