As a young teacher in the 1970s I was delighted to receive the Houghton pay award – with a significant (in 1970s money) backdated element. I’d always wanted a really great stereo (yes I know – but that’s really what we called them in those days) so I bought a Bang and Olufsen. It was great , the steak plate record deck, a powerful Beogram amp with radio and Beovox speakers. It was a pity that just out of warranty a couple of the LED lights on the amp failed and I couldn’t afford to have them replaced. That didn’t affect the total enjoyment that I got from the kit – it performed brilliantly for years and I’ve still got it. I liked it so much that 25 years later I bought a second B&O – the wall mounted B&O century with a glass door that automatically opens in response to the movement of your hand. It’s compact and has great sound. B&O is a tier 1 manufacturer using first class components to make products that look good and perform well. But they do sometimes go wrong. To my dismay the century went wrong after about 8 years (am I expecting too much?) – the CD player stopped working. I took it to a B&O dealer and had to fork out £200+ to get it fixed.
Contrast this with the Bose wave radio that I bought about the same time as the B&O. I couldn’t resist those adverts for the compact Bose that filled the room with sound. It is a great piece of kit. At an open evening for the Saltire Centre I played background music from my ipod through the little Bose and it filled the 2500 square metre 9 metre high space with beautifully clear sound and no distortion. But 10 years into ownership, similar to the B&O, this also stopped working. It wouldn’t do anything and the display just showed gobbledegook. I got in touch with Bose (they don’t have dealers) and they instructed me to pack the radio securely and send it to them. They said they would estimate the cost of the repair and let me know how much a repair would cost and then I could decide what to do. After a few weeks the radio came back in the post – it had been fixed for no charge. It was 8 years out of guarantee but they fixed it for free. That’s what I call a cost effective sustainable piece of kit.
This got me thinking of all the schools, colleges and universities that buy computer kit. Buying tier 1 kit is important (like B&O in music for example) but what really matters – as even tier 1 kit sometimes goes wrong – is that you work with a suppler that provides tier 1 warranty and service and will go beyond the expected to keep your kit working – as Bose did for me. So think about the kit – but also whether the warranty and after care that will keep it available, alive and working.