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becomes immediately useless as soon as just one colour is used up. Secondly, every printer also has a small chip deep inside it. This actually controls the number of prints the machine can produce. Once this quota is reached, the consumer has little choice but to throw the entire printer away and buy a new one.

Another much more widely practiced method is to create obsolescence through design. No doubt you have all been the owner of some garishly coloured appliance and had to get rid of it, not because it no longer worked, but simply because its style was suddenly too offensive. This is a much more subtle form of the theory, but still very effective. Today we all seem to live in a world where our accessories define who we are, and what better way to do this than by always having the newest and best?

Since the concept first came to fruition, there has been a continuous debate over the ethics of planned obsolescence. Advocates claim it motivates technological advances of goods and services, as well as providing the economy with demand stimulation. Critics, however, see it in its more subtle forms as customer exploitation and, in its harsher form, as just plain old dishonesty.


Last season’s shoes are designed to become obsolete the following year by adding small aesthetic changes which make older models look old fashioned, thus influencing consumers to always crave the latest models.

Perhaps more important than whether planned obsolescence is good for the economy or exploitive to the consumers, are the wider implications that such a design strategy may have for our planet.

There are essentially two ways in which planned obsolescence is created in the goods we buy today. One method is to create products that will actually fail after a designated time. This can be a tricky process. On top of the fact that this strategy

is technically illegal, it is also finely balanced. Fail too soon and the customer will become annoyed and change brands, but fail too late and the company loses out on an additional sale. Printers are just one of the products using

this type of planned

obsolescence. This is done in two ways. First, every ink cartridge has a chip, which automatically stops the printer once one colour reaches a certain minimum level. As a result, the whole ink cartridge

In a world with finite resources, in which mankind is already making a huge ecological impact, a disposable economy no longer seems like a legitimate option. Whether it is in the next few decades, or in 100 years time, the world’s resources will begin to run out. At that point, whether we agree with planned obsolescence or not, as a society we will be forced to change the way we consume


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