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Excluding style obsolescence or any type of advertising, when was the first form of planned obsolescence concerning shortening the life of a product by making it break sooner or forcing a consumer to purchase a replacement sooner due to the design of the product invented and by who?

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Here is a well-thought out essay starting from Henry Ford's alleged influence on the planned obsolescence of the Model T Ford: voluntaryutopia.blogspot.ca/2010/07/… – Pieter Geerkens Mar 30 '14 at 15:21
@PieterGeerkens This is a good article on the economics, nice find, but this is an example of a cost cutting measure, not planned obsolescence. Ford isn't trying to make the Model T break sooner-actually he's avoiding it. This is surely something businesses did forever. According to mighty Wiki about style obsolescence: Henry Ford did not like the model-year change because he clung to an engineer's notions of simplicity, economies of scale, and design integrity. I'm looking for someone using an actual intent of planned obsolescence. – Razie Mah Mar 30 '14 at 16:15
Read holyjoe.org/poetry/holmes1.htm for another take on "the weakest link... – DJohnM Mar 31 '14 at 0:36
While personified by Alfred P. Sloan, planned obsolescence was practiced by many businessmen and engineering consultants around the 1920s. Henry Ford was a mastodon of a previous epoch, an engineer who designed things to last. – Deer Hunter Oct 31 '15 at 6:52
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you prefer your Bible straight-up and neat, the that would be Tubal Cain, first artificer in metals (Genesis 4:22); if you prefer it with a grain of salt then take your pick from Imhotep (c. 2250 B.C.), Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (born c. 80-70 BC) or numerous others.

Merriam-Webster Online gives the definition of Engineering as:

1: the activities or function of an engineer
a :
the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people
b : the design and manufacture of complex products

3: calculated manipulation or direction (as of behavior) — compare genetic engineering

Nothing so unites the disciples of Engineering and Economics as the recognition that the most fundamental principle of design is the trade-off between price, quality, and lifetime of the product, and survival of the manufacturer. Every design decision made by an engineer affects the balance between these four attributes, and the most skilled engineers design products that are affordable, useable, durable, and yet wear out fast enough to perpetuate demand for the product.

Any product that wears out, (becomes obsolescent) much faster than consumers regard as reasonable for the price paid, will soon be ousted from the market by a competitive product with longer lifetime. Any product that lasts much longer will also be ousted as the manufacturer satiates the market and goes out of business.

No-one invented these basic facts, they are simple and obvious consequences of the interaction between market economics and engineering. Modern tools and modelling techniques allow the design trade-offs to be made faster, more reliably, and with greater precision, but that again is a direct consequence of the technological advances that have fueled the modern innovation of products. At the most fundamental level they are a consequence of the Laws of Thermodynamics, colloquially stated as:

  1. Energy is Conserved;
  2. Entropy cannot decrease;
  3. No heat sinks at Absolute Zero.

Or in the Gambler's version:

  1. You cannot win;
  2. You cannot tie;
  3. You must play the game.
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Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. (The perfect is the enemy of the good) - Voltaire. – David Hammen Mar 31 '14 at 11:47
@RazieMah: TANSTAAFL. If you are in the habit of spending good money on shoddy merchandise, review your own behaviour instead of blaming others. I rarely suffer from *Buyer's Remorse", because I do my homework, and don't expect to get any "too good to be true" deals. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 31 '14 at 22:26
@RazieMah: Check out WestPoint Bridge Designer here (bridgecontest.org/resources/download). The whole point is to test high school students for Engineering aptitude by assessing their ability to design a minimally acceptable bridge for the least money. My best bridge for 2014 is priced at $170,462.54 – Pieter Geerkens Mar 31 '14 at 22:28

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