A few years ago I was running a workshop for a group of designers on sustainability, and I started to talk about the practice of planned obsolescence, the act of building intentional failures into products.
I explained how this approach had come into vogue in the industrial sector, post World War II, as a way to stimulate the economy, and that today, it is still pretty standard. At the time of this workshop, I was pretty obsessed with the evils of this technique and how it came to be.
One is the ever-lower prices consumers expect and demand.
In a classic ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, a competitive market drives producers to lower prices to entice customers, and at the same time, this conditions customers to expect lower prices, which in turn means that producers have to lower prices even further.
Their prying work has discovered that the “overall device construction limits further repair options”.Electronic trash, or e-waste, is rapidly becoming a catastrophic problem.To understand how we ended up in this alarming predicament, Slade recounts the fascinating history of American consumer culture and the engineering of our "throw-away ethic." Quoting an eye-opening array of primary sources, he exposes the strategies of obsolescence, first explicating the techniques companies have used to stimulate perpetual dissatisfaction with the old and desire for the new, thus engendering "psychological obsolescence." Next, he meticulously documents the establishment of the much more diabolical "planned obsolescence," the deliberate use of poor-quality materials to create a product's built-in "death date." Along the way, Slade portrays seminal inventors, advertisers, moguls, and their critics, while relating hard-to-believe stories about the machinations of such marketplace powerhouses as the automotive and communications industries.But Slade's lively, insightful look at a pervasive aspect of America's economy and culture make this book a keeper. Americans threw out 315 million computers in 2004, and 100 million cell phones in 2005.Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Most were still usable, and all contain permanent biological toxins (PBTs).