Kinds of obsolescence

Deliberately fragile

  • Lightbulbs engineered to burn out after 1000 hours.
  • Nylon tights engineered to get ladders (or runs or whatever you call those things).
  • “Psychological obsolescence” – obsolescence created through advertising

  • Clothing and fashion
  • Cars (eg sporty cars, cars that are supposed to be status symbols).
  • Gadgets and software where there is a new version every year.
  • Pinkification: corporations use advertising to make it socially undesirable or even socially unacceptable for girls and boys to wear the same clothes or play with the same toys so the parents will buy a new item rather than using hand-me-downs.
  • Programmed to break after a certain amount of use

  • Printers that die after you print a certain number of pages.
  • iPods for which there are no replacement batteries available: when the battery runs out you don’t buy a new battery, you buy a new iPod.
  • It’s not “planned obsolescence”, it’s just obsolescence that the manufacturer didn’t prevent even though they easily could have

  • Parts not standardised (and therefore not replaceable) when they easily could be – eg batteries.
  • Machines and devices unnecessarily hard to get into – eg gadgets whose case is sealed together using glue instead of screws.
  • Low-quality, fragile parts used when the extra cost for using a higher-quality version would have been tiny.
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