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/silicon/ - technology

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Planned obsolescence – devices intentionally designed to break over time – has been getting really bad in recent years. Everything is disposable. Even when hardware works, you no longer get software updates, which can make a device useless because it'll no longer get security fixes or support for modern apps.

And haven't you noticed how, when a tech company comes out with a new product, they shit all over their old ones? Like "our new device is so awesome and fast, and our old one was so clunky and shitty by comparison!" But then a year later, they do the same process over again. And you're thinking… you bought it because people said it was good. But then the company that made it said it sucks. They do it to get you to buy the same thing over and over again.

When will this stop? Do you think everything will be disposable forever, or will there be enough backlash to planned obsolescence that will reverse this trend so that electronics in the future are made to last longer? People talk about "the invisible hand" of "the free market" but maybe government regulation is required to stop it.

An example of this is how my friend's phone battery wouldn't last very long, so he bought an entirely new phone, even though I told him I could replace the battery if he bought one on Amazon (and they were really cheap).


i've realized this (didn't know there was a name for it!) and it is pretty disgusting, so i'm just gonna use my old phone till it wears out and buy another old phone off ebay or something. i think that's one way to stop supporting these practices as a consumer.

i don't think this trend is going to stop anytime soon. if/when it does, these multi-billion dollar or whatever companies certainly aren't going to fix it themselves. it's a real shame. a waste of money and resources, and since these phones are getting otherworldly expensive i'd bet my life savings they're paying those sweatshop workers even less. i'm no supreme enlightened one risen above the sheeple, but it's totally perplexing how people keep falling for this stuff.


I am creeped out by advertising and the capitalist insentive: get them to work to give us more money, regardless of how or why.
But… Id like to take this opportunity to also meantion how really super cool planned obsolescence is, or at least was at its inception. As I understand it, people started noticing, as standardised manufacturing increased in popularity, that certain parts af a machine would consistently be the first to break, leading to costly repair, or trashing the whole unit. From this understanding, builders of manufacturing lines realized that if they could design all the parts to fail at the same time, it would be more optimal than if one part broke, which more and more so, in the case of electronics, was very expensive to repair. If the repair is more costly than manufacturing a new unit, folks are gonna just buy a new one.
The noble goal of planned obsolescence, then, is to understand the materials and components you are crafting out of so well that you eliminate all wasted effort and material. Making no part of a dependent system better than the part that will fail first.
It's such an ambitious thing. I think its really cool. And if you are manufacturing enough of something, you will really care about wasted effort per unit. It will really save on manufacturing cost, while not decreasing product quality. It was going to fail at the same time as it will now, after all.
But, this original goal doesn't have a lot to do with the psychological tactics involved with the marketing division: make them want to buy more of what we've got.
( Time for a sushi roll studying marketing to come explain the beauty and validity of their field? Is it possible? )


Marketing is sinister through and through.
It used to be taboo for women to smoke, then a psychologist got paid by tobacco companies to advertise against it. He paid some pretty women to smoke at a sufragette march and told the press "some women will light torches of freedom" which the press ate up. Just like that another social tradition of care is destroyed and lung cancer doubles.

It's all fucked up.


Yeah, I'm trying to emphasize with anything that I initially dislike. Its tough with closed source software and marketing.
Maybe seeing marketing as a tool, same as technology where its not the thing itself, but what its used for.
However, it still seems like a cruel trick. The power of capitalism is in self motivated actors trying to serve markets, so those who can most effectively connect with customers win.


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To add to this, a lot of things people call "planned obsolescence" are actually from improvements in reliability engineering; we can now accurately predict when a component will fail given the conditions it's used in, meaning there's no need to pay for a component rated for a 20 year lifespan if it's only going to be used for 5 years. This pulls down the price a lot. As such, you design for the expected lifetime - this is pulled from surveys, but for a mobile phone sits around 3 years. (this is where The Marketing comes in though - they want to sell it every year, so don't care about anything >2 years.)

This is especially true of anything with silicon junctions in it; we now know any silicon device has a lifetime inversely proportional to the temperature it's used at. You either use a component that's significantly overrated/underclocked for the purpose and a much higher price, or use a much cheaper one that has a higher R_DS(ON) or whatever and tolerate the shorter lifespan in the hotter environment it creates.

There's definitely planned obsolescence around, but the vast majority of cases people point to are just a by-product of trying to meet price expectations in the market. If you want something designed for a long life, buy industrial or milsurp hardware; the performance will be crap for the same price, but the lifespan will be great.


i like this post sushi, thanks for telling me about it!


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Design for the expected lifetime, but set the lifetime at a few years by slowing down the phone with software updates and then discontinue updates and pretend that a new phone is needed to keep up with new software. And you can't install a new OS, or can't install one easily, because they're going out of their way to prevent it. And you can't replace the battery, or it's not economical to do so. Apple even tries to prevent people from repairing their devices. We're wasting enormous amounts of raw materials just to keep selling people new facetwatter machines that they don't need.

Imagine if all industries worked this way and people would constantly be replacing their microwave ovens, fridges, washing machines, televisions, stereos and electric toothbrushes because of made up software update reasons. But somehow the companies that manufacture these products have managed to stay in business.


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Absolutely, not defending the software work - just reliability design. Software Disenchantment by Nikita Prokopov is a good essay on this topic.
There's still a long way to go on hardware maintainability for consumer stuff.

>because of made up software update reasons

I think a lot of the push for IoT appliances is exactly this; it obsoletes itself a lot faster.


>I think a lot of the push for IoT appliances is exactly this; it obsoletes itself a lot faster.
I never even thought about that, but it makes sense.

Software is so half-assed today that Notepad++ starts badly chugging if the document contains non-ASCII characters, and the Playstation store can't scroll down a list of text without visible slowdown. Yet these same systems run games like GTA 5.

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