Death dating vs planned obsolescence

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Maybe you don't get that hop ahead of competitors, but you also don't have to bar the castle gate from that long line of villagers bearing torches and pitchforks.

As Steven Wright famously said, "You can't have everything. " So you get rid of the old stuff, but what makes it old?

The company has been smart in its walled garden technology strategy, as it is relatively difficult for consumers to break away without extensive plans for moving data, services, and entertainment along with them--assuming that it would be possible.

And the company has been able to shuttle people along, moving past incompatibilities, bad performance of old hardware, and even high-profile issues like the antenna problem of the i Phone 4.

There are chapters relating the development of nylon to American rage over Japanese imperialism in the 1930s, the machinations of RCA kingpin David Sarnoff in suppressing FM radio and the development of microchips and personal computers.

Slade takes planned obsolescence one step beyond with a chapter on how the United States fed Soviet spies faulty technological designs in the '70s and '80s, so that their oil facilities and military systems broke down suddenly and sometimes spectacularly.

This practice of "death-dating" is what most people think of when they hear the term "planned obsolescence." The idea entered the American consciousness in the late 1950s and quickly became part of the critique of consumption (along with the excesses of advertising) put forward by author Vance Packard ("The Hidden Persuaders" and "The Waste Makers" were best-sellers), the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and the 1962 Port Huron Statement: the founding document of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).The idea of products built not to last irks us, but for a variety of reasons we routinely discard devices that work just fine.Obsolescence by any other name has helped nourish a sweet economy, but a hidden cost is coming due fast, in the poisonous waste quickly overwhelming the world's capacity to deal with it.But readers ought not to expect a single focus on the theory and practice of death-dating, despite this book's title.Though he illustrates various forms of obsolescence, much of Slade's book is an amiable and informative history of 20th century technologies, often through the life stories of the people involved in creating, producing and disseminating them.

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