A Time For Change

Does ‘planned obsolescence’ exist?

There is one thing that has puzzled me for many years. It’s an expression that I appear to hear more and more especially in the current climate of the ‘have now’ society. I have to admit to being vulnerable to the suspicion that all consumer goods have a ‘built-in-obsolescence’, the suspicion that manufacturers of all things white or mobile have somehow programmed my newly bought gismo to self destruct after a predetermined period of time ensuring that a replacement is essential. How many times have you heard the expression ‘things don’t last as long as the used to’? Well, perhaps it’s just that we use things more often and expect more from things than we ever did in the past. Putting a TV or any other device on standby never existed in the 50’s or 60’s which might explain their longevity. One could counter the argument by adding that cars, for example, rarely rust as easily as they used to because of a better manufacturing process. Ah, I hear you say, but isn’t it the engine that should last as long as the bodywork? After all, that’s the heart of the beast. Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily uncharitable to manufacturers. Millions of jobs depend on products wearing out, that’s how the wheels of industry turn. My suspicion that some goods have some kind of time bomb buried somewhere deep within them may be totally without foundation: the proverbial urban myth. Everything wears out eventually. I can remember a time when everybody spoke about the everlasting light bulb or soap. I’m not sure if these things ever existed but there was always the suspicion that they did and that we were being prevented from buying them purely because of their lack of obsolescence. ‘Luxury’ items don’t appear to exist any more (barring the odd sports car or luxury holiday) simply because most things are easily affordable to most people and the more of these that are sold the more the price remains stable. There is an element of nostalgia within older consumers which reflects back to a time when a new bike was given and received only on Christmas morning purely because our spending habits and attitudes toward materialism were so much different. Recently I have become almost paranoid about my mobile phone. The contract is due for renewal and my suspicion that my two year old phone will somehow begin to develop a terminal illness simply won’t go away. It’s almost as if someone somewhere is in charge of a huge electronic chart of lights representing the millions of phones that exist and that my light is about to be switched off. Of course, that’s just silly: isn’t it?


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