This week’s Loose Wire column is about obsolescence:
IT’S BEEN one of those weeks when everything technical seems to have died on me. My Canon computer scanner started burping when I tried to scan in my bank statements, possibly because it couldn’t believe the overdraft charges I was facing. Then two of my label writers stopped working. Then some of the keys on my Nokia cellphone started misbehaving so that all my text messages looked as if they had been tapped in by someone who really hated the letters M, N and O. Then two separate flash-memory devices–gadgets that let you store and move data between devices, like photos, or documents–failed. Then my HP printer made a noise like someone chewing a cheese grater. When I took it to the local HP repair shop they told me they’d stopped making that model about 25 years ago.
Could all this be a case of built-in obsolescence, I wondered? How come all these things seemed to be designed to fail? Was it a coincidence that they all seemed to stop working a few months (OK, in some cases a decade or two) after their guarantees had expired? Was this all part of a grim conspiracy to turn us into permanent consumers?