Scheduled obsolescence

Why do the products we produce last less and less? Why is it that a light bulb made in 1911 can last more than 100 years when lit and those that are made today barely last 1000 hours? Has a name, planned obsolescence

Scheduled obsolescence

Scheduled obsolescence is the scheduling of the useful life of a product, so that the product becomes useless in a previously determined period of time. They can also be limited by number of uses, for example, a printer that after printing ten thousand copies stops working.

This light bulb has been shining at the Livermore Fire Station (California) for more than 100 years
This light bulb has been shining at the Livermore Fire Station (California) for more than 100 years

What is the goal of planned obsolescence?

The primary goal of planned obsolescence is to ensure that consumers purchase products multiple times, rather than just once. This naturally increases the demand for products because consumers have to keep coming back again and again. A user must buy the same product more times than if that product were resistant and would last a lifetime.

Imagine that you never had to buy light bulbs, since your grandfather put them at home they continue to shine like the first day. It seems implausible but it is not, this type of bulbs could be manufactured perfectly. However, the light bulb manufacturers would run out of buyers would go out of business. That is why they manufacture bulbs that have a programmed life of 2500 hours, so that you have to buy them again and again bulbs. Is planned obsolescence necessary? Is it possible to end it and make efficient products?

Documentary about scheduled obsolescence

The documentary called "Buy, throw, buy" produced by RTVE talks about programmed obsolescence, a term very little known by society, but tremendously important in our times. The documentary makes us wonder if an economic system based on consumerism makes sense.

In the last century, companies have investigated how to design products that last less, so that we can buy their products again. Does it make sense to spend money researching how to make less durable products? At first glance the answer is clear, but if the bulbs did not burn out, the companies dedicated to their manufacture would go bankrupt and would not manufacture more. The documentary raises several more questions, does it make sense to manufacture infinite products on a planet with limited resources? Is there no way that companies can seek to improve efficiency while still being able to survive?

Open debate on the durability of products and capitalism

The documentary opens the debate on the logic of a consumer lifestyle, where mountains of low-quality products are produced. In 1911 light bulbs with a duration of 2500 hours were announced, in 1924 their manufacturers agreed not to make any that lasted more than 1000 hours.

It is an issue that tears the foundations of capitalism, which is why it is very difficult to propose possible agreements to change it. A possible solution would be, for example, that the bulbs will be paid annually on the electricity bill as a quality maintenance premium. The electricity company would take care of the bulbs as a product included in its service and to reduce its costs it would try to make the bulbs last as long as possible.

This documentary has won numerous television awards, among them an Onwings, an award for the best documentary of the year 2011 by the Spanish Academy of Television, SCINEMA (Australia), FILMAMBIENTE (Brazil), Guangzhou International Festival (China), Maeda Special Award (Japan), etc.

You can see the documentary in the following link to RTVE: The documentary – Buy, throw, buy