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Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 3:44 PM

Greetings CR4 community.

I hope and pray all of you are safe, and blessed with good health.

Having said that, I am somewhat annoyed with current Hardware (Mechanical, Electrical, Electronic) manufacturing and Software development. In today's era, we are not supposed to have early defects in products either made for work (like process instruments used in plants, Engineering Laptops etc.)or personal use (like mobiles, PCs, gaming consoles etc.etc.). I am in my 30's and I have seen vivid transition of quality engineered products which are functional even after 20 years of use, to products which fails shortly or degrade short after. I have read some articles about Deliberate premature Obsolescence in products by manufacturers for profit gains but unsure if this is deliberately done so that customer will buy new upgraded product or is result of cheap labor/ quality control/ to reduce the price of finished product.

I would love to hear community take on it and if they can share their own experience.
P.S. My old Yamaha keyboard of 25 years, DELL Latitude laptop of 12 years, along with other old collectibles are still functional.

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#1

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 5:44 PM

I think a lot of it is that most manufacturing is done overseas now and they have different mindset than most American companies, traditionally anyway....Here people and manufacturers are held accountable and word spreads quickly if you offer a low quality product....

The names and controlling interests are constantly changing in companies now and if somebody gets caught manufacturing a defective product they just declare bankruptcy close the company down and start a new company the next day., which is basically just reincorporating under a new name...

Accountability is a dodgy label to find the appropriate place to attach to with so many moving targets...So I would say the lack of expertise and followed by proper quality control across the supply chain is the main problem...You can build a great and proper gizmo but if the materials are substandard and it fails anyway then you must point the finger at proper quality control every step of the way....

I think also that a significantly contributing factor is the never ending cycle of upgrading to incorporate new features, whether you need them or not, in tandem with security concerns, whether real or not, to drive the market due to competing interests driving the demand of materials which compare favorably with labor costs and further burdened with the elevated cost of replacement parts, that if left in place will be manufactured and supplied by aftermarket entities...

So the changing market demands for aftermarket parts is hamstrung by constant model changes and parts redesign to artificially cap demand, this then coupled with low manufacturing costs resulting in favorable replacement cost compared to repair cost....

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 10:47 PM

Solar Eagle accurately explains "hamstrung by constant model changes and parts redesign to artificially cap demand, this then coupled with low manufacturing costs resulting in favorable replacement cost compared to repair cost".

Manufactured quality may be great. But time-limiting the availability of spare parts is one of the sneaky ways a manufacturer can try to encourage disposal of the old and replacement with a new one. A certain Japanese electromechanicals manufacturer uses local consumer legislation for parts availability as the time limit. If legislation demands that spares be reasonably available for (say) seven years, that manufacturer deliberately dumps to landfill all such spares when the end of the seventh year strikes.

You're supposed to buy their latest machine, instead of repairing the existing one. I have seen stocks of spare stepper motors, servo motors, ballscrews tipped in the dumpster for that reason.

This is commercial wickedness, triumphing over engineering practicality, defecating on the environment.

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#2

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 8:47 PM

Maybe, due to all the price competition on the internet, the cheap bad stuff drives the better but more expensive stuff out of the market. Price is just a number that is easy for the non-discerning buyer to compare.

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#3
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 9:47 PM

I don't know about that my microwave oven just failed, it was not shopped by price, it was shopped for best quality...I'm in the process of dismantling it now to see what happened....every screw in this oven is a different driver type so far...2 1/2 years old...

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#5
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 10:53 PM

Check the high voltage diode first!, but very carefully. I've repaired several microwave ovens by replacing nothing but that diode. I presume you are well aware of the possibly lethal voltage and current in that area.

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#8
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 11:59 PM

Yes I'm familiar, I suspect the capacitor has shorted....the smell was awful...

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#20
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 2:03 PM

My pet peeve is the faucet mounted water filters. No matter what brand you get, they soon leak and need to be replaced. I suspect the "manufacturers" subcontract everything except putting their name on it (maybe even that), and they are all actually made by the lowest cost, lowest quality bidder.

