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Product Death Dates
I have returned to Vance Packard’s book The Waste Makers, written in 1960 it describes in Chapter 7 Planned Obsolescence of Desirability how much style (over function) had a massive influence on our buying habits and of course continues to do so. When this book was written it was groundbreaking, an analysis of how we consume and how manufacturers were making inferior goods which were made to break. Packard mentions a growing awareness of how resources were starting to run out and yet still 50 years later products are still being produced with planned obsolescence in mind either through materials and functions ceasing to work or through styling.

Two pieces of my own technology have finally died, my second hand Sony Ericsson phone which had buttons that needed to be pushed in a certain way with a certain pressure to make them work. But then the phone stopped recognising the sim card, and after getting it to work again by taking the back off and putting it back on again it did finally die. The computer mouse which has been intermittently working and then not for a number of months was often ‘fixed’ by giving it a shake but one shake too many has resulted in its death also.

So now they clutter up my living space or go off for recycling – but where these products end up is sometimes problematic. It was Edward Burtynsky’s photographs and text that led me to consider e-waste (1). He says in the essay that accompanies the photographs that China is the worlds biggest recyclers of e waste and although some is recycled in factories with health and safety measures much is still dismantled by hand with no awareness of the heavy metals contained within these products. How then can we safely dispose of our obsolete technology and why did i not pursue any possibilities of getting these items repaired – i imagine if i walked into a phone shop there would have been no question of suggesting it be sent away for repair, even if this was an option which i doubt it is. Is repair becoming an obsolete concept in the world of mass produced products?

See http://www.edwardburtynsky.com China – Recycling