The Light Bulb Conspiracy
Once upon a time….. products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: “A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business” (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.
Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence. During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: “Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary…”. The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) – until consumers started rebelling…
Can the modern growth society survive without Planned Obsolescence? Did the eternal light bulb ever exist? How can a tiny chip “kill” a product? How did two artists from New York manage to extend the lives of millions of iPods? Is Planned Obsolescence itself becoming obsolete?