Devices soon to expire

Cell phones are one of the most affected by planned obsolescence: limiting the lifespan of these devices in order to encourage consumerism.(Getty)

Programmed obsolescence limits the functioning of units and electronic devices worldwide

The programmed obsolescence is the useful life of a product, which is limited by default since its manufacture. Manufacturers program devices for them to fail after a while and stop working.

Why do companies want their products to fail? If machines and devices lasted a lifetime, the consumer would not need to buy a new one. Thus, programmed obsolescence works so that people continue to buy and keep the business going.

Programmed obsolescence is a key factor in today’s consumer system: it is manufactured, sold and bought on a daily basis. This way the economy is maintained, although in an unsustainable way.

The first scheduled obsolescence project started with a light bulb. Large manufacturers such as Philips or General Electric decided to shorten the life of light bulbs.

The bulb that Edison invented in 1879 had an average life of 2,500 hours, but in 1925 it lasted only 1,000 hours.

How does obsolescence work?

There are different ways to limit the useful life of a device. Functional obsolescence occurs when a product with new functions is launched, more advanced, and that causes old models to be rejected. Which is what usually happens with cell phones.

With quality obsolescence, products are designed to start failing and malfunction after having used the device for some time. It is common in electronic products (printers, software, telephones) but also with textbooks: each year a new edition with different contents is released.

Finally there is the obsolescence of desirability, as a result of consumers’ tastes and desires. They are who decide to buy new products by fashion or trend without the previous ones having stopped being served.

A clear example are clothes: many times we get rid of clothes that are in good condition to buy the latest trends.

How does this affect us?

The programmed obsolescence affects the consumer in different ways. On the one hand, it brings along an increase in economic expenses: the consumer often spends on new products.

On a psychological level, obsolescence pushes compulsive consumption. Consumers get used to buying, using and throwing away, without thinking of more sustainable ways to further the life of these products.

Nowadays, programmed obsolescence affects many products that are used on a daily basis: cars, batteries of electronic equipment, textbooks, video games, ink cartridges …

The documentary Obsolescencia programmed explains to what extent we are used to machines failing or breaking down, without questioning what interest there is behind.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report | Castellano | Català | English

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