Featured excerpts on why our stuff is always breaking:
Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor who might also rely on planned obsolescence.
For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product. There is however the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative.
Estimates of planned obsolescence can influence a company’s decisions about product engineering. Therefore, the company can use the least expensive components that satisfy product lifetime projections. Such decisions are part of a broader discipline known as value engineering.
Philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse and Jacque Fresco have criticized the economic and societal implications of this model.
Consumer Society Is Made To Break
“Planned obsolescence” may sound like a conspiracy theory but it was once openly discussed as a solution to the Great Depression. In fact, most scholars trace the origin of the term to Bernard London’s 1932 pamphlet, “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence”, in which London blames the global economic Depression on consumers who disobey “the law of obsolescence” by “using their old cars, their old tires, their old radios and their old clothing much longer than statisticians had expected”. London’s sinister solution was to propose a government agency that would determine the lifespan of each manufactured object whether it is a building, a ship, a comb or a shoe. Those frugal consumers who insisted on using their products past the expiration date would be penalized.
The Light Bulb Conspiracy
Enter the Phoebus cartel. Established in the 1920s, light bulb manufacturers like Philips, General Electric, Osram and others across the globe decided to collude in the light bulb market. … They went beyond limiting product innovation – over the gradual course of a few years, manufacturers actively lower the life span of light bulbs. The industry standard of 2,500 hours in 1924 would eventually drop to 1,000 hours by 1940. Light bulbs were deliberately made more fragile, and competitors would be closely monitored (and if necessary, fined) to ensure strict adherence to product degradation.
Companies Slash Warranties, Rendering Gadgets Disposable
A combination of shorter warranties and design changes means that buyers of even relatively expensive gadgets now have little choice but to throw them in the trash if anything breaks. In the past year Dell Computer has slashed warranty periods from three years to one. Apple Computer’s hot iPod digital-music player comes with only a 90-day warranty . … “We joke that we design landfills,” says Darren Blum, a senior industrial engineer at Pentagram Design, which builds portable devices and computers for companies like H-P.
April 23th,2013 Jean-Vincent Placé senator and EELV president, presented to the french senate a law proposition against Planned Obsolescence. In his words «it is time to stop the frenetic use and throw race and to move in the line of proponing real alternatives for a durable technology and economic model». So, the discussion about planned obsolescence has arrived the senate and arouses the interest of french public scene. The proposal has been well accepted by most of parliamentary groups, that have understood the economic and ecologic profit that means to increase the duration of products: less waste and an employment growth, especially in the reparation and maintenance fields.
Planned Obsolescence Documentary
Did you know that nylon stockings once used to be that stable that you could even use them as tow rope for cars and its quality was reduced just to make sure that you will soon need a new one? Did you know that you might have a tiny little chip inside your printer that was just placed there so that your device will break after a predefined number of printed pages thereby assuring that you buy a new one.
Copyrighting for Planned Obsolescence
Tim’s site now streams over 50 gigabytes of manuals every day. Or rather … it used to. In a recent strongly worded cease-and-desist letter, Toshiba’s lawyers forced Tim to remove manuals for over 300 Toshiba laptops.
Tim’s many fans have expressed surprise at Toshiba’s onslaught – check out some of the Reddit commentary — and I’m outraged, too. Not just because of this specific case, but because of what it means for the lifetime of our devices, the future of repair and e-waste, and the abuse of copyright law as a weapon forplanned obsolescence.
Keeping manuals off the internet ensures the only path for beleaguered customers is sending broken devices back to high-priced, only-manufacturer-authorized service centers. By making it so expensive and inconvenient to repair broken electronics, this policy amounts to planned obsolescence: many people simply throw the devices away.