Carolyn Hitt: ‘Technology has no room for sentiment’ – Carolyn Hitt
As soon as I saw the matter I opened the email with a heavy heart. You may not think that a communication from Amazon was headed, “An update on purchases on your Kindle,” would bring tears to your eyes, but this was an email I hoped would never arrive.
“Hello, thank you for continuing to use one of our first Kindle e-readers,” he said. “While you can continue reading to your e-reader, as of August 17, 2022, the store’s functionality will no longer be available. This change only affects some e-readers introduced more than 10 years ago. “In August, you will no longer be able to browse, purchase, or borrow books directly from these Kindle e-readers.”
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It ended with an offer to upgrade the latest model. But even though I’ve always considered myself a tech-savvy guy, I don’t want to let go of this gadget since 2011. While in the field of digital accessories my Kindle is positively old, I can’t stand to replace it. . .
Those who brandish a Paperwhite with adjustable warm light would probably laugh at this decade-old e-reader. It has a damaged red leather case and a full QWERTY keyboard. Entering the password is a memory test in more ways than one because the seven letters of my memorable word have worn out the tiny round keys.
It is thick and the contrast of the text could be better with the gray background off your screen. But it works. It has 186 books stored. And I want it to work forever because it’s the last Christmas present my mom gave me before she died.
Technology, of course, has no room for sentiment. It’s not built to last as long as the memories it can evoke. (Or, in fact, he maintains, as anyone who has not backed up or prints his digital photos discovers. It is one of the great ironies that future genealogists may have better pictorial records of your Victorian ancestors than you, even all with all your thousands of 21st century selfies).
Planned obsolescence is one of the pillars of capitalism. Since light bulb manufacturers in the 1920s devised a cunning plan to limit the shelf life of their products, a business model based on deliberate disappearance has thrived.
We are fast advancing 100 years and we have fast fashion, and with it the even faster packaging of landfills with clothes bought for a Friday night outing and quickly discarded. According to a recent study, on average, each piece of clothing is worn only seven times before being thrown away. Not to mention the clothing bonfires that are coming as clothes can’t be sold fast enough in stores to keep up with billing trends.
There are laptops and computers that seduce us with their speed for a couple of years and then force us into a tech divorce while they stop due to software incompatibility issues. This is the relentless pressure to get a younger model, I am convinced that computer operating systems are a kind of AI version of a bald boy with a midlife crisis.
Phones are the most intense examples of planned obsolescence. In 2020, 1.4 billion smartphones were sold. Of those, 200 million were from Apple. And more than 80 percent of these iPhones went to “upgrades” instead of buying them for the first time.
Apple is the most important collaborator in this area of storage that many of us recognize in our homes: the drawer of discarded chargers. This tangled technology cemetery gets bigger with every unnecessary upgrade. Even if your iPhone’s charger survives the fate of the “broken neck” that so many support thanks to its fragile cable, it will finally have the wrong end to connect it. And don’t use my headphones. I have enough to give my street a Silent Nightclub, as long as they can get stuck in a hole that still works.
Last month saw the death of the iPod. Inevitably you might think, since it paved the way for the iPhone. But there could still be a place for a dedicated music player without the pings, rings, and distractions of a smartphone.
It says it all about how technology is accelerating retail cycles that the demise of the iPod sparked a wave of millennial nostalgia. People were saying goodbye to Nanos, Shuffles and Classics with the same feeling of Proustian wonder that I felt remembering the arrival of the Sony Walkman.
For those too young to remember, it was the best technological breakthrough of our entire adolescence. After spying on him at Tomorrow’s World, then on Cliff Richard’s hip while skating on Top of the Pops, we finally saw him in all his yellow plastic brick glory in the school yard, with our teacher of music Mrs. Rimmer, who was possibly. the first person in Pontypridd to have one. It helped her drown years of cacophony in the yard while she was on rest service.
I wanted a Sony Walkman. But they gave me an Aiwa. It was never the same kind of status symbol as Sony. Or at least that’s what the giant consumerist forces that have been haunting society since the 1950’s told us.
There has been a cultural pandemic around the world long before the most recent plagues. We are talking about influx: the constant pressure to upgrade, buy new, get more stuff, define yourself to have the latest possible model. All with the help of planned obsolescence.
Brooks Stevens, the legendary American industrial designer who devoted his talent to everything from home furniture to motorcycles, expressed how advertising fueled the influx in 1954, “instilling in the buyer the desire to have something a little newer, a little better, a little faster than necessary ”.
But the world has changed. In fact, the world needs to change because its future survival depends on moving away from a society of use. E-waste is a big problem. In the European Union alone, about 2.5 billion tonnes are produced each year, which has a massive environmental impact.
But what can be done to overcome planned obsolescence, a world in which things are deliberately built to last?
Christopher McFadden, an energy consultant trained at Cardiff University, says much can be done, from government regulation requiring manufacturers to facilitate the repair of electronics to measures to make the economic context broader. be more favorable for repair.
However, you and I could make the biggest impact by changing our own consumer behavior.
As Chris writes: “After all, as long as people continue to ‘endure’ short-lived products or succumb to the vagaries of fashion, then nothing will really change. To that end, one of the most powerful potential controls would be for consumers in general to boycott Buying new products if they don’t need them Consumers may also oppose patented accessories (such as wireless headphones or special chargers) Official versions can be cost-effective, but they also tend to inspire secondary market alternatives that aggravate the problem of the consumption of raw materials and electronic waste.
“Another strategy is to reduce the product replacement cycle. While this may not be possible for all products (especially food, etc.), it is very possible to keep clothing and smart devices on for a few more years than usual. To help you in this area, always try your best to repair or replace worn parts whenever possible.
“When a product has really reached the end of its useful life, always make the mistake of recycling or donating the product to a place that can handle it properly. When you buy a new product, consider opting for a new product. an older product, recycled or reconditioned, or made from recycled materials, instead of choosing a new one. “
This is great advice not only in the context of climate change but in our current cost of living crisis. And there are indications, especially among the generation of Instagram, that changing the brand of second-hand clothes as vintage furniture and garbage stores as recycled, that an approach to making and repairing can be fun, creative and rewarding. , as well as environmentally friendly.
Therefore, we need a cultural vaccine against wealth to rethink the social messages that have taught us to devalue our bond with the things we already have. It’s not just about sentimental value, it’s about sustainability. And in both respects I will not part with my 2011 Kindle.