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/silicon/ - technology

from the trenches
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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.


Here was the psychoanalytic reasoning behind this PR move:
to woman the cigarette subconsciously manifested itself as a penis,
so by smoking and voting, taking up the position of a man, they now also have penises.


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The smartphone industry still continues to shock me with how much money people continue to dump into it. Here's a few things that astound me about it:

>smartphone insurance

How much could your phone possibly be worth that you would need insurance on it? It's not going to last you more than three years, and by then you should have saved enough money to buy a new one.

>smartphone upgrade plan

A cell service provider plan that provides you with the newest smartphone as soon as it comes out. Yes, it's unbelievably expensive.

>smartphone financing

I physically recoil when people say things like "I'm only paying $30/mo for my phone". Why. Why would you finance your phone?! If a smartphone costs you so much that you can't buy it in cash, DON'T BUY IT! I'm not completely against financing, I'm not Dave Ramsay. I can understand financing a house, car, or education, but I will never understand financing a piece of technology that will be broken and useless by the time you're done paying it off.

>financing a phone WITH your wireless plan

This is a combination of two earlier complaints. People are really paying absurd amounts for their phone service because they get a "free phone" with their plan. It's such an obvious marketing ploy, but people still fall for it. Unbelievable.

TL;DR buy your phones in cash, keep them safe with a strong case and screen protector, don't buy insurance, and use them for as long as you can.


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Forgive me father for I have sinned.
I admit to be paying out my ass just to get unlimited internet. I get unlimited calls, messages, a new phone every two years etc but I don't give a fuck about any of that. I literally just want to have internet when I am about without worrying about usage caps.
Jokes partially on them though, I've got a masked tether and I use it on my desktop to play games, watch videos and download 100's of Gb in games.
They definitely know that most people only want internet and that it will destroy their traditional networks so they're desperately trying to artificially restrict it.


> TL;DR buy your phones in cash, keep them safe with a strong case and screen protector
It really needs to be stressed more just how useful a good case is. I have a phone that's three years old at this point. Every time I take the thing out of the case, I'm shocked at just how pristine it is, aside from some dust around ports.
I actually just bought a "new" cellphone (an older flagship model), and it was in worse condition than my cased up phone, with notable scratches on its metal hide.
Speaking of that: Buy older flagships. They still have headphone jacks and removable batteries up to 2016, and their chips are strong enough to take most non-absurd software and games.

Another thing of note is that I was met with good fortune with this purchase: I bought a Sprint locked phone even though I was on Virgin Mobile, and the local Sprint dealership was offering Unlimited $25 /month single plans, as well as giving away $200 gift cards to those who bring their own phones and switch. It was such a good deal that I did not think it was even real, but I was being told as such in person.


I've purchased all of my phones used with cash, and through good practice and good cases/screen protectors, they've all lasted me more than two years. Be smart with your smart phone. Keep it in your front pocket, don't leave it on things where it could be bumped off or stepped on. Had a friend just lose $800 on a brand new phone because he dropped a dumbell on it…


Get a good absorbing case. My family member had one of those plastic cases that are for fashion. They tried to take a picture of a hornet when it took flight they panicked and dropped it 60cm. It was fucked.
I've dropped my phone 2 stories and it was untouched, still playing the video when I got down to it.


Shock absorption cases are so bulky. A simple silicone case and a screen protector will be eough.


> Nobody will ever rise up en masse
> Repeats the classic conspiracy theory designed to keep people from rising up en masse


Your whole post is a mess, but I'd like to focus on one particular point;
>flat-design bauhaus GUIs
This tells me that you only know what bauhaus is because of that 4chan screencap that /co/ loves to spam.

The whole philosiphy of the collage was "all substance, no style". The point was to strip away aesthetics in favor of functionality and durability. If you handed in any modern GUI, hell, any modern technology to a bauhaus professor they'd fail you on the spot.


Even if you treat it well, manufacturers will drop support so you don't get upgrades and eventually stop getting security patches to encourage buying a newer model. I'm grateful to the guys who develop custom ROMs so I can keep using my first smartphone like it's new.


I think this is somewhat related to planned obsolescence, but it feels rare that a software "becomes lighter" or somehow uses less ram and cpu after an update. It feels like software producers assume you're updating your computer with every update and don't they spbt code like someone with a 2 year old computer could use it.


Companies DO need to make money, and obsolescence IS a consequence of that fact. That said however, technology is inherently short lived. Build your ideal gayming pc and in 5 years your eyes will start to wander to newer and better things. This is why buying mortgages ("financing") your smartphone is a terrible idea. Even if it's built to last, it's not going to last very long. Furthermore, Wirth's Law indicates that the reason software updates get bigger and slow down your system are not because manufacturers are trying to make their code even less maintainable than it already is, but simply as the nature of (bad) software engineering the codebase grows larger and its performance grow's slower - an effect that only becomes apparent on hardware that does not itself have more memory and become faster (older devices).

The no-repair policy is inherently anti-consumer and needs to be opposed in legislation though. In an ideal world computational devices would be built to last longer (like IOT devices, RasPI's, etc) and be open-documentation-open-source to enable those who can to repair their devices when needed. As it stands, its simply not economical to go down that better route, and it's simply too easy to exploit the tech-illiterate unquestioning masses.

Absolutely. Because no laws exist against it companies realize that its easier and more profitable to implement proprietary software-dependent systems running on cheap hardware than high-priced long-lived devices.

C'est La Vie.


This post is uncomfy. Please return to your uncomfy board and be uncomfy there. Thank you~~


There's a marked difference between technical software and "mass" software in that respect. Most technical software is tightly coded, not necessarily without spaghetti code but generally lightweight for what it is, and they tend to have very high backwards compatibility. If they don't have backward compatibility then either it's a totally new sort of software for a totally new sort of data or it's a piece of shit 'ware.

Hell you can kind of even see it for Windows, the most "mass" software there is, because Windows has a sizeable technical userbase that needs it to keep supporting a piece of software written in the 80s by a company that's gone bankrupt in the 90s for hardware that hasn't even shown up in landfills since 2000, that's why you still can't name a file PRN, because writing a string in command line to the PRN file is a fucking ancient way to get a printer to print something that no printer has actually used for decades but somewhere there is a research team whose analysis software needs the ability to print something by writing to the PRN file and Microsoft knows that.

Mac, on the other hand, has basically a nonexistent technical userbase (and I mean like actually technical, not idiot art/music majors who think they're the next Chopin or Picasso) so they get away with dropping backwards compatibility for something only a few years old every update.


>"our new device is so awesome and fast, and our old one was so clunky and shitty by comparison!

I sometimes think about that too, wouldn't it be funny if they used the Iphone 14's adverts to sell the Iphone 13?
"The new Iphone 13, a whole 50% slower than the Iphone 14!".

>but maybe government regulation is required to stop it.

This never works, it just create an extra level of bureaucracy and useless rules to follow. Just look at the repairability score France just implemented. It's just another fine print that no consumer care about.

This is not the duty of the state, it's the duty of consumers to stop falling for the shiny new toy every year. I think most people are completely fine with planned obsolescence, maybe even unconsciously hoping for it so that they can justify a new purchase.


to be fair notepad++ is shit and shouldn't be taken seriously


A thin phone with a good case becomes a slightly large phone that's near impossible break

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