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We once lived in a happy world

3 min read

Disclaimer: I originally published this article on one of my previous blogs back in 2014. In 2023 I edited it again and now I'm republishing it for nostalgia reasons.

There’s a particular category of devices used by majority of worldwide population. Invented many decades ago, they quickly became so widespread that we hardly remember how we managed to live without them.

At first, those devices had very simple form and limited set of features. People needed some strength and patience to use them.

Further iterations became more compact and easier to use, but they started to use parts of limited lifespan. It wasn’t much of a problem though.

Did your device’s power unit stop working? Some other part got wonky? Get it replaced or try fixing it on your own. If successful, your device would remain perfectly usable for many more years without fuss.

Time was passing by. Millions of people used their devices for years and years and manufacturers didn’t like that. They noticed they had a serious problem. Once you bought your device, you were lost for good and the manufacturer wouldn’t get your money any more. After all, you had bought a device that was so affordable to maintain that you would never need to buy another one (unless you broke the one you had been using).

And it all went to…

All devices used to work in exact same way, even if manufactured by different companies. But manufacturers started investing heavy loads of money to develop features which wouldn’t add much to device’s usability, but were heavily advertised as a core reason to replace your old model with a new one. You got a bigger screen, more advanced processing unit and even more features.

Worse, any newer iteration of the device rarely resembled a similar model produced a generation or two ago. If your old device was still alive and kicking, it had been produced in a way it was nearly invulnerable.

However, if you decided to buy a new one, you were doomed. And if you broke it (and your warranty expired), forget about fixing it yourself. Spare parts were difficult to came by and expensive to buy. Nobody could repair their own devices any more, so heavily customized and non-standardized they became.

Up to this day manufacturers deny any accusations of planned obsolence of their products. And we get new generations of devices every single year.

We once lived in a happy world…

…when you didn’t have to make hard choices between usability and durability of your device.

We once lived in a happy world in which everyone could buy just one device for their whole life and pass it to their children. Since there were less devices manufactured and sold, there was no need to optimize costs of manufacturing. The devices were built to be durable. No cheap plastic or irreplaceable parts.

And it all went to shit.

I’m obviously talking about washing machines.

Originally published on by Łukasz Wójcik