Planned Obsolescence Or Time To Update

February 20, 2012

In the United States, we are celebrating the National Holiday of President’s Day today. Each of our presidents serve a term of four years. By law, they can serve no more than two terms. For better or worse, that means no person can be President longer than eight years. That is an important number today as we talked about planned obsolescence and whether or not it really exists.

A loyal reader wrote me about a beloved printer that wasn’t useful on new computers because they no longer contain a parallel port. Last week I talked about adapters that are a possible solution for this situation. They are not the solution for every situation and the reader indicated they weren’t a solution for the old printer in their office. The reader went on to say that the printer manufacturer had planned obsolescence for the printer. Now I believe it was typed with at least a little bit of sarcasm. Yet it is a subject I want to address.

I was doing laundry yesterday and noticed the elastic band in some of my clothes was shot. Did the clothing manufacturer plan the clothes to be obsolete or do the clothes just have a limited lifespan due to normal wear and tear? The heating and air conditioning unit on my house gave our after ten years and I had to replace it a few years back. These units get quite a workout in Arizona and it not uncommon that they only last ten years. It was replaced with a much more efficient unit. So while there was a cost to replace it, my monthly electric bill isn’t quite as painful. Over the lifespan of the new unit, it may very well pay for itself with the money saved.

Now let’s talk about printers. There was a day when most every printer had either a parallel port or a serial port. Some even had both. Nicer printers even included an Ethernet connector. The first laser printer we owned at Unleashed was purchased in 1994 and could still function today because of the Ethernet connection. Unfortunately it just wore out a few years ago. It was probably ten years ago that the USB port took over as a connector of choice. That means most any printer made in the last ten years could still connect to a new computer. Printers made before the USB port certainly couldn’t know about such a port before it existed. I certainly don’t think they made a choice to have the printer be unconnectable in the future.

Of course there is also a driver issue when dealing with older devices. The device manufacturer will factor in how many of their devices are in use and whether it is a wise investment to pay programmers to update the driver for a new operating system. When we are talking about mainstream devices, driver support should be available for at least ten years. Where things get tricky is with more specialty hardware that only has a limited number of users. It is likely that new drivers for those devices will only be available for a limited timespan.

By the time most hardware is no longer usable due to connections or drivers, it has earned its keep in a business. A newer piece of hardware is available that is better, faster or superior in some other way. When I am purchasing a graphics workstation, I consider the lifespan to be about 3 years. That computer may certainly be useful for something else after that lifespan, but it is time to get a new computer as my graphics workstation. In short, a new computer is going to be that much more powerful! I plan longer lifespans for other devices. Yet any computer equipment that last ten years has certainly lasted longer than I expected. Therefore I don’t feel it is planned obsolescence, I think it is time to consider an update!

Post Discussion


  1. Giftmugs

    I have bought these versions of: Unleashed FX 11, 12, X3 & X4 but am not able to locate any update to FX X5.
    Could you please supply a link to the update site so that I can use the FX utility again on my Draw X5?
    Thank you very much for your help with this

  2. Foster D. Coburn III

    Unleashed FX was not released for Corel PHOTO-PAINT X5. Unfortunately some of the things behind the scenes in PHOTO-PAINT were changed and that cause instability in Unleashed FX. For example, Unleashed FX could trigger the command for a fountain fill and PHOTO-PAINT would crash. We had actually spent hundreds of hours on a much more powerful product and we had to hold it and hope that future versions will be more stable. The issues have been reported to Corel so our fingers our crossed.


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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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