Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is the industrial tactic of designing, manufacturing, and distributing a product with an inadequate lifep, as so it will become obsolete specifically to force the consumers to buy the latest generation of said product. These products are put into practice before the next generation is even fully functional; companies like Apple are most famous for doing this. Planned obsolescence has been in use since the beginning of the Great Depression and for the past eighty years the ethical grounds of companies and the reliability of their products has been argued.
As 20th century economist Victor Lebow says in his article on consumer capitalism, Price Competition in 1955: Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption… We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. (Lebow, Price Competition in 1955) Planned obsolescence goes hand and hand with conspicuous consumption, the act of spending money to acquire luxury goods and services in order to publicly exhibit ones economic power.
The 1950s was a time of immense consumption of household goods and services. Tupperware and kitchen appliances were products of vast majority that persistently improved and with conspicuous consumption, was bought. Car commercials today take advantage of American consumers with their annual announcements of new models. Every model is designed with the motive it will be bought. A model only a year older than the one previous can be expected now to include an MP3 playing stereo with hands free cell phone capabilities as well as higher miles per gallon and durability.

Although the auto industry is trusted most with reliable products they are still infamous for their use of technical obsolescence. Technical obsolescence is when the cost of repairs is unparalleled with replacement cost. It can be tremendously cheaper to replace a nine or ten year old car rather than repair frame and axel damage from wear and tear or even an accident. (The Daily Green) Style obsolescence also plays factor when the definition of what an attractive product is changes, therefore newer models are made in order to provide a more aesthetically pleasing ppeal. Marketing has always been driven by aesthetic design. By continually introducing fresh designs whilst retargeting and discounting the others, corporations can do what is called “riding the fashion cycle. ” The fashion cycle is the repeated introduction, rise, popular culmination, and decline of a style as it progresses through various social strata. (The Daily Green) A certain style of dress is primarily aimed at high income worth and then steadily re-targeted to lower income segments.
In the beginning of the Ugg craze, Uggs were going at incredibly high prices and as years pass they depreciate in value. The same cycle happens for designer brands like Coach or Vera Bradley. The fashion cycle will repeat itself in cases when an obsolete product that was once stylish regains popularity and ceases to be obsolete. (New Vision Ireland) Think of the Miami Vice suits, shoulder pads and parachute pants, trends of the 80s that no longer exist yet styles like oversized tops, fingerless gloves, miniskirts and huge earrings have found themselves back in the limelight.
As advanced as the public feels technology is, with the idea of planned obsolescence in manufacturers’ minds, everything is built with a fail safe for producers. Obsolescence by depletion is a form of planned obsolescence used in products like home printers. The color printer is useful for consumers who need to print photos and graphics/charts for presentations, but other than that, there is not always a need to print color. An owner can choose to print only black with their colored ink jet printer except at a price.
Despite the owners’ indications that they want black and white prints, the color cartridge, at a smaller amount than normal, will be used in order to deepen the shade of the text or graphics. So that leads to the question, can’t one just take the color cartridge out? Unfortunately not, in order for the printers to function properly all the cartridges must be in place even if one cartridge is out of ink completely it still has to be left in. In the long run people who print enough black and white will pay the cost when the colored ink needs replacement. Castle Ink Cartridges & The Daily Green) In some cases notification may be combined with the deliberate disabling of a product to prevent it from working. Printer manufacturers like EPSON are infamous for employing proprietary smart chips in their ink cartridges to prevent them from being used after a certain threshold even though the cartridge still contains usable ink. Some companies have developed a version of obsolescence in which the product reports to the owner on when it is time to buy a replacement.
Pool water filters are known to display replacement messages at predetermined times and some disposable razors have color changing strips to mark blade dullness. Whether consumers are notified before the product has truly depreciated or the product simply deteriorates more quickly than is required, planned obsolescence is the result. (New Vision Ireland) Systemic obsolescence is the intentional effort to make a product obsolete by altering the structure in which it is used in such a way that it makes its continued use problematic.
