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Friday, Oct 31, 2014
The Sun

Planned obsolescence gets my goat


Published:

I loved my digital camera. We had become good friends. I knew how to make it work and it did whatever I told it to do. It captured wonderful pictures and secured memories for me to cherish all my life. We were a marriage made in heaven and for years we went everywhere together. Its home was in my purse.

That is until the day I went to the store to purchase a new chip and was told that they no longer made chips for my camera. What? You’ve got to be kidding! It still works fine. You mean I can’t use it? Our marriage is over, dissolved by a divorce that neither of us wanted or expected.

It wasn’t a cheap camera, but now it lay in my dresser drawer like a useless tool. It wasn’t broken. It had been killed by a new scourge – planned obsolescence. It’s a new way for high tech sales gurus to manipulate our money.

My husband, Oscar, has had a similar experience with his computer. They too became best friends and worked together for years digesting and utilizing software that fulfilled both the need for information and the desire for creativity – until it failed to awaken one morning when Oscar sat down to produce a newsletter for one of his organizations. Devastated, he explained to me that what was causing his grief was that newer computers would not accept the software he has built his creative life around because operating systems have changed and to purchase a new computer would also demand a new copy of the very, very expensive software. Once again, planned obsolescence.

But Oscar foiled their plan. He called a friend who has up-to-date-information on anything having to do with computers, and his friend rescued both his computer, his old operating system and his beloved software. He came out of his office grinning from ear-to-ear. He had beaten the system.

Manufacturers in the high tech industry seem to be bent upon making much of their equipment old before its time. In the guise of modernization and improvement they can make functioning tools useless. And I can’t help but believe that money is the motivation.

Yes, I understand that equipment grows old and replacement parts cannot be stored and made accessible forever. But in my gut I’m beginning to feel that sometimes it happens sooner than is necessary.

Oscar was lucky. His experience had a happy ending. Mine was less so. I had to buy a new camera (and you can bet it wasn’t the same brand that stopped making the chips), and I’m working on making friends with it. My only dread is eventually coming to the store for a new chip and experiencing a repeat performance.

High tech guys, I just got what I think is a good idea. I’ll scrap the camera and use my telephone to take photos. Put that in your craw and chew on it.

Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampabay.rr.com. She is author of the book “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”

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