If I could only warn the common man about one often overlooked economic factor, it would be Planned Obsolescence.
Simply put, it’s the practice by companies of deliberately designing and manufacturing the item or product you buy to have a limited lifetime. That way they can sell you more. Isn’t that great? This can apply to nearly anything, from a “smart” phone to an electric heater.
In this article I will share a few thoughts on surviving planned obsolescence, for small household appliances, computers, or nearly any device.
How to survive
My first suggestion for surviving this terrible idea is, if you have an item that is many years old and still serves you well, don’t upgrade and don’t throw it away.
For example, if you have an old vintage electric heater that still works, take good care of it and keep it. Remember, an upgrade is often a downgrade!
Keep spare parts
Do you have an extra old device? At the very least, keep it for spare parts. If you see an opportunity to buy an old device exactly like the one you own, and it’s still serving you well, it might make sense to buy a “parts machine” as they call it.
These strategies can apply to software and computers, where often companies leverage their weight and influence to force or coerce you to “upgrade”. I won’t name any names. But if your PC serves you well, learn how to maintain and monitor it. Don’t give in to pressure to “upgrade” unless you have a good reason, and be sure to keep your old computer.
I would avoid total software and operating system upgrades at all cost until you’ve read a lot of reviews. Ideally, upgrade on a separate PC. I am a veteran in the IT (information technology) industry. If there is anything the average person often lacks when working with computers, it’s the simple idea of backups and a rollback plan. If the “upgrade” is not what they expected, did they plan a way to roll it back? Chances are, the answer is no.
So plan for a rollback before you even think about “upgrading” to the latest and greatest. The simplest way is just to keep the old computer until you are absolutely satisfied. That’s your rollback plan. And even if satisfied, store the old computer in a safe place, don’t throw it in the landfill. Yes the author has a massive stash of newer and older computers and loves every one of them.
By the way, this blog article was written on a computer with what is considered an outdated operating system. Can you tell any difference? Of course not. I love my old operating system. It does the job, makes sense and is easy to use.
The second suggestion for surviving planned obsolescence is: don’t be swept away into the idea that everything needs to be a gadget. Using an electric heater as an example, do you really need it to have Bluetooth, IoT, App, touchscreen and sensors? No, it’s literally a short circuit in a box to create heat. It doesn’t need extra complexity. It’s better to choose appliances that have a simple and robust design with mechanical / analog controls whenever possible.
Fact: electronics are often the reason why an appliance fails. The more electronics, the higher the chance of failure. In fact, electronics can be programmed to switch off, so it’s even easier for the manufacturer to make sure a relatively simple device fails after a predetermined period.
Add to your skill set
The next suggestion is to gain and maintain a basic knowledge of how things work, or know somebody who does. Mechanical, electrical and electronic knowledge at even a basic level can change everything. When combined with simple and robust appliances, the chances of repairing and keeping an appliance operating are much higher.
For example, learn how to use a multimeter. With a multimeter, it becomes possible to do basic troubleshooting of nearly any small appliance. That multimeter could pay for itself in just a few minutes – if you know how to use it.
I made a YT video to teach people multimeter basics – click here if interested. This gem is basically ignored by YT, so if you watch even part of it, you’re helping me out – thanks 🙂
Beware those “reviews”
The next suggestion is to be very careful watching “Reviews” from a popular figure who received a product for free. Many of these “reviews” are little more than an unboxing and show and tell. There is little to no in-depth testing.
How about a review from someone who used the product for at least 1-2 years? Even better, if they bought it with their own money. But of course those reviews are not easy to pump out and are harder to find for a reason.
Older or newer
Finally, it’s best to accept the reality that newer isn’t necessarily better. Older is often better. I have so many old devices that are clunky, not up to date but they STILL WORK and I will use them as long as I can.
Peer pressure is often to have the latest device. But I enjoy the long term reward of “keeping the old stuff” and letting it pay for all the cutting-edge and failed gadgets I accidentally bought.
By the way, this often extends to software. I still use an ancient graphics program from the early 2000s in college. I know how to use it, it’s relatively capable and has served me very well indeed. When I look at all the latest software from the same companies, let’s just say I’m very thankful to have kept all my old software.
I hope this article helps someone and that you enjoyed reading it. Thanks and have a great day 🙂 DD