Conspiracies, planned obsolescence, innovation, you are obsolete

An interesting video on the topics that could be interesting to Fairphone community.

This is why we can’t have nice things


Thanks, Veritasium is great as usual (not much new information, but nicely presented).

Where I have to disagree a bit: He praises technological obsolescence. His example of an LED bulb seems nice, but we know that those tend to break as well, especially the internal switching power supply electronics, due to usually cheap electronic parts or bad thermal design. And sometimes it’s the consumer’s fault by putting it into a lamp with insufficient ventilation. But that’s just one example with its specific issues.

I have a general problem with technological obsolescence, because it often occurs without being necessary or unavoidable. Classic example: Old printer or scanner which works perfectly fine, if only there were drivers for Windows 10. Or: A laptop or PC from 10 years ago will have a hard time running a current OS and programs (oh sorry, I mean Apps, my bad). And of course: New Android versions not being available for older phones.

Windows as a service, Android, Google services, and many other offerings are evolving ever faster, and only part of that evolution actually brings benefit to the user. I don’t even really follow what changes come with each major update, but I do know that on a regular basis there are severe issues with those updates, as we saw with Android 10 for FP3 (still haven’t installed it…), or with major Win10 updates. Of course, many updates are security patches, but many others are new functions or some fancy stuff, which may open up new vulnerabilities.

I even suspect some sort of cartel between Microsoft and HW/Electronics makers to keep Moore’s law going and forcing everyone to upgrade their hardware every few years. Guess what, in 1997 I already did video editing on my PentiumII 266MHz, 6GB HDD, and I don’t remember, 64MB RAM? Sure, that was Super-VHS quality and only 30min footage until the HDD was full. Today we have FullHD, that is 8 times more pixels and 5 times more data, but the software and OS demand 100 times more CPU power and 200 times more RAM. See what I mean? I can only think of very few real examples for positive technology evolution, such as worldwide and mobile information sharing including remote working / presence in the pandemic, or SSDs which finally put an end to Windows becoming more sluggish each year (I remember in 2009, when I was 10min from my office I used to boot up my Dell Latitude business laptop in order to start working when I arrived). In general, I’m stunned by how bad usability and reliability still are on most PCs, mobile devices, and online services, and I blame this on constantly adding features and changing everything, instead of really maturing a product or service and then let everyone enjoy that for years before everything gets renewed.

The consumer has come to accept all this, or has no choice. But from a sustainability standpoint, this is terrible. Same goes for data obsolescence, I have to go to great lengths to keep old files in a format and on a medium which can still be read 10 years from now, not to mention 30 years from now (anyone still has a CD/DVD drive?). And for companies this can be a big problem, too, they need total reliability and compatibility, which either leads to absurd IT costs for achieving this in a constantly changing HW and OS environment, or it leads to legacy islands still running WinXP or even older.

I just wish that there was less craze about new fancy features, and electronics and apps changing on a “fast fashion” pace, and less short-term profit-driven technology, and more thought on what is really needed and beneficial, and on how to keep existing platforms and devices operational for as long as possible.

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Thanks for your reply.

I agree with you. I have quite a few led bulbs and I have changed several as well, so I actually started writing on them with the black marker the date and store where it was purchased.

I also used to edit videos in that era and burn them on CDs. I think that the rates of data have increased due to the better dynamic ranges, color accuracy, and so on, so it would not be really fair to compare just the number of pixels. But I do not feel as excited as I used to be about the computer hardware. Games and videos aside, I think we crossed the line where the hardware is sufficient enough for most of the daily tasks. I have a 7 yo notebook running Windows 10 and there would not be so much difference between that and the newest machine when watching Netflix, YT, listening to music, or video chatting. It is true though the same can be done on a phone today. But, again, the phone will be obsolete in 3 years, while this PC will go on.

I think it is a bit more relaxed with drivers and software. In the case of a scanner, software like VueScan will probably work with a 10 yo scanner. Printers - I think that Windows 10 will find some sort of a generic driver for that. If not, then it is possible to use a VM with an older OS. I have revived a couple of older PCs with Linux Mint and they still work quite well. With PCs and software, quite often we have options, at least. And a 5 yo PC, scanner, or printer is still OK today. A 5 yo mobile phone, on the other hand, is officially dead even if you have not unpacked it.

I actually would not mind companies making money from fools, like today we are basically getting new fast-charging cameras with the phones as a bonus. The problem that I see is that it is not possible to properly recycle the old devices. I am not aware if it is possible to completely separate all the metals, glass, and plastic and how much air, water, chemicals, and electricity it will require. However, I probably would not mind buying things more often if I knew they would not be dumped as e-waste in some poor countries.

Software supposed to get better over time and with any OS there should be fewer and fewer security updates over time. I am not sure if they introduce the flaws in the first place so they could be fixed or if they have to have the “new and improved” or gold plating security features with every release. It would be interesting to compare how many patches are done on the Linux side vs Android, for example.

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