An interesting small film to watch online (a Norwegian TV documentary) “The lightbulb conspiracy” details a process that few people outside of manufacturing industry’s are even aware exists. So-called “planned obsolescence” or to put it in less PC terms, manufacturers designing stuff deliberately to fail after a certain period of time. In the case of the electronics industry this can involve literally putting a counter in, say a printer, and telling the printer to stop working after a certain period of time.
Ever had a digital camera suddenly stop working after several thousand shots for no obvious reason? Again planned obsolescence.
Why is it that every version of Windows seems to take up more disk space than the last version and require a higher spec PC? – possibly because MS have a cosy little deal going with the PC makers to up the spec for windows so that they can sell new PC’s….least you wonder why so many leading PC makers are so resistant to the use of Linux and other open-source software (which comes in a range of different flavours for machines of different operating requirements, one of my decade old laptops at home runs on X-ubuntu quite happily).
Had a DVD or CD in your collection recently fail to play…ever heard of disk rot?
This whole concept dates back to the days of the Phoebus light bulb cartel ( the aforementioned light bulb conspiracy of the title) which conspired to not only fix the price of light bulbs but make them with deliberately shorter working life’s so that the companies involved could sell more of them. This of course explains how a pre-cartel light bulb in Livermore Firehouse, California, is still working after a good century of near continuous use.
Should anyone think I’m some deranged conspiracy theorist (and that next I’m going to start going on about Roswell, the Grassy knoll or Black helicopters), no I’m not – but yes everything they said in this film is more or less true. I once worked in the electronics industry, for indeed a leading manufacturer of printers and I know that they are designed with a limited service life in mind. I would point out thought, that this is in part motivated by H&S and quality control reasons. So not so much a dark machiavellian conspiracy, more “that which we do not speak of”.
When you start considering issues such as fatigue, and age related deterioration (and creep) in plastics you need to come up with a round number of the final end life of your product so that you can be sure that all the critical parts will work safely within said lifetime “envelope”. This inevitably means picking a number; say 30,000 pages of printing and/or 5 years of service, and designing the printer to do just that. Also beyond a certain point there is the risk of the printer failing catastrophically, leaking ink all over your table and carpet (good luck trying to wash that out!), or even catching fire (a rare but potential risk in the event of a serious paper jam and an overheated defective printer head). While such failures are unlikely for an individual printer, when you’re making them by the tens of millions and shipping them worldwide, you have consider such issues. So obviously to get the legal department off our backs the printer is designed to bring itself to an end long before there is any danger of failure.Continue Reading on www.green-blog.org