My mother in law has an old top loader washing machine. Several times in the last few years I’ve had to borrow hers whilst our, newer, more fandagled one is repaired or replaced. Today is another one of those days and it got me thinking, as I packed my laundry to take to my mother in law’s, about the way in which things just aren’t built to last any more. Christ, I sound like somebodies grandmother just uttering that sentence, don’t I? And yet it’s true.
My old cassette player never broke once, nor did my walkman. These days if an ipod lasts 12 months you consider it as having had a good run. Same for laptops, my old desk PC ran for years, since switching over to laptops about 4 years ago, I’ve had 4 – about 1 a year.
You could drop an old cassette player from a second story window and it would still work – trust me on this. Your walkman could spend the day being bashed around in the bottom of your school bag, end up covered in yoghurt with the front smashed off, and still play music. But leave your smartphone in your handbag without its protective case for a day and you’ll be scorned in the shop if you take it back to complain that it isn’t working.
It’s very easy to blame the lack of longevity these days on the electronics used, to blame their sensitive nature for it all; of course cassette players lasted longer they had less fiddly chips and technical stuff inside them, modern electronics are so much more sensitive. And you need to keep them in special padded cases which, incidentally, cost almost as much as the piece of electronics did in the first place.
But surely that’s not right. We can affix complex electronics equipment to fast jets which shake beyond belief, go through stressful landings and take-offs and break the sound barrier and yet you can’t drop an ebook reader from the height of the bed without it breaking? Clearly something is amiss here. Obviously they could choose to make our electronic equipment longer lasting, more able to take life’s knocks if they so desired.
So is it the cost? In order to keep costs affordable they use easily broken materials and don’t shock proof their equipment? Perhaps, but considering the mark-up on most electronics equipment is 100% or more, I’m not sure they could ever be accused of cutting corners for the customers sake. But even if they did offer us equipment that lasted 5 years or more, would we want it?
The more I think about it the more I realise that the reason things are this way is probably to do with us. We think we want things to last, are sick of things breaking and want value for money and yet… how many of us don’t lust after the newest phone, the latest laptop or ipad? How many of us aren’t already wondering which will be the next one after this one breaks or whether we can really justify owning a kindle, laptop and an ipad?
Doesn’t their only last around 12 months help us justify our desire for the better, more shiny one with extra knobs on that we saw in a magazine last week? And doesn’t it, on one level, actually make us happy that things don’t last the way they used to? Allows us to keep up with the trends, the latest and greatest technological advancements?
Still not sure how this applies to my washing machine, mind. Can’t say I’ve ever lusted over laundry equipment.