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#23
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 6:36 PM

Well in all fairness I think a closer look is due here...I regularly use these faucet mounted filters and find that they do fail after a few years, but in all fairness they by that time are caked and clogged with mineral deposits which by itself would be cause to change it for new...so in conclusion I find they fail in unison at a time when they would normally be changed out due to other causes anyway...The quality control of the filters can be below standard though, so there's no excuse for that...The convenience and price point seems appropriate for the results garnered anyway, with minimal effort and reasonable cost, clean tasting water can be had by all....

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#6

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 10:56 PM

Most of us engineers can relate to your annoyance with the life expectancy of new products.

The underlying issues for this?.. rate of change in technologies, societal expectations created by rampant consumerism.

While your laptop may still be working just fine after 12 years.. it is unlikely it will work well with the latest programs. No problem for web browsing, simple word processing, etc. If working with others, gaming, engineering, etc.. old hardware will be an issue. It is expected.. a product life of longer than 5 years isn't all that.. mmm? .. critical?

This begs questioning use of consumer grade laptops, desktop computers in industrial, commercial applications.

On the other hand ... White goods ( refrigerators, A/C units, ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc... ) There isn't any real reason for society to be replacing these items every 3-10 years. Bad use of resources. The (NOW) short lives of these goods is driven by marketing in love with tech (why would I want a computer in the door of my frig?) Marginally higher energy efficiencies are not good enough reasons to justify shorter product life. According to Consumer Reports, most "white goods" have failure rates of 30% within the first 5 years. Terrible.

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#19
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 12:06 PM

White goods? They only push stainless steel goods now!

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#7

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/29/2020 11:12 PM

Congratulations for noticing at such a young age!

I just made a new tip for my Montgomery Ward (Wen) Soldering gun, which I received as a major gift for Christmas, 1951. I replaced its power cord around 20 years ago, and it still works fine.

A few years ago, we bought a new Clothes Washer to replace a 30+ year old unit. When the delivery guy saw our old unit, he said: "You'll be lucky to get 10 years out of this one."

Newer devices, with all the 'bells and whistles', do tend to be significantly more complex, and therefore have a lot more potential failure points, but I tend to agree with you: Planned Obsolescence does seem to be a real thing.

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#17
In reply to #7

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 9:47 AM

I can relate to the clothes washer. I purchased a Whirlpool washer to replace a sears kenmore (probably made by whirlpool) that was 25 years old, the new washer broke down (water pump) after six months. Made entirely of plastic, Nothing was found in the pump, foreign objects, that caused it to fail. Also replaced two gas fired furnaces after about 8 years of service, The ones that they replaced were at least 20 years old. The parts that failed in the 8 year olds cracked heat exchangers in both. If that wasn't enough One of the new furnaces failed after 1 year (2 speed fan motor) a very expensive part! luckily it was covered under warranty. On another note I recall seeing a program about the invention of the light bulb, in it was a company that produced a bulb that would last a very long time after realizing this would put them out of business they and other producers got together to produce bulbs with a short life span. Don't recall all the details it was awhile ago.

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#25
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/01/2021 11:58 PM

One other example: Our Carrier Air conditioner was installed in 1967. It's presence was one of the main things that made me decide to buy this house in 1970. During the 50 years that I've lived in this house, I've spent an average of $4 per year on maintenance of that A/C. The condenser is mounted in a spot where it has shade all morning, and I place a tilted umbrella that shades it in the afternoons, and I do cover it in the winter.

It ran all summer (as needed) with no problem.

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#29
In reply to #25

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/04/2021 8:54 PM

OK, you beat me by six years.

My 1973 house still has the original GE air conditioner and A-coil. Yes, over the last 24 years, I have replaced the outdoor blower motor three times and the inside blower motor once and one contactor in the condenser unit. But other than that, it's been trouble-free.

And no, I would never let an A/C technician hook up gauges to the unit as long as it keeps blowing icy cold air. That just guarantees it will start leaking that precious R-22 Freon.

