Definition

planned obsolescence (built-in obsolescence)

Part of the Hardware glossary:

Planned obsolescence, also called built-in obsolescence, is the conception, design and production of a product, such as hardware or software , with the intent that it should be useful, functional or popular for a limited length of time. The term was coined in the 1950s by Brooks Stevens who suggested that new and improved products are in constant demand by consumers and that corporations can best respond by manufacturing items that don't last very long.

In the computer industry, planned obsolescence occurs in a synergistic manner between the hardware and software sectors. New application s and operating system s (OSs) demand more memory , hard disk space, storage capacity and throughput . This demand leads to the development of improved memory technology, increasingly capacious hard drives and storage media and faster microprocessor s. These developments, in turn, are followed by still more sophisticated applications and OSs, driving the cycle to continue. All of this is fueled by the geek 's love of gadgetry and an ongoing decline in the costs of raw materials and production processes.

Cynics decry planned obsolescence as a symptom of a "disposable society" and express nostalgia for the "good old days" when things were "built to last." Corporate executives counter with the claim that planned obsolescence is market-driven, taking place for no other purpose than to keep pace with the ever-changing needs and wants of consumers.

This was last updated in March 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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