Planned Obsolescence: 5 Products That Have It and What to Do About It
Isn’t it funny when you come across a product your Grandpa used? Just picture the way stoves looked back in the day or vacuum cleaners. These items are like fossils of a long ago time.
Here’s the thing though, you’re eventually going to be Grandpa. No, you’re not going to start screaming at parked cars and wearing woolly sweaters. Rather, the things you like and use now are eventually going to be outdated. Think of that new Apple phone that’s released every year. It’s not uncommon for cooler tech products to come along and make the old stuff obsolete at the speed of light.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the idea of keeping up with the latest and greatest thing, then you aren’t alone. The idea of planned obsolescence isn’t a new one, it’s about deliberately outdating an item only to turn around and release a new and better one.
Here are 5 products exemplary of planned obsolescence:
Do you remember having to go to the bookstore and paying an outrageous amount for a history textbook? Aside from student loans and smelly dorm rooms, that was the worst part about college! Every year, a new book comes along, even though the information typically isn’t any different. That’s because publishers like to live on the edge by switching chapters around, adding or removing diagrams, including useless CDs, and maybe changing the cover.
- What you can do about it: Don’t fall for these evil tricks. If you’re still a student, or are paying your kid’s way through college, you can find plenty of used options on Craigslist, Amazon, or Chegg.com. There are also some bookstores, typically near campus, that give you the option to rent a textbook. After all, you’re probably never going to look at that book again when the class is over.
Thomas Edison had a serious light bulb moment when he developed the first light bulbs in 1879. After more than 100 years, they’re still going strong in some museums. Today, bulbs have to be changed at least once a year, sometimes more. Manufacturers realized that tweaking the technology in Edison’s original design was a good way for them to increase their profit margins.
- What you can do about it: The cost of buying fluorescent or LED light bulbs is more expensive upfront, but the amount of energy being saved down the line is worth the extra cost. Another option is to simply remember to turn your lights off when you’re not in the room. Your energy bill, and the environment, will thank you for the effort!
Sure, we’re moving to a more digital world, but that doesn’t stop us from needing to print things from time to time. Every printer has a “smart chip” that sends an alert when your ink is running low. You can thank this chip for making it impossible to refill the ink yourself or use a third-party instead. The chip needs a specific kind of ink in order for the cartridge to function, which is why it has to be replaced so frequently.
- What you can do about it: If you’re tired of spending $50 on name brand cartridges, then do some research for a cheaper, generic option. It works just as well as the name brand, but costs significantly less. You can also use grayscale settings and optimize your internet content to avoid printing unnecessary headers, footers, and useless advertisements.
Back in the day, we had an Atari or Sega Genesis and we were happy. Now it seems like there’s a new video game console every year! With a few exceptions, a lot of these systems are designed to prevent backwards compatibility. This increases sales for the new consoles, the games associated with them, and classic games that make us feel nostalgic.
- What you can do about it: Sharing is caring in this case. Swap games with friends and play on their systems instead. There are also stores like Disc Replay and GameStop where you can buy used games, systems, and controllers. It doesn’t hurt to have more than one console, and certain games stand the test of time. That’s why we still challenge our friends on Rainbow Road on Mario Kart 64.
The days of iPods may be long over, especially since Bluetooth and Spotify make it possible to stream music directly from your phone. During the heyday of MP3 players, though, the space was often limited with song capacity. This meant that as soon as your iPod was full, you had to replace it with one with more memory. Not to mention, the lithium-ion batteries were sometimes impossible to replace. The only option was a trip to the service department and crazy charges to get it fixed!
What you can do about it: Get with the times! Most smartphones and Apple phones allow you to play music right from your phone. If you’re an old soul, and want to squeeze the most life out of your MP3 player, check YouTube or other online videos to learn how to change the batteries. There’s no guarantee how long it will last before sputtering out completely, but at least this way you can enjoy it while it lasts.
Many companies release new products every six months, but rest assured, you don’t have to keep up with the times if you don’t want to. Sometimes the old-fashioned items work just as well as anything newer and sleeker. Go ahead and be a creature of habit. Your wallet will thank you in the long run!
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!