My outside unit only sees sunshine for a couple of hours in the mid-morning. Plus my house is well shaded by Mother Nature's all-natural air conditioning systems.

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#35
In reply to #29

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 1:05 PM

Plus my house is well shaded by Mother Nature's all-natural air conditioning systems.

That's another system that gets better with age.

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#36
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 1:26 PM

Generally true, although some of the trees I planted 50 years ago, and some that came up from acorns, have grown so much that now I have almost no area left with enough direct sun for vegetables. Also, I now have to prune regularly to keep some trees away from the roof.

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#37
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 5:31 PM

Fortunately for me, my company allows us to grow a garden on their property because I can't even grow grass for all the shade, let alone a garden.

We have a 'garden club' with donated (previous members) Troy-Bilt horse tillers and company provided water. The company even purchased an 8-ft high deer fence and we provided the labor to put it up. I have two 25 ft by 50 ft plots. We charge 'dues' of $20/yr per plot to buy miscellaneous garden supplies to maintain the space and maintenance items for the tillers.

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#9

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 12:16 AM

I was in attendance at a meeting at a Big 3 automaker where it was revealed that a new engine's water pump was found to have a service life longer than the expected engine rebuild interval. The response was to "take money out of the water pump".

I have had computers that were rendered obsolete by the hardware requirements of upgraded software and software rendered obsolete by new hardware.

It was unsubstantiated but I was told that the little clips that hold DIMM memory chips down to motherboards are designed to survive only a single cycle (Be careful!).

If these are normal practice (Why make parts of a system outlast the system?) is it any wonder that designs may encourage early failures?

See One-horse shay - Wikipedia

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#13
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 5:56 AM

Even the great Flukes use conductive rubber strips to connect the display to the back board and these stop working as the pressure of the display carrier clips weaken. We just love planned obsolescence or rubbish materials.

How to fix? Rub a 3b pencil over the conductive rubber strips and functionality returns. Add a small packing strip to make the clips hold firmer and away you go, no more an expensive book end. Is the name stating the likelihood of it working?

Ever had a TV/All Singing remote stop working the day after the warranty runs out? Well for approx $12 450 conductive rubber disks can be bought from Hong Kong. Just glue them to the membrane with Silastic 732 black and full functionality is restored. Tried many other glues, contact cements, super glues, even special glues but none work on the membrane for more than a few days while the silastic is going strong after a year or more..

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#10

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 12:23 AM

Being in the Building Automation Industry for 35 years I have seen this new trend of obsolescence every 2-5 years due to the need of more robust hardware to handle the increased Software application files.

Ahh the days of simpler Barber Coleman pneumatic electric systems, of which many are still running today.

On a side note I purchased an Ipad 2 years ago and 6 months ago apple did their ios10 upgrade. I now own an $800 i pad that my grand daughter uses to scribble art work on. Technology is wonderful and a pain in the bumm at the same time.

Bring back hot wire relays and pressure switches.

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#11

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 1:05 AM

The main problem is the consumer/ engineer has to have the latest and greatest item sold on the brochureware blurb.

The washplant in a coal mine ran from 1984 on the same I/O controllers and communication network until 2000 and we all know the waffle around Y2K, nothing stopped. But because the management were in a panic we had a truck load of money shoved our was to upgrade the control system to make it Y2K proof.

Was it good, yes I got to spend a year rewriting the software to use the new controllers and to make the drawings use the standard I/O drawings. Everything went well and the system is only going to be upgraded now 20 years later.

Of course along the way the supplier offered all these new bells and whistles and upgrades but they were never taken up because nothing in the real world had changed so no need for all these dodads with no application.

Same with computers, until Y2K all the control systems ran either on propriety HMI or NT4 service pack 2 and the old touch screens still run as I rescued them from the tip. Who needs the latest software, buggy as it is, trying to take over our computers to run them how a programmer thinks we need them run. I only just changed from Win7 to 10 and now it bugs me about things I don't want or need. Bring back DOS, less memory needed.

