The Light Bulb Conspiracy
Pyramids of Waste - Planned Obsolescence



 
The Light Bulb Conspiracy
Pyramids of Waste - Planned Obsolescence

 
Once upon a time..... products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: 'A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business' (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.


Once upon a time..... products were made to last.

Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: 'A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business' (1928).

Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.


Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence.

During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: 'Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary...'.

The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) - until consumers started rebelling.

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period of time.


Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence.

In some cases, deliberate deprecation of earlier versions of a technology is used to reduce ongoing support costs, especially in the software industry.

Though this could be considered planned obselescence, it differs from the classic form in that the consumer is typically made aware of the limited support lifetime of the product as part of their licensing agreement.

For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product. Built-in obsolescence is used in many different products.

There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative.

Planned obsolescence was first developed in the 1920s and 1930s when mass production had opened every minute aspect of the production process to exacting analysis. Estimates of planned obsolescence can influence a company's decisions about product engineering.

Therefore the company can use the least expensive components that satisfy product lifetime projections. Such decisions are part of a broader discipline known as value engineering.