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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Obsolescence...

Those who know me well, know I'm prone to spasms of anger at my weakest moments. Spasms that often result in things breaking. My phone was the latest victim of what was, this time, a targeted attack. I've been dealing with dropped calls more than I ever have with Verizon service and, though I usually cool off once I get the person back and have bitched for a few minutes, followed by a deep breath, this time I think I was just too distracted and, in a fit of rage and annoyance, I hurled it across the room. Not one of my better moments. It works fine, except I've been sent back a few decades in terms of functionality. The screen has a crack in it. I have no idea who's calling (remember what that was like?), I can't receive text messages (what? no text?), and I have to enter in people's numbers manually, or remember where they were on my contact list. That or I can voice dial...that's the one futuristic thing I still have on my phone.

I'd have gotten a new phone sorted out by now except, I'm eligible for another free one in two weeks. Why spend extra money? As I've been sitting here coming to terms with what I'm going to miss, and figuring out what I've taken for granted all this time, a thought occurred to me. Why not check freecycle and see if someone's getting rid of a phone? Turns out I'm not the only person trying to find a Verizon phone to activate and replace a broken one. Something tells me that they design these phones to fall apart right before you reach two years so that before you're eligible for a free one, you have to buy another. Granted, I was the pulverizer here but in all fairness, it was starting to go downhill before I taught it a lesson. Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

On another note though, this is the core of what I think is wrong with consumerism and why our natural resources are slipping away. That companies actually design things to be replaced in a few years. Entire industries manufacture things that are eventually going to be thrown out, much sooner than anything should be. Think about plastic cutlery and plastic bags, granted these things can be reused but often times they have the word "disposable" written on the box, like, "go ahead, throw it out." Think about clothing, too. Same case only it's perceived obsolescence. Would you wear something that was made in the 80s if you weren't trying to make some sort of retro fashion statement? No one in their right mind would wear stone-washed jeans anymore. And any pair of surviving stone-washed jeans still in existence is probably riddled with holes and unwearable anyway. Not exactly designed to be worn your entire life.

I guess the other thing is that phones are constantly being upgraded as far as capabilities anyway. But is it so impossible to design something that can continue to be used and upgraded? A plastic shell than can be added onto when new software becomes available? But then what would the plastic companies do for business? And wouldn't your phone start to look ridiculous as other phones are getting smaller and smaller? I'm reminded of a phone that a friend of mine had in 2001 that looked like some kind of two way radio, bulky and green. She said it was just for emergencies. No kidding, she could have hit a mugger with it and just about killed him.

The point is, sure, some things are designed to be obsolete within a few years of their creation, but this is usually perceived obsolescence. Planned obsolescence, on the other hand, especially when it comes to cellular telephones, seems a bit forceful. Why can't they design a phone to last so that we can make a choice as to whether or not we want to upgrade after the proscribed two year period?

And again, I'm not talking about user induced malfunction, as in my case. I'm talking about the phone not going to the dark side after a year and a half (or a year, 11 months and two weeks), dropped calls, battery not holding a charge, buttons malfunctioning, screen going blank for no apparent reason and then coming back for no apparent reason at random. Raise your hand if you've ever had a phone do this that you haven't dropped on the ground.

I think I already know the answer to this question. I'm sure I'm not the only one complaining about it.

End rant.

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