Service of Built-In Obsolescence

August 8th, 2022

Categories: Complicated, Obsolete, Ripoff, Technology, Waste


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Built-in obsolescence has always infuriated me. Is it because I love antiques? In any case, I’m a victim again. 

I’ve written before about this kind of waste as in celebrities who make the news for tearing down a $12 million house to build a new one in the same spot. Can’t they buy property to build on and not destroy what is probably someone else’s dream home? The fancy makeup cases of my youth are the first examples I recall. Subsequent iterations didn’t accommodate refills forcing me to buy a new case and toss a perfectly good one. I wasn’t thinking about the environment then. My gripe was about feeling ripped off.

So how is this impacting me now? My perfectly good laptop, inherited years ago from my nephew, still works like a charm. My miracle IT man has helped maintain it perfectly. He gave it a good bill of health a few months ago. 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

But it needs to go. Why? Because the Microsoft program it currently uses can’t be upgraded and doesn’t meet the requirements of a crucial vendor that soon is moving platforms. So I must buy a new laptop. Grrrrrr.

I have a historically terrible experience with upgrades and updates. I was forced to change a gizmo for one of my phones. It took weeks to be activated and now, every few days, needs to be disconnected because it cuts out so my phone goes dead. The original gadget wasn’t persnickety, lasted a decade and never once did it have a bit of trouble.

An upgrade on WordPress, the platform on which this blog reaches you, caused me fits until I figured out that I needed to format posts in Google Chrome not Firefox [the latter had worked for years]. Once simple changes or inserts require more steps.

I dread learning where documents will be tucked and my fingers are crossed that crucial documents, emails and photos on granny laptop can be transferred. Based on previous experience I anticipate many moments of stomach-churning YIKES and towel-tossing.

The media celebrated and applauded restaurants when they deep-sixed plastic straws and claimed they were saving the world by using paper ones instead. I’ve not read a word about the waste we make by force-tossing millions of perfectly good laptops, computers, tablets and phones–have you? Hmmmm.

What are other examples of built-in obsolescence?  Does it bother you? Should I take a deep breath, shrug, get over it and move on?


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16 Responses to “Service of Built-In Obsolescence”

  1. Sherrie Bellman Rott Said:

    Sherrie on Facebook:

    The huge heavy plastic clam shells holding apples 🍎 at Costco eats my heart out! And I can’t use a plastic straw

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Sherrie,

    I separate garbage as do the other tenants in my apartment house. I am appalled at how quickly my bag fills with plastic holding sparkling water, Campari tomatoes and blueberries from my beloved Trader Joe’s.

  3. Cynthia Hanson Said:

    Cynthia on Facebook:

    No to being okay with a throw-away culture! This is the travesty of our times ~

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Cynthia,

    I once kept a car way past its prime—16 years— and suffered countless frequent breakdowns until I gave it up. I realize that was nutty. But there must be an acceptable middle ground.

  5. ASK Said:

    I am wondering if I have the same Microsoft program as you. I was alerted to the fact that it will no longer support my version after a certain date. I really don’t want to buy another laptop Ivintage 2007?) but under the circumstances, I guess I must. The one I am using to write this works perfectly well for my needs.

  6. Hank Goldman Said:

    We are all at the mercy of progress. We still have a dictaphone from the 1920s… Talk about obsolescence… That was high tech for the day- and you needed an individual cylinder that was not reusable, for each and every letter dictated to it.

    What we hold in our hands today, is a Marvel of technology… But can you just imagine how much more marvelous things will be 10 or even 20 years in the future? It will read your mind and start doing the typing! It’s unavoidable to be sucked up in progress. Or living in a cave would be the alternative.

  7. Joan Cear Said:

    Joan on Facebook: I agree, the electronics waste must be astounding. Adx to that, packaging makes me want to scream. Organic produce packed in rigid plastic packages. That’s an oxymoron. And of course, all the hard-to-open plastic consumer products packaging. So much waste. My kitchen trash can is nearly all packaging waste.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    I’m not against technology. I welcome it actually. I don’t know how I lived so long without a tablet for example. I love my iPad!

    But I don’t like being forced to replace a good thing that works so that companies can make money by selling me stuff.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Joan,

    That I’ve not ended up in the emergency room for stitches trying to pry open consumer products packaging is a miracle.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    Apologies! I missed your comment earlier.

    Microsoft 7 will be out. It works just fine. The rush for me is to be able to work with the staff representing another program that can’t play ball with 7 and I have an appointment to do a “migration.” Maybe if this isn’t your situation you have more time. Google might answer “What happens if I’m using Microsoft 7 on my laptop after it has expired?”

  11. Martha Takayama Said:

    I will never forget learning about planned obsolescence as the standard modus operandi of American business in a half year course in junior high school which if I remember correctly w called Business. Therefore, nothing that we are discussing surprises me. I agonize on a daily basis over incomprehensible modifications and upgrades in my computer and my cell phone. I agree with most everything everyone has written. I just don’t think that all the innovations and non-human activities that we have come to rely on and will rely on more in the future are so pleasing or gratifying as activities and engagements not carried out by and between artificial intelligences.

  12. lucrezia Said:

    It’s disgusting and should be illegal. Corporate greed is to thank, and the longer it’s allowed to fester, the worse the eventual consequences.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    There’s natural evolution of gadgets from typewriters to computers and in medicine less invasive operation procedures and in dentistry better drills etc. All great.

    In spite of TV I still listen to radio. Some of my favorite clothes are over 10 years old. I appreciate such options.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    If there was a way to retrofit the laptop I’d have a choice.

    We owned a top of the line refrigerator [that came with an apartment] that broke down. The repair man said with a fix the appliance would last longer than a new one because the new ones aren’t good anymore. We paid a tidy sum for the repair.

  15. Deb Wright Said:

    I think your comparison of the straw “victory” to the tossing of the modern devices is a great one. Talk about irony!

    No, I don’t think you should get over it. I know I can take used cell phones to our public library to be repurposed for the soldiers and people who cannot afford a phone. But what do we do with old televisions and all the electronics? In my county there are certain days that you can bring some of them. However, I don’t drive. And, many will not accept old microwave ovens or laptops. I am sure there is a scientific genius out there who can come up with a safe and environmentally-friendly way to recycle them. But as a nation, we are too used to the throw it away and buy another one. When a television broke, you used to have it repaired. A toaster? You took it to the small appliance shop to get it fixed. What is the source of this throw away world? I think it is greed. Why make a decent appliance when you can make a shoddy one and pay twice in ten years?

    I just had my driveway resealed. When I told the manager of the crew that it is fifty years old, and I maintain it so that I never have to replace it, he said be glad. The new driveways–thousands of dollars–are not nearly the quality of the old ones.

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Deb,

    You’d think that with technology there would be improvements with the sealant so I wonder if it’s the product or the workmanship that impacts the longevity of a driveway.

    We leased cars for nine years. Every three years we had a choice of turning in the car and leasing a new one or buying the car. With no requirement to put a penny down and a small monthly payment it made sense to give up the hardly used vehicle. We maintained the car as though we owned it. I always thought how lucky the person was who bought our “old” one.

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