On planned obsolescence in electronics
Jan 9, 2020
To the Editor:
One of the fundamental dynamics of the robotic takeover is that the computer hardware and software industry has got to change things at increasingly short intervals, in order to be economically competitive. Back in the 1950's the idea of planned obsolescence was a new and controversial idea. It may have been going on for a long time, but maybe 100 years ago, a change in a product may have often reflected an inventor or producer's idea of making the product more useful.
There still may be some products that are designed with this in mind, but in the computer industry, for most of us, the opposite is happening. An innovation is driven by an insatiable appetite for new distractions and challenges.
The first Apple MacIntosh had more computing power than I will ever use, and the clever idea of storing files within files is more than enough to facilitate the production of anything written. A bigger screen was nice.
The planned obsolescence that was initially seen as an indication of a devious motive was then, as it is now, driven by the economic mandate to provide something new and different, in order to satisfy humanity’s insatiable status appetites. The same thing is happening today with computers. Unfortunately for most old people like myself, what may be a way for a younger person to keep up with the current fashion in speed or thrilling virtual realities is not exciting; it is mortifying.
Please forgive me; I just got off a long phone conversation with an Apple Support person, in an effort to understand why my iPhone couldn't send pictures to my computer. I didn't understand a word she said; and therefore wasn't able to follow her instructions, and got cut off for pushing the wrong button. I just said the heck with it, and stopped trying, realizing that if I didn't solve my problem, I would move down several notches on the OK scale. But somehow, right after the call ended, the ability to send photos from my iPhone to my computer was back in operation.
My theory is, the Support Person, after realizing that I was clueless, told me to do something she knew would end our call, and then she pushed a button that fixed my problem. In her training, she had been instructed to solve a certain number of confusions when her voice-analysis software had detected that the caller might do something rash. I am so grateful to once again be able to send photos to my computer email!