Giles Slade, author of the forthcoming book, "Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America" writes in today's Chicago Tribune, that electronics manufacturers are indeed designing and manufacturing electronics for limited lifespan:
So the telegraph is no more. It served us well for 148 years. Now the film camera is dying at age 117. The sleek cell phone you bought just two years ago is obsolete too--if the thing still works. And Wall Street couldn't be more delighted at the quickening pace of obsolescence...
A similar cycle of improvement, consumption and obsolescence defines all successful electronic products. And because manufacturers are aware of their products' increasingly short life spans, they usually "underbuild" the more expensive components to save money. After about a year, for example, the batteries of iPods start losing their capacity to hold a charge. True, Apple has a cumbersome mail-in program that allows you to replace the battery for $60. But iPods are not meant to be repaired. They are meant to be replaced by newer models and thrown away. That's why Apple seals the battery inside the iPod case. And that's why some iPod customers are now very angry.
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Is it any surprise that Californian's now dispose of more than 500,000 tons of toxic electronics every year? At minimum, we need to demand that manufacturers phase out the use of toxic materials in these increasingly disposable devices. Secondly, we must demand take back and recycling. Towards that end, CAW is sponsoring a package of e-waste recycling legislation.