Saturday, April 14, 2007

design flaws from the factory

I like technology. It brings me good things, makes my life better. I'm more than comfortable with computers, I like having advanced TVs and video games and computers, and I don't mind the rapid pace with which each of these things advance.

with improvements comes obsolescence; that's just the natural order of technology at this point in time. However, what annoys me like none other is a seemingly built-in obsolescence - or, at the least, a lack of build quality - in some technology products. Let's use the iPod as a case study, partially because it is a very important piece of technology, partially because there *are* many cases of failed iPods, partially because this brings up an interesting argument and dichotomy, and partially because I currently have a broken iPod.

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"...with dimes laid on your eyes." Nothing like a good Decemberists quote, especially because A) that's what my iPod is now - dead with dimes upon its eyes - and B) I USED TO BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO THAT SONG ON THERE.

This is the second iPod of that generation that I have broken, seemingly by dropping it and hitting it just right to kill the hard drive. the first one died after 21 months of use this past January, and was replaced under extended warranty; this second one (an older model, identical to the first) lasted but scarcely four months but, crucially, past the warranty. BOO! Boo I say to thee.

I'm not the only one to have this problem: besides my friend Laura being on her fourth iPod of the same generation (most of them dying from hard drive problems) and my sister having her 3rd gen iPod have battery problems (my mom now has that one's replacement), I've heard of many other anecdotal cases from my friends regarding iPods dying.

"hey guess what? that music you bought on iTunes? Only works with apple stuff. CONGRATULATIONS! This is the downside to drinking the kool-aid, kids.

This isn't a problem if you're a garden-variety pirate like my sister is, as replacing MP3s is cheap and easy; it's simply a matter of annoyance. However, for somebody who has played by the rules and bought music on iTunes (why? I can simply drop it onto my iPod and that works most everywhere, including my car, which has an iPod adapter for the CD head unit...), unless I want to lose my music - or, bar the annoying and time consuming burn-and-re-rip-as-MP3 routine (which, frankly, I don't have the time for) - I'm stuck with Apple. I drank their iLife iKoolAid, and now I'm iMarried to their products and if I don't like it, I'm iFucked.

now, we can go into DRMs and all the fun there, but here's a simpler matter: my dad's stereo equipment from the '70s still works beautifully; my iPod from freshman year is long gone. I know advances are advances, but can't something be built to last anymore?

Of course, for every horror story, there's an original-generation one still kicking - like my aunt's iPod from the first gen. But, seems to me there's more than a little planned obsolescence built into these little things, and it's all to bleed more money from consumers from a product that's popular and already probably packing a high profit margin.

I'm considering getting an iPod Nano this week, for a two-fold reason: one, I don't need that much space; two, I think it should survive a bit better because it works off of flash memory. However, if this thing breaks within a few years, I may have to begin rethinking my belief and faith in Apple and their products. Buying new $300 iPods every other year is not a sustainable practice, no matter how much the tech hound in me would love to do it. There is a breaking point in every consumer; I haven't hit mine yet, but what will I do when I finally do reach that?

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