I just replaced the thermostat control in our wall oven, 15 years old, purely mechanical, only changed because the contacts had welded shut and She Who Must Be Obeyed, SWMBO, said fix it so I took the quick fix just add money, Meanwhile the old controller has had a contact file and burnish. Try to do that with an all singingnew computer controlled appliance.

Even microwave ovens with electronic controllers are usually hampered by a failure of a peripheral, fuse, cap, diode sometimes a magnatron.

The quality of the imported goods relies on the QC department of the manufacturer, pay RR price or pay Lada price, your choice, but then you can buy 4 cheaper units for the price of a great unit which uses imported parts anyway.

People need to stop buying the latest Brochureware and make the companies suffer a bit and they will soon slow down the rush to be the first in the bin.

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#12

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 2:52 AM

I also have a (small) gripe regarding my multi-meter. It is a cheap unit ($A40) but that is not the reason to throw it away. I was pressed for time and used it on the 10Amp range then without moving the hot lead back to V-mA_ohms, I proceeded to let the magic smoke out. two resistors were charcoal, R42, R43. I tried for a circuit for the meter, knowing there was little to no chance of getting one. So I put the make and model online hoping someone had one of these devices, no chance.

I recently repaired my daughter's wall oven. It is a Bosch unit and the light failed with a bang. A new globe didn't fix it so dad was called to "look" at it.

Took the top cover off and traced the wiring from the globe, it went via a relay, which didn't operate. I shorted the contacts of the relay and light....hooray, There were 2 zero ohm resistors on the board that were cooked, like my meter, replaced them with a single strand of fine wire from a multi strand hook up wire, all well. Dad does it again.

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#14

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 6:46 AM

You will probably enjoy this video from the CBC; Broken appliances: Why you may need repairs more often (Marketplace): https://youtu.be/UwfIbm_JrPI

A relative is a cost accountant in aerospace manufacturing. He noticed one component was having higher than normal failure rates in service. He went to observe the original installation of the component and saw that it needed to be held high by the technician and was subject to being accidentally dropped. He asked engineering to make the component robust enough to survive 6 foot drops unharmed. The failure rate dropped to normal limits.

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#15

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 7:01 AM

Having been in the Electrical/Electronic industry for over 60 years, mostly repairing stuff from naval aircraft to petrol station systems I have to agree that most modern equipment lacks the robustness of earlier generations. A lot of this is down to circuit miniaturisation with components now sub 5mm. They do the same job well, but are much more vulnerable to voltage surges and spikes. The circuit board tracks are so thin that a small particle of dust or moisture can corrode the copper or cause shorts. The circuits are almost impossible to repair so you get a lot of early obsolescence and manufacturers love it. I have a regular stream of 40+ year old boards from equipments that operate outdoors and they are a doddle to repair , but I struggle to sort out an X-box especially when they get software downloads from Microsoft full of bugs!

The other failure area is software. Most equipment starts life doing a particular function in which the hardware/software quickly exposes glitches and bugs which are quickly put right. Then the end user starts to do 'improvements' usually with bad results! It can take months/years to produce a new device by which time the original idea/design and the designers have changed and then the 'value engineers' get at it to substitute lower cost components.

I don't think manufacturers deliberately try to design in obsolescence, too difficult to do with components, but I suspect that some bespoke software might have timers to introduce bugs after so many running hours or cycles. One manufacturer I worked for did suggest it until I asked why the Company service department was being targeted with deliberately low MTBF systems to maintain! Welcome to the new world order!

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#16

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 7:12 AM

Obsolescence is primarily a problem for both individuals and companies that don't plan and budget for regular replacement. We all hope to have quality purchases that outlast the expected lifetime of our purchase and there is probably a physiological enjoyment when that can be achieved. Larger companies actually plan on these replacements before the end-of-life expediencies. Sometimes it is easier to replace with new than to suffer downtime and repair costs. The company I work for prefers to minimize expenditures unless there can be shown a cost/time savings. We have multiple work cells that outnumber the employees. If a cell goes down the operator moves to a different cell while that one is repaired. We have some equipment that is over 100 years old that is used every week. When repairs are required we reverse engineer replacement parts. With modern equipment we are forced to replace. Sometimes this can be a good thing. As a side note, we don't worry about our equipment being hacked as none of it is connected to computer systems.

