Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Planned obsolescence strikes again

My second camera lens just died on me.  This was just a few months after another lens went bad.  They were both "kit" lenses that came with the purchase of a 35 mm digital camera just a few years back.  When I check with the camera store about the lenses they were not surprised, saying that they were simply "starter" lenses that weren't intended for sustained active use, such as I had been giving them.

As with so many things, it seems these camera lenses were not built to last, but made as inexpensive starters.  They had plastic components that were not robust.

Most all of the technology being made today has got a short lifespan.  Think about the short lives of cell phones, computers, printers and televisions.  Instead of building these devises so they can be fixed or upgraded in the future they've all become disposable, and usually cost more to repair than buying new.

Even everyday items such as pens, pencils and razors are now mostly all disposable items, with short lifespans.  I'm old enough to remember when it was most common to purchase pens with replaceable ink cartridges.

While planned obsolesce is annoying, even more pernicious is perceived obsolesce.  This has us "needing" to buy new clothing for reasons such as the popular tie width has changed, the heel height is no longer fashionable or the colors are now "outdated".  Car manufactures are great at coming up with new models with tweaks in their design so that our older autos lack the appeal and luster they once garnered in their early years.

So, how do we respond to this world of planned and perceived obsolescence?

  • Look for quality and be willing to pay a little more for things that are likely to last longer. 
  • Forgo the latest fashion trends.  If you keep it long enough it will come back into vogue ;-)
  • Don't believe all the hype around the latest tech gadgets.  As a friend shared with me during a walk earlier this morning, engineers put a man on the moon using slide rulers.
  • Purchase items that can be refilled or reused.
  • Other ideas?  Please feel free to comment below!

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