This week a friend was commenting that her snow boots, the ones she bought in 1990 when she first moved to snow country, were nearly as good as new. She’s worn them for the past thirty winters in the mountains. Coincidentally, I have a pair of the same brand of boots that I’ve worn since moving here in 1998. They’ve been reliable and I don’t need to go out and buy another pair. It got me thinking about how things used to be made to last. Warranties were for a lifetime. Especially for those appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves, washers and dryers. These days, another friend who has worked in the industry has said that appliances are made to last for ten to twelve years. Yes, built-in-obsolescence.
Technology is a whole other story. State of the art changes frequently. What was fresh and new this week is outdated by the next. My DVD player went kaput the other night. I swear that I heard it sign twice before it succumbed. Unfortunately, it had swallowed Secretariat, the Netflix DVD that I was renting. I was forced to resort first to tweezers and then to a can opener to pry it open.
The next day, I went up to Walmart to review their inventory of DVD players. I finally chose a Sony DVD Player with Blu-ray Disc capacity. An upgrade, I thought, pleased with my choice. I even bought the two year warranty plan! I got home late that night, too tired to set it up. The next evening, a friend told me “It’s easy.” So I thought I’d get it up and running before bed. I unplugged all of the cords from the old DVD player. I read the instruction manual from front to back.
I soon realized that the HDMI cable wasn’t included in the deal. I also noticed that some of the hook-ups looked different than the ones on the older model. There weren’t the same jacks and outlets and inlets and all of that. I don’t have Cable TV and wondered if that was a requirement. I plugged in the DVD player after I made one connection–but it was actually connected to the TV so it didn’t work. I decided that it could wait until the next day.
The next morning, I went down to Radio Shack with both my manual for the new Sony Blu-Ray Disc DVD Player and my SANYO LCD TV. I was told that these two pieces of equipment weren’t compatible and that they no longer make the same type of connectors as are on my less than five-year old TV! In other words, I wouldn’t be able to find a DVD player that would be compatible with my LCD TV.
“It’s old,” he said plainly.
“Not that old, ” I replied.
What a disappointment!
The customer service guy then told me “You can bring your old DVD player to the transfer station. There is no charge.”
He added “Sometimes they charge to dispose of them as they have lethal components.”
I replied, “I can only hope that they find a way to recycle some of these parts. Otherwise, what a toxic heap we’re creating.”
I walked away, shaking my head “built-in obsolescence once again, I guess.”
Where is all of this technology with lethal components going to end up, I wondered. In a heap, in a landfill, choking our environment further? In the ocean? In outer space? What the heck is going on? There seems to be no foresight or conscience over such waste.
Maybe I’ll return the DVD player. Maybe I won’t get a new TV. Maybe I’ll invite some friends over and chat around a cozy fire on these wintry evenings. I could start a knitting group. I could make ice-cream the old-fashioned way. I could learn how to weave or spin wool perhaps. There are any number of things that I could initiate.
I might put on my made-to-last hiking boots and take an evening walk through the snow.