Planned Obsolescence

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= Planned Obsolescence was the name given by businessmen in the early twentieth century to the deliberate shortening of product life spans in order to guarantee consumer demand. [1]

Discussion

Jenny Koho:

"Nylon stockings have the same destiny as well. They were designed to be too durable and they didn’t sell too well. Inferior quality of the stockings was the answer to the problem. In 21st century there are examples of technological appliances that are designed to fail. For example in some printers there is a microchip, a counter chip, which is placed inside the printer. When certain amount of prints gets full, the printer stops working. A Russian IT-specialist has developed user friendly software to zero the counter to make the printer work again.

Apple got negative publicity because its i-Pods were clearly designed planned obsolescence in mind. The batteries died within a year, and couldn’t be replaced with new ones. A group complaint was made and Apple had to act on it.

To prevent recession like the one that shook the economy in the 1930s, a man called Bernard London proposed that planned obsolescence should be entered into legislation. The aim was to define short life spans for products so that consumers would keep on buying them and thus employment would be safeguarded.

It never happened, but instead in the 1950s planned obsolescence was made desirable with the help of advertising. Industrial designer Brook Stevens’ propaganda on the behalf of planned obsolescence made the concept the gospel of the time. Design and marketing seduced consumers to desire always the latest models which were more beautiful and advanced than the ones they already owned." (https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/40960/Koho_Jenni.pdf)

Example

The Light Bulb Conspiracy

Jenny Koho:

"Planned Obsolescence dates back till 1920s when industry started to shorten the life spans of products to increase consumer demand. An influential advertisement magazine warned companies that an article that refuses to wear out is tragedy of business.

The first example of planned obsolescence is the story of light bulbs. Initially manufacturers strived for producing long life span for their light bulbs, they lasted even 2500 hours. The light bulb of Livermore fire station in California has been burning continuously since 1901. In 1924 a group of businessmen gathered together and founded the Phoebus cartel to lower the life span of the bulbs to 1000 hours to control markets and customers worldwide. In 1925 a board named 1000 hour life committee was found. It forced companies to design light bulbs with the burning time of maximum 1000 hours. If companies exceeded the burning time of their bulbs noticeably, they were fined. By the 1940s the cartel had reached its goal: 1000 hours had become the standard life span of light bulbs. If you still have some conventional light bulbs left in your closet, check out how many hours they will burn, you will be surprised." (https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/40960/Koho_Jenni.pdf)


More Information

See the documentary: The Lightbulb Conspiracy