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Re: Electronic's Lifespan

Posted: December 24th, 2010, 12:08 pm
by nunoCR
2 videos about this subject Story of Electronics (short story) Pyramids of Waste (long story)

This is, from my perceptive, a symptomatic problem and not a root problem (like a runny nose when you are infected with a flu)

I also don't see this as a problem designers can work around, unless they instead work on changing the root of the problem. (attack the disease, not it's symptoms)

Products are designed for our needs. (Consumer's needs + Producer's needs)
Consumer's seek needs/wants for the least cost, producer's seek to maximize profit.
Therefore, what we see becomes natural, people buy the cheapest available for their needs/wants, and so companies provide those products. But in order to maximize profit you have to cut costs, and that can be done so by externalizing costs. So what is ultimately provided is a product with as much of it's cost externalized, which bears consequences as we all know. That is why charitable/green/social responsible products are becoming trendy, they remove some of the guilt conscientious buyers have when purchasing it.
Now, can our current economic system run efficiently in a market based on charitable/green/social responsible products?
I don't think so, since nothing physically produced can ever maintain an operational lifespan longer than what can
be endured in order to maintain economic integrity through cyclical consumption.
I kind off already went through all this in this topic
And here is a great lecture on the "disease" part of society i was talking about

Re: Electronic's Lifespan

Posted: December 25th, 2010, 7:19 am
by mo-i
I'm enough of a cynic to think that that group of people aren't just going to say,
"Hey, it's ok that my family and their predecessors have lived in abject poverty while
your family had SUVs, 4 ATVs, Large Screen TVs and a cell phone every year or two."
I have so much more trust in humanity. Normaly aspiring cultures do not repeat the big failures
and mistakes of their forbears. The 21st century will be an Asian century, not European or American.
And the Chinese are well on track to shift their economy into better business models. (As are Bahrain
and Katar). There are always doomed examles like Dubai, but what the heck, I'll rather look at the positives
and try to do what I can in my field of responsibility.

Merry Christmas !


Re: Electronic's Lifespan

Posted: December 25th, 2010, 12:22 pm
by Stuffed Vulture
IP, In case you haven't seen it, take a look at fellow Canadian, Edward Burtynski's Manufactured Landscapes. (It's on iTunes)

It's a pretty uncompromising look at the effects of manufacturing on lives and landscape, mostly in China.

Grim stuff. And a happy Christmas to you and yours.


Re: Electronic's Lifespan

Posted: December 27th, 2010, 5:22 pm
by slippyfish
+1 for Manufactured Landscapes. I feel the good thing about that film is his "non-political" POV, that lets you interpret the scenes as you wish, and admire them for the abstract beauty.

This is a topic that really gets me agitated and concerned. One of my final student projects (in 1996!) was inspired by my recently deceased Sony Discman portable CD player. The context was 1. of course I'm a poor broke student and 2. the CD player had lasted for five years of university, multiple cross-country trips, freezing weather, etc. and finally decided to start skipping. I had the button shapes and sizes memorized, and could play and select songs in the dark, judging by the feel of the buttons and the rumble of the spindle motor.

I found a local electronics repair shop in Syracuse and took the CD player down there, and of course I got the standard answer: "it will cost you much less to buy a newer, better model than to repair this one". But the repair guys liked that I was asking these questions, and showed me exploded views of similar products, part numbers, assemblies, PCBs...

The project that emerged was another CD player, but more along the lines of a mechanical B&O-type sculpture with parts that could be replaced or upgraded from a 'standard' entry-level module. It had a big bolt holding everything in line, and when I presented it to the IDSA Student Merit Awards review board they laughed their asses off! "Look at that bolt!" So, maybe my aesthetic choices were off-base. :roll:

Now that I design large, heavy equipment, containing many CD players or cellphone's worth of metal, plastic, and assorted materials, I am forced to confront this on a daily basis. One thing that helps us as a company, and this speaks to the 'eternity' model that a previous person wrote, is our industry-leading customer service. When a part breaks in your fitness machine, we have a new one on the way to you, FedEx overnight, for replacement. Sometimes these are larger subassemblies, with pressed-in bearings that cannot be easily removed. At least its a smaller part being discarded, and not the whole thing.

Consumer electronics however are mostly commodity items, made by numerous companies, distinguished by design and social factors that are tailored to the "individual" and marketed relentlessly. They are not engineered to last because people don't want them to last. (High-end audio components, or electronic testing equipment, is notably different, because it is built to last.)

John Hockenberry wrote an excellent article for Metropolis around this theme, March 2009. He wrote, "reliable growth depends upon getting more people to make the same purchases or the same people to make purchases at a greater frequency. But after 2008, it is clear that the consumer aspiration to buy nothing - whether out of exhaustion, bankruptcy, or simply to pay other bills - has become a plausible narrative."

(This post is too long. I should plan for obsolescence.)