While the constant updating and communication enabled by these gadgets can become addicting on a certain level, there is another, perhaps more insidious addiction involving tech gadgets. This addiction is not to the gadget itself or even to its one or two attendant applications, but rather it’s an addiction to having the newest, latest gadget. It’s a consumer addiction that is becoming so much more apparent now that computing becomes faster and cheaper with every successive year.
Now many of us will blame this addiction to the newest thing on human weaknesses like greed, compulsion, or what have you. However, what many don’t know is that gadgets don’t become obsolete, thus necessitating a new version, on their own. Rather, in many cases, companies like Apple and Sony plan the lifespan of their products, and will do their best to make sure that their lifespan is limited. This “planned obsolescence,” an actual term in the industry, enables companies to seek greater profits over shorter periods of time. After all, if your shiny new i-Whatever dies in less than a year, you can be sure that there will be a better, faster product to fulfill your tech gadget desires.
While some of this may reek of conspiracy, acclaimed technology writer Mike Elgan wrote an article for ComputerWorld on this very phenomenon the programmatic life-span cutting of consumer products by companies for the express purpose of driving profits. Elgan argues that while this has become a normal practice in companies producing consumer products, dating back to the beginnings of mass production in the 1930s, it is now out of control in the technology sector. The only way to stop this is to research our technology gadgets carefully. By favoring long battery life and the ability to get components of our products fixed and replaced over other considerations like speed, applications, and design, we can affectively stop the consumer demand for cheaply made products that break after a few months.
What do you think about planned obsolescence? What criteria do you look for when purchasing new technology gadgets?