Friday, 13 February 2015

Planned Obsolescence: and The Men Who Made Us Spend

This blog has recently asked to what extent we should be pushing for technologies which are genuinely reliable and sustainable:
Futures Forum: Open Source Ecology >> Homebrew Industrial Revolution >> Do-it-yourself sustainable development
Futures Forum: P2P: working beyond the system

One of the most insightful documentaries from last year was 'The Men Who Made Us Spend' series on BBC2:
BBC Two - The Men Who Made Us Spend

It was highly praised from all quarters:
‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’, Saturday, 9pm, BBC2 - FT.com
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews The Men Who Made Us Spend and From Scotland With Love | Daily Mail Online
The Men Who Made Us Spend review: the true story of how we became unremitting consumers | Television & radio | The Guardian

All three episodes can be viewed on Vimeo:
The Men Who Made Us Spend - Episode 1 - Video Dailymotion

Here is the home page at BBC2

The Men Who Made Us Spend

The Men Who Made Us Spend

Why do we buy what we buy? Jacques Peretti investigates consumerism and the people who try and shape the public's appetites


All upcoming (2 NEW AND 4 REPEATS)


Our summer buying habits
In summer what we buy changes as quickly as our outfits do - and in surprising ways.

Watch a clip from BBC One'sSupermarket Secrets


The Men Who Made Us Spend
What tricks of the trade do shops use to make us spend our hard-earned cash?
BBC Two - The Men Who Made Us Spend

Here are some highlights:

There is the Phoebus 'conspiracy' when manufacturers of light bulbs got together to limit how long their product could be used:
Phoebus cartel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phoebuskartell – Wikipedia
Planned Obsolescence: The Light Bulb Conspiracy | Economics Student Society of Australia (ESSA)
Planned Obsolescence or, why light bulbs die after 1000h? Even if not official or Government regulated, exists. Should it? | A conversation on TED.com

And there is the no-it-wasn't-a-conspiracy proposition:

Planned Obsolescence - Centennial Light Bulb - YouTube

During the Cold War, it was part of the 'democratic way of life' in the USA to spend:
1950s Lesson Plans & Worksheets | Lesson Planet
1950s: The Happy Days? | DocsTeach: Activities
The Rise of American Consumerism . Tupperware! . WGBH American Experience | PBS

Although people were questioning this trend:

The Man in the White Suit (1951), directed by Alexander Mackendrick - YouTube
The Man in the White suit extrait - YouTube
The Man in the White Suit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The man who 'invented' planned obsolescence was the head of General Motors - which was to become the largest automotive manufacturer in the world:
Alfred P. Sloan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Degradation of Work Revisited: More of the Same: The Rise of Sloanism and Flexible Mass Production
What Apple Can Learn from Legendary GM President Alfred P. Sloan - CBS News

Note the use of 'new' in this advert from the 1950s:

Chevrolet 1955 Motoramic New Car Advertisement / General Motors Infomercials No. 7 of 10 - YouTube

As far as the UK was concerned, it was Anthony Fisher who set up a 'think tank' to influence the media about these things - especially the idea of making us free as consumers in the market place:
Antony Fisher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Fisher Recipe For Successful Think Tanks

But, again, there were questions about this trend:

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Trailer - YouTube
Dawn of the Dead - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Then came along Computer Aided Design:
AutoCAD - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Computer Aided Design - YouTube

Followed by Ikea:

Spike Jonze Ikea ad - YouTube

IKEA in Fight Club - YouTube
Fight Club Ikea Catalogue Scene — Critical Commons

And of course, Apple:

Hundreds Queue in Sydney to be First With iPhone 5s and 5c - YouTube

Here are some really old phones:

Don't Be a Victim of Planned Obsolescence | Modern Species
Planned obsolescence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And here are some more really old phones:

The Story of E-Waste: What Happens to Tech Once It's Trash | Maximum PC
Jay Doubleyou: the story of stuff

During the 2011 riots in London, the topmost items which were looted were... mobile phones

Ping me baby*: Ping Me Baby!

The mobile phone shops were obviously targets, with many in the particular areas of London reportedly cleaned out. I’m not surprised. I’m sure I read that one Carphone Warehouse was completely ransacked of every single device.
Mobile phones are obviously a highly desirable, highly transportable, highly valuable commodity. It makes sense that looters selected those stores instead of, say, bookshops. There’s plenty of stories on the news of people whisking off flatscreen TVs and so on. They’re just not as easily transportable as, say, an iPhone or the very latest Samsung Galaxy.

London Riots: I hope the phone companies are disabling all their stock | Mobile Industry Review
LONDON RIOTS 2011: They stole EVERYTHING! Enfield to Clapham shops stripped bare | Mail Online

Have you heard of I-Pod's Dirty Secret?

iPod's Dirty Secret - YouTube
Neistat Brothers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Or you could always do it yourself:

iFixit is a private company in San Luis Obispo, California. Founded in 2003 while the founders were attending Cal Poly, the company sells repair parts and publishes free wiki-like online repair guides for consumer electronics and gadgets on its web site.[4]

Founder Kyle Wiens aims to reduce electronic waste by teaching people to repair their own gear[9] and offering tools, parts, and a forum to discuss repairs.[10] ... stories of "fixers" met on the trip are posted on the company's activism-oriented blog, ifixit.org.[12][13]
iFixit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Right to Repair
iFixit is a global community of people helping each other repair things. Let's fix the world, one device at a time.


iFixit: The free repair manual - iFixit

According to a consultant speaking about Apple's products on the programme:
"It is not the job of the consumer to have an opinion."

A debate on planned obsolescence from the continental channel Arte:
Die Wegwerfer | THEMA "Die Wegwerfer" | Welt | de - ARTE

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