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The Gadget Manifesto Revisited – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

Seventeen long years ago I wrote a piece here called The Gadget Manifesto. It was a rant borne out of frustration with the relentless increase in junk technology. The problem was basically too much Far Eastern manufacturing capacity chasing too few consumers. Result…price plummeting, quality plummeting, consumers suffering. I’m revisiting this subject only because it looks like we’re clearly not going to reverse course any time soon.

Nearly 2 decades on, we’re still buying this junk, and throwing it away in planet squandering quantities.It’s more than a little depressing to see how we’re still faced with companies who are determined to make things impossible to repair, who make obsolescence a key part of their business plan and who really don’t care about anything except their profit bottom line. Just a few months ago I learned that most modern washing machines are designed to be unrepairable. Deliberately. If anything mechanical breaks like the spider, you will probably have to buy a new machine. Unbelievable.

gadget manifesto

So what’s the solution? Well maybe stricter regulations and legislation, like the EU’s “Right to Repair” law that holds manufacturers accountable for product lifespan? A shift to a circular economy model can also help, promoting product repair, reuse, and recycling. An example of this is the Dutch smartphone manufacturer, Fairphone, which designs easily repairable and upgradable phones. Educating consumers about planned obsolescence and providing information on durable brands and repair options can also help.

Lastly, stronger and more enthusiastic collaboration between manufacturers, consumers, and governments could encourage a move to longer-lasting, sustainable products. Just stop polluting our lives with the flimsiest, nastiest plastic gimmicks possible. Implementing these measures could result in a more sustainable gadget industry that benefits both consumers and the environment.

In the meantime, the story continues with almost no end in sight. There is some slight pushback from those who want to see much more accountability from manufacturers. And the right to repair movement marches on, but it’s such a slog isn’t it? Seventeen years and still no coherent government policy or industry alignment. No wonder our environment’s in such a state. Oh well, hold my crisps while I just pop over to the laptop and do some AliExpress shopping. If you can’t beat ’em?


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