Technical Obsolesence Nonsense


This past weekend, my parents were kind enough to buy Erin and I a new DVD player. It’s amazing how inexpensive DVD players have become, these days. In this case, a reconditioned Mitsubishi, according to the ads, was purchased for a sweet $50 CDN. The Buffy Season 5 box set cost more.

My parents bought us the new DVD player because our old DVD player, a reconditioned KOSS model, was starting to fail. Imagine my alarm when, on the Two Towers Special Extended DVD, the picture and sound starts to pixilate just when the host of Eldar arrive at Helm’s Deep. Similarly, on the Angel Season Two box set, Angel’s trip down the elevator with Marsh becomes unwatchable, apparently due to a flaw on the disk. I couldn’t return these disks for replacements as I’d long ago lost the receipts, and stores like Future Shop and Best Buy are getting particularly miserly when it comes to product exchanges.

You’ve probably noted that these are both disk flaws. Why have we replaced the DVD? Well, what was even more surprising about the afflicted DVDs is that, though they wouldn’t play on my KOSS machine, they played fine on other machines. Steve’s TV offered up the likeliest explanation: the DVD’s laser is getting weak, and is unable to compensate for small flaws on the disk.

So, my father asks: how much to fix the weak laser?

$200, including parts and labour.

Thus we have a new DVD player.

And, sure enough, the Mitsubishi glides over the flawed areas without complaint, and I am delighted that my modest DVD collection is back whole again. But on another level, it offends me that it’s cheaper to replace a broken DVD than it is to repair it. DVDs should not be disposable. This is the reason why we’re spending millions of dollars a month trucking landfill across the border to Michigan.

It seems that nothing is built to last anymore. Our percolating coffee maker is looking a bit grungy, and there’s sure to come a time when the karafe is going to get cracked. Can we replace the karafe? Nope; it’s easier (and almost cheaper) to replace the whole coffee maker with a new model. On the other hand, we own a massive microwave built in 1980. A hand-me-down from Erin’s parents, and a survivor of nearly a dozen moves, it functions perfectly well. It even tells the time. Why are so many things built so flimsily these days? Is this truly progress? Is this truly value for money?

Some environmentalists liken this to a conspiracy by manufacturing corporations to ensure themselves a market, and it’s hard to disagree with them. The manufacturer of our 25-year-old microwave hasn’t had our business since that major purchase, after all. In the meantime, we’ve burnt through three stereos, two DVD players and several monitors.

One of the intriguing policies of the Green Party of Canada is to shift the tax burden off of income and onto resource consumption — essentially getting polluters to pay. They also offer up ideas on forcing companies to be responsible for their products, and their packaging, from the point of manufacture, to the point of disposal. I wonder if, should this be implemented, we might get more products that don’t break down five seconds after the warranty expires. If so, it’s another reason to vote Green.

P.S.: Just so you know, the old DVD player, which works 95% of the time, won’t be cluttering up any landfill in Ontario or Michigan. Dan has asked for it for his classroom, as it saves him having to compete with other teachers for the school DVD player.

A Test of the Ad Spiders

(Responding to a comment from his father, James has a look at the ad banners that show up in the previous post) …hmm…

So, the back yard of my townhouse is surrounded by bushes, you see? Every backyard has one. Bush, bush, bush! I can only guess that it would be hard to administer.

Unfortunately, the Russian olive bushes along our complex’s western flank (by Westmount Road) have been removed. According to the condominium complex officials, they were too dense to allow undergrowth, and as a result they weren’t acting as the sound barriers that they should be. Our complex association president (who I call George for no reason whatsoever) promises that new growth will occur throughout the year, and that it will be thicker and stronger. I hope so, because the border looks rather bare in the interim.

…Now sit back and see what advertisements show up…

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