Monday, June 1, 2009

Rant #22: Junk Culture's Breaking Me Down

Have you noticed that the craftsmanship of things that we use every day is not up to the standards set years ago?

We seem to be right in the middle of a "junk culture" revolution now. Everything we buy is doomed to failure at some point. It's like the say about baseball: "managers are hired to be fired." With the things we purchase, you can adapt that saying to "everything we use is bought to fall apart."

My wife bought me one of those small, digital cameras several months ago. It did everything I wanted it to do: it took digital movies, it took digital photos and it recorded sound. I only had the thing for less than six months when it broke on me during a baseball game my son and I attended this past Friday. I tried to get it working, but it was fruitless.

My son has Rock Band. He has had it for less than a year. He and his cousins were playing it this weekend. One cousin hit the drums, and one of the drums collapsed. I tried to fix it with duct tape, but to no avail.

Do you ever fix your TV, video recording unit, your camera anymore? Once things break, we trash them and buy new ones. I think this started with video recorders, where in the 1990s it started to cost more to fix them than buy a new one, so we just trashed them.

I remember the days when things lasted a long time, even with daily use; certainly, televisions fall into that category. A TV would last a generation, and if there happened to be any problems, you would call the TV man, he would come to your house, and he would fix it.

Today, computers are one of the biggest culprits. We use them every day, but I have found that after about four to five years of use, they pretty much die.

Cars also fall into that category. Once a car reaches its five-year birthday, it is pretty much all down hill.

I wish we could just trash this junk culture and get back to the time when things were made to last.


  1. I half agree, half disagree. It's certainly true that many things are made to be disposable that weren't in the past, and there's a type of craftsmanship that's much harder to find.

    A lot of the products you mention here have become disposable due to economic and technological changes. For example, my parents bought a VCR ( a one hour BETA machine) in 1976, when they were new. It cost over $1000, and was a fairly major purchase. Now counting for inflation, a better VCR cost about 5% as much. It's cheaper to replace then fix. With computers, the technology is growing at such a rapid pace - updates in operating systems, vast increases in computing power, USB technology, etc., that new hardware is necessary.

  2. I just don't find things to be open to constant use anymore. I wonder how these big-screen TVs will hold up. TVs made during the past 20 years seem to have an incredibly high breakdown rate after about eight years of constant play. It wasn't really a big deal to replace a $100 TV, but when you are talking about TVs that cost five to 10 times that, you are talking about items that really should last between 15 and 20 years.



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