O.T. planned obsolescence


This has nothing to do with calculators but it has got to be one of the most meticulously crafted cases of planned obsolescence in history. My history anyway. Maybe someone here (Juan Demin or Katie) will appreciate it.

I went cross country skiing at Ebbits pass yesterday. Was beautiful. But:
There were two of us. During the day, both of Eric's new Asolo boot tops started separating from the soles. We used my duct tape to keep them together. I lorded it over him a bit that MY 23 year old Asolo "Extremes" had been across the Sierra a couple of times, up and down Shasta, over the White mountains, into the Cascade and Sweetwater ranges, and down countless ski lift runs, not to mention being used with crampons and as climbing boots - with no problems. OK, I really rubbed it in that my boots, which are older than him, were still in fine shape even after breaking two of my precious bones. Then at the end of the day, less than 100 meters from the road, i felt something funny and looked down. My right foot wasn't attached to my ski. Then i noticed that between my foot and ski was a separate sole. It had just come completely un-done. I shrugged, strapped the skis to my pack and started slogging downhill to the road on foot. Less than 20 meters later i felt something strange on my left foot. The same thing had happened to it! With hundreds, or maybe thousands of kilometers on them; they both self destruct within about 50 feet of each other. Those crafty Italians: they must have planned it that way.


In my very first EE class in school, the teacher warned against making things so well that the customer would never have to come back and buy another from you. I would have put up an argument but didn't feel like I was in a position to. I usually give a supplier only one chance. If the product doesn't last as I think it should, I'll buy from a different company the next time. The same company won't get my business twice. OTOH, if it does last, I'll buy from them again when I need to supplement (not replace, unless it's to take advantage of improved technology), and I'll recommend it to others.

Edited: 19 Dec 2009, 10:22 p.m.



I 2nd your emotions:

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me"

Or: Always remember, what grandma' told (& teached) you!

Best regards,

Peter A. Gebhardt

Edited: 20 Dec 2009, 6:09 a.m.


My Asolo Snowfield have vibram soles which both started to come off the midsole at exactly the came time. This happened a few years ago, after 20 years of skiing on them, and one good Sierra trip but nothing like your history. Fortunately all it took was a good cobbler, and the original vibrams were bonded back onto the midsole good as new.

I will feel like a part of me is missing if these boots ever actually wear out irreparably.



The fact that three of the four boots failed in the same way yesterday forces me to wonder if there was something about the conditions on that particular day that caused the adhesive (or whichever component it was) to fail. I know this sounds odd since, as you point out, your boots survived 23 years of use, but the fact remains that both of your boots and one of your son's failed within hours in the same way.

So here's a thought exercise: assume the failure wasn't a coincidence, but the result of some unusual condition. What was it?

Returning to calculators, I think we assume that they will become obsolete, but not because of the materials failing. Rather, we assume that technology will march forward and a new model will be so superior to the old one that we'll retire the old one. This is the opposite of other durable goods like ovens and toasters. I expect them to wear out over time and the replacement will be very much like the old one. I'd never dream thinking "hey look at the features of the new Maytag freezer, we should get rid of this tired old one and buy a new one!".

It seems to me that automobiles are a toss-up. Some people regularly buy new models because of the features or looks or prestige. Others own them until they break down (me included - my current car has 284,000 miles on it (457,000 km, thanks to the trustee UNITS menu of my HP calculator which is within arms reach :) ).

An extreme example of "replace before it's worn out" is clothing. Most people get new clothes in the latest styles long before the old ones show any sign of physical wear. Again, I'm the opposite here, preferring to wear clothes until the tears are so obvious that they must be replaced.



So here's a thought exercise: assume the failure wasn't a coincidence, but the result of some unusual condition. What was it?

Modern de-icing agents perhaps? You'd expect winter boots to be made to withstand exposure to regular salt, but how do old boots stand up to calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, diethylene glycol, etc.? I could imagine that walking through slush containing such substances, somewhere on the way from your hotel to the trail head, is what did the damage.

Or maybe three boots failing in one day was just coincidence. I'm not really into logical jargon, but I'm sure there is a fancy-sounding term for this, "anecdotal evidence fallacy" or something. :-)

- Thomas


Returning to calculators, I think we assume that they will become obsolete, but not because of the materials failing.

That's true for everything electronic. How many of us do NOT have ancient personal computers towed away that work as well today as they did when they were made, some nearly 30 years ago? I've still got Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III, IV, and 100 units, a couple of TI-99/4 complete sets, a 1986 Tandy PC (with Deskmate), a couple of old lap tops, etc. etc., plus various other electronic marvels like old DVD and CD players that I just can't seem to put in the trash.

I'd feel better trashing some of that stuff if only it was failed or otherwise a little bit worn out! But it's not.


I finally threw out my 486 P50 a few years back before moving. I though, "why move this, I'll never use it again!"


Thank you Dennis…!!!
For sure I appreciated this tale very much!!! And it also let me to know about the place you’ve been in the internet...Wow great!!!! You know, I am still thinking of Yosemite for next season...Are you in?
Back to your story, even though I am sure you’ve always traveled the world wearing both boots at the same time, there are many things that affected them in different way…starting from manufacturing… I would say that this is rather a coincidence than a programmed obsolescence…and probably the coincidence woke up with your “lord it over” attitude…jaja
My interest in HP calculators started once with those navigation cards and modules. My collection is small: programmable top of the line with navigation software (from 65 to 50g) and I enjoy doing some navigation planning or celestial navigation with them (even in the GPS age) in my 21 years old sailboat...which, I hope, has no planned obsolescence for the next 10 years...
Regards, juan


Thanks guys, for the education on a very off topic. It's really amazing, the breadth of knowledge one finds here - both technical and experiential.
And Juan; i'm in.

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