Planned Obsolescence: 5 Products That Have It and What to Do About It
Isn’t it funny when you come across a product that your parents or grandparents are using that you’ve never seen before because it’s so old? Like a vacuum cleaner or television that should be in a museum or in a glass case somewhere and not in their closet or living room.
As someone who is on her third Apple iPod (and no, the other two haven’t crapped out on me yet), the idea of a product lasting for years to come without dying or becoming obsolete is news to me. I can only imagine what it’ll be like for our kids someday.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the idea of a company coming out with the latest and greatest thing every six months, then you aren’t alone. The idea of planned obsolescence isn’t a new one, but has been around for generations. You’ve probably even come across this practice in your everyday life! Here are 5 products exemplary of planned obsolescence:
Obviously Mary rented hers, otherwise she wouldn't be smiling
Even if your college days weren’t yesterday, chances are you still either have the bill to pay for your books or you distinctly remember paying the astronomical amount for them – used! In most subjects, the information doesn’t change dramatically from one year to the next, but don’t tell the publishers that or else they’d be out of a job. They switch chapters around, add or subtract diagrams, include CDs that can’t be used again once they’re registered, and so many other things.
- What you can do about it: The days of being a slave to the college bookstore and their prices are long gone. Students have wised up and have gone to other means to get their required texts. Buying used books on Craigslist or Amazon is always an affordable option. One that I took full advantage while in school was renting textbooks. Chegg.com saved me my junior year of college when I had a $450 bill for four (USED) books. Instead of shelling out the money and only receiving a quarter of it back at the end of the term, I rented them for a quarter of the price and mailed them back when I was finished with them. Best of all, they plant a tree for every book rented. I’ve heard of students sharing textbooks but things never ended well, so I wouldn’t suggest that.
Did you know that in some museums, Thomas Edison’s early light bulbs are still glowing? After more than 100 years they’re still going strong, whereas today’s bulbs are being changed every 12 months. It seems that manufacturers had a light-bulb moment when they figured out changing the technology to make them die sooner could increase their profit margins.
- What you can do about it: The cost of buying fluorescent or LED light bulbs is more expensive, but the amount of energy being saved down the line makes up for it. Or, if you’re anti-LED, then remember to turn your lights off when you’re not in the room to make them last longer.
The last time you replaced your printer’s ink cartridges, did you notice a weird golden microchippy-looking thing? That “smart chip” alerts your printer when the ink inside is running low — not empty, just running low. You can thank that the next time you get a warning pop-up alerting you to immediately replace your ink cartridges. These chips also make it impossible to refill them yourself or use a third-party because they’re needed in order for the cartridge to function.
Do you really need a sheet printed out with 1's on it?
- What you can do about it: Welcome to 2011, where capitalism is thriving. If you’re tired of spending $50 per name-brand cartridge, then do some research for a cheaper, generic brand. Also, try printing smarter by using grayscale settings and optimize your internet content from a website or email to avoid printing unnecessary headers, footers, and useless advertisements.
It seems like every 4 years there’s another new game console that is the “it” one for the holiday season. Along with that system, now you need to buy games to play on it. With a few exceptions, a lot of video game systems are designed to prevent backwards compatibility. This increases sales for the latest technology and sells newer copies of classic, old games that we all remember from our childhood.
- What you can do about it: Swap your video games with friends when you’re tired of playing them or want to play something new. Or, consider signing up with Gamefly where you can rent games for a flat rate every month and keep them for as long as you like (or until you’ve mastered it five times, whichever comes first).
"Low battery?! I just charged it!!"
Unlike other consumer electronics, MP3 players are rarely able to be upgraded with more memory. That means the space you have is what you’ve got to work with. Once you fill it up, your only option is to buy another player with more memory available. Also, the lithium-ion batteries are sometimes impossible for the average Joe or Jane to replace on their own. When it no longer holds a charge, a trip to the service department is the only route to take. Then, once you get there, you’re given the option to replace the battery (expensive) or to buy a whole new unit (very expensive).
- What you can do about it: Check out YouTube or other online videos to learn how to change the batteries yourself (or to see which of your friends can do it).
Planned obsolescence is one practice that I think we can all universally agree is annoying. However, there are some ways we can rebel against the madness!
Is there another product that you can think of that also has a planned lifespan? Do you do anything to combat it? Sound off below!