Newer software is frequently introduced that is incompatible with older versions. One example of systematic obsolescence is Microsoft Corporation’s termination of support for Microsoft’s older OS services in order to meet the needs of the support for newer versions. Another Microsoft example would be their recently launched Internet Explorer 9 Web Browser that is not compatible with Windows XP even though Internet Explorer 8 is. Software is not the only technology affected by planned obsolescence; oftentimes hardware developers will prevent a product from being backwards compatible with older models. New Vision Ireland) Back in the early 1990s Nintendo launched the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to precede its first gaming system the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in order to make the NES obsolete. The processing power and other capabilities of the SNES overthrew the NES and made the massive NES game library out of date because the SNES could not play the old cartridges. Those who wanted to play earlier games have to keep both systems around. (The Daily Green) In more recent times, Sony launched their console for the seventh generation consoles, the PS3.
The PS3 greatly outshone the PS2 but like the SNES later models were unable to play PS2 discs. With the introduction of PS3 and its Blu-ray disc reader consumers have begun to accept and love Blu-ray. The most concentrated opposition in the next-generation “optical video disc format wars” is between HD-DVDs and Blu-ray. Not only a format for HD video and audio, Blu-Ray is a higher-capacity storage format than HD-DVD. HD-DVD at this point is being out sold by Blu-ray. Blu-ray has not yet been considered a planned obsolescence movement yet because it still is too new of technology. (Computer Info Web)
Today’s leading seller in products on the market is Apple electronics. Apple has designed products from computers to the world famous iPhone. Planned obsolescence is big in design schools and designers need to understand its workings in order to fulfill a longing career in today’s economy. Steve Jobs, the now deceased CEO of Apple, understood the importance of design in relation to selling product. An advertising magazine warned in 1928, “An article that refuses to wear out is a tragedy for business,” Steve Jobs understood the necessity to make products obsolete and he implemented it into his products.
The original iPods had less appealing designs and as the years passed. Later, Apple came out with much more attractive looking products built with more innovated advancements, but still made to be replaced within a year. (New Vision Ireland) In 2003, the Neistat Brothers made a video of them going around sharing the story of how their iPod battery only lasted 18 months and explained how Apple did not have a replacement option and they would have to buy new iPods. They took the company to court and sued on the account that Apple planned the batteries to die after a certain period of time.
Before Steve Jobs passing his legacy was to leave four years of new products for the company, blueprints for a new iPod, iPad, iPhone and MacBooks were put in place and permission for new futuristic Apple headquarters was secured by Jobs in June. (Daily Mail) Without planned obsolescence there would be no malls. There would not be any products or designers. There would be no need for architects and salespeople or even service workers all around. The ideas of planned obsolescence, although beneficial in fulfilling our needs as humans, depreciate the overall lifep of the products we use.
It is debatable whether companies are to blame, but in the end the consumer is still the ones who replace these intolerable products. Works Cited “Consumerism: Planned Obsolescence – New Vision Ireland. ” New Vision Ireland. NVI, n. d. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. newvisionireland. org/consumerism-planned-obsolescence. html>. “HOT Web Resource for Computer Info, Maintenance , Information Technology, Security, Training, Outsourcing: Blu-Ray. ” http://www. computerinfoweb. com. Computer Info Web, n. d. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. computerinfoweb. com/computer_electronics/Blu_Ray. php>. Howard, Brian C. Planned Obsolescence: 8 Products Designed to Fail. ” The Daily Green. The Daily Green, Aug. 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. thedailygreen. com/environmental-news/latest/planned-obsolescence-460210>. Koep, Gregg. “Not Buying Anything. ” Notbuyanything. com. Not Buy Anything, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://notbuyinganything. blogspot. com/2012/03/pyramids-of-waste-planned-obsolescence. html>. Lebow, Victor. “Price Competition in 1955. ” Journal of Retailing Spring 1955 (1955): n. pag. Print. < http://classroom. sdmesa. edu/pjacoby/journal-of-retailing. pdf> “Printing Monochrome Pages Using a Color Printer. Castle Ink Cartridges. Ed. Adam Haigh. N. p. , 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. castleink. com/_a-printing-mono-on-color-printer. html>. Ubeda, Joan. “The Cutting Edge. ” News. The Cutting Edge, 21 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www. thecuttingedgenews. com/index. php? article=51586>. Gardner, David. “Steve Jobs’ Secret Legacy: Dying Apple Boss Left Plans for Four Years of New Products. ” Mail Online. Daily Mail, 8 Aug. 2011. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://www. dailymail. co. uk/news/article-2046397/Steve-Jobs-dead-Apple-boss-left-plans-4-years-new-products. html>.

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