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#18

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 10:15 AM

I will simply quote the anecdote about Studebaker. When you build a high quality product people use it a long time. Studebaker sold everyone a car. Everyone drove that car so long Studebaker went bankrupt waiting for everyone to buy another car.

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#21

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 5:02 PM

If it was not for planned obsolescence, the economy would fail. If an item was made to last a long time, businesses would soon go under. Their ability to stay in business depends on repeat sales. Business fail and workers lose their jobs. Finding a reasonable compromise between product life and replacement is I'm sure the goal of manufacturers. Off course there are some who are out for the quick profit and unfortunately they play a role in the supply chain. During the beginning of the 20th century, products were made to last a long time as consumerism was starting up, but as the public started to enjoy prosperity, their demand for consumer goods increased, requiring manufacturers to adopt planned obsolescence. This is my thinking as a non economist.

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#22
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

12/30/2020 6:20 PM

I am not an economist either.. Still, most of us can question if the appropriate balance our companies are using in determining the life of a product should extend beyond the issues of simply economics. Granted, much of society has fallen into the traps of short term thinking.

The world simply doesn't have enough resources to provide the current expectations of a western middle class life style to the entire world. The pollution, the raw materials, etc.. required for a modest portion of world's population cannot be directly expanded to include the rest of the world with the present systems, methods.

In short, a change in thinking is required, about nearly everything including the impact of product obsolescence.

Things to consider the next time we are in a meeting reviewing the expected life of a product .

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#24

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/01/2021 6:35 PM

I am reading this post on a 2004 Toshiba laptop with the Deceleron processor running Windoze XP. It still works, so . . . .

In the interest of shaving every penny of cost, yes, anecdotally, it certainly seems that manufacturers are building in obsolescence.

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#26

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/04/2021 10:51 AM

You do have to consider they are just following the master plan. Humans exist in a body that could regenerate itself but doesn't. Thus we become obsolete whether we want to or not.

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#27

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/04/2021 12:43 PM

Apple is quite up front about it's products having a planned lifespan engineered in. Apple users that are paying attention are aware of that when they purchase. I think that approach should be applied to nearly every durable good so it becomes part of the buying decision.

I also believe we are seeing (have seen) the results of more precise engineering. I've been doing machine design long enough to remember hearing "if in doubt make it stout" and "steel is cheap" and overbuilding a lot of stuff because of it. We don't apply those aphorisms any more because our engineering tools allow us to eliminate most doubt and steel is not as cheap as it once was. Now we apply a factor of safety that gets larger or smaller based on the actual risk involved. Product failure that doesn't result in damages or lost customers but requires new product is pretty low risk.

The next big engineering challenge is to make those products that will need replacing regularly in a circular economy where the materials don't just end up as landfill somewhere.

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#28
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/04/2021 3:40 PM

You got it JW. Making the manufacturer responsible for the entire product life cycle will change a lot of business models where kick it down the road was the only reason they were profitable.

Ah, but that will never happen because...Billionaires.

Imagine if we required oil companies for example, to bank actual cash to have on hand in the event of a major spill? We don't. They can simply declare bankruptcy (Like PG&E did just last year) and guess who picks up the cost and guess who gets to keep the billions? This is why, short of a pitchfork, bonfire, guillotine redistribution of wealth, we are screwed.

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#30
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Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/04/2021 8:58 PM

That's like making politicians responsible for the life cycle of their voters.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 12:07 PM

Or vice versa?

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 12:42 PM

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be working from either end.

The Congress seems to be universally despised, yet the voters re-install the same old stale entrenched faces election after election.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 12:47 PM

They won't live forever, but neither will we. I always felt we should not vote for the incumbent so that the replacement would tell us how the incumbent ripped us off.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Encountering Deliberate Hardware Obsolescence

01/05/2021 12:52 PM

There are more than just a few members of Congress who could easily be classified as zombies. They never die.

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