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Dieter Rams designed products to last, is horrified how we throw things away (abc.net.au)
541 points by adrian_mrd on Apr 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 302 comments

speaking from experience as an engine mechanic, this type of disposable consumerism is absolutely rampant in luxury vehicles. im not sure if its designed to be an expression of luxury, or if the designers just dont care, but it shows in the quality of the final product that most of these icons of performance and opulence are due for major service every few thousand miles.

plastic oil filter modules: absolute garbage but Chrysler fell in love with them during the Daimler years and now they show up in basically everything built off the E series chassis. BMW also use them, and they hold up to thermal stress very poorly. can not be recycled in the US like metal filters and have to be shipped, if you want, to germany.

plastic water pumps/plastic cooling systems: notoriously BMW, but also show up on Maserati so im told. they leak like a sieve and youll replace a major part of the system every 5k miles. cannot be recycled.

cheap hydraulics: im talking about that paddle shift dual clutch weirdness that shows up in high-performance mercedes 6 liter v8 engines with the double turbos. You build an engine that costs 3/4 of the vehicle value and you cheap out at the last minute with pot-steel roller bearings? in an engine that delivers north of 500 horsepower? tapered rollers or even high nickel needle bearings would keep the hydraulics running for years, but the hydraulic actuation assembly for the paddle shift stuff is an absolute dumpster fire. you cant disassemble the actuator, or service the bearings. the whole thing gets thrown out and replaced.

death by cad: this is more 'right to repair' but engines that were designed in a laboratory by a grad student from Malaysia who was told to 'make it work.' to service the turbo on some lexus F sports, you must disassembly the entire front of the car. headlights have to come off, the radiator and forward steering linkage too. its a $400 part, but thats $2300 in labor.

> death by cad

This is endemic (not just cars, but absolutely sodding everything), and utterly infuriating. So you end up with engines with perfectly reasonable reliability but need to be dropped out or a whole crate of ancillary parts removed just to change a water pump or clutch. Or the motorcycle oil seal that requires you to drop the engine and split the crankcases to change the £2.50 seal.

The old fashion of copper bronze or needle rollers everywhere and grease nipples seems quaint and excessive, but was at least considerate of maintenance and long life. Modern metallurgy and design shouldn't take the opportunity of throwing out every good idea of history.

> death by cad

How does this work in practice? I mean, what is it about CAD that gives this kind of result?

A system prototyped by hand rapidly finds the bolt or pump that can only be removed or fitted if you have an extra elbow and third arm. Or see round corners. Special tools were to be avoided or used for the rare exception. So plan B before lunch! The old approaches of an access panel over the timing chain or sprockets, or a removable plate fixing a bearing in place barely adds weight and complexity, nor does a grease point on a swing arm or steering joint, but needs a different understanding. Understanding that there's a life beyond a warranty that global manufacturers are trying to forget.

CAD is great for making stuff fit - once. In combination with the progression toward write once manufacturing, the only consideration is the cost and complexity of assembly. Can our factory robots and CNC do this? Can we reduce the component count? Can we use one-time moulded clips in place of those machine screws? Some is driven by cost saving, much by the purely mental visualisation capability of the new process.

Maintenance, even regular expected and necessary maintenance, increasingly takes a distant back seat. What once took 20 minutes to change now takes half a day. It now fits in a difficult corner or got combined with a dozen other systems making it now a £500 replacement.

It's visible top to the tiny fractions at the very bottom - saving fractions of a penny on self-tappers or clips self moulded into the single injection plastic where once (in ancient times like the 1990's) there'd be a small metal captive nut or bracket to bite into, or real machine screws and nuts.

Any and all of these can take years off expected lifespan mainly for the saving of pennies or a production step.

There are a lot of opinions about what could or could not be built better in cars.

The most interesting trend, obviously, is that people are just buying fewer of them, so it will soon be a moot point.

Doing maintenance never has mass-market appeal.

The best approach, in my opinion, is actually the opposite of what most mechanics (or MechE/EE people) will say: we should try to achieve as much as possible in software, with the absolute simplest hardware.

Consider that an electric car, the fastest growing product in the category, has a considerably simpler engine and drive train. The software rules the roost there. It's just a coil. The engine and batteries are not really maintainable (they're certainly recyclable).

There's a lot of knowledge tied up in what you're saying, which is a really interesting point of view. But optimizing ICE vehicles and their attendant maintenance is sort of a dead end.

Then again, I'm agreeing with the general idea: CAD is bad. But what should the right response be? Don't buy things that need CAD designs at all!

I believe it refers to assembling things digitally without thinking about how an actual human would work with the same things in the physical world.

One particular instance of this I pay attention to is the placement of oil filters on motorcycles. My brother bought a Honda CBR600RR, and he wanted to replace the oil filter; I watched him spend an inordinate amount of time removing the cowling, clip by clip, screw by screw, from the bike, in order to expose the filter (which you could not get a normal filter wrench onto, because of the awkward positioning).

After that I pay a lot of attention to whether the oil filter is visible and accessible from the outside of the bike without removing a cowling, Kawasaki seems to do a good job of this.

To be fair, the CBR600RR is a race replica bike, and it's designed for the track (despite having lights and a license plate). The full fairings are there for aerodynamics, the same sort you'll find tested and proven in Moto GP.

Honda didn't put them there just to look cool, and ease of maintenance certainly wasn't the primary design factor.

Yup. Previous incarnation of a VW Golf had an engine compartment that fit together, and you could replace the headlight bulb in about 20 minutes with common tools. Current one has an engine compartment that fits together, and you can't replace the very same bulb unless you take half of the damn thing apart, and then you hit a snag, because the very last screw is unaccessible unless you're a nanobot, has a special nut, and some sort of seal guarding it. I suppose it does make sense if you have the whole workshop at your disposal and can disassemble and reassemble entire vehicles at will.

CAD allows much more optimization. In general the more you optimize, the better defined and all-encompassing your metrics have to be. Otherwise you will end up optimizing away qualities you took for granted (in this case, serviceability. or more specifically being able to easily remove inexpensive wear parts).

An old colleague worked for a mechanical engineering consultancy that helped companies optimize things like engines, etc.

They built measuring equipment and software that allowed the companies to squeeze the biggest engine possible into the smallest compartment.

Costs have big impacts on manufacturing. Saving $0.50 on some little widget may allow for much bigger savings in the build process. There’s also a general goal to make minute cost changes just to eliminate inflation without retooling.

I wonder if something like this was at work when the 96 Eclipse was designed. My then-gf in college had one; I changed her timing belt and water pump. It was miserable:there was only 1/2"of clearance between the engine and bay everywhere. I joked that they must have used a giant Play-Doh pasta maker to install the engine by squishing it in to conform to the engine bay.

You can still find that in heavy equipment. My Kubota tractor is pretty easy to service and designed for 8-10k hours over a 30+ year lifespan.

The thing is designing for that costs a fair bit, just take a look at the step from riding lawn mower (~$2k) to garden tractor(~$15k) for similar horsepower. It's not a direct apples to apples comparison but does go to show how much more something overbuilt can run.

Some grease nipples on my Kubota are really hard to reach, but other than that most maintenance is pretty straigtforward. At any rate, I'm not expecting to see them last as long as my late grandfathers' Fiat 640, that still works. I'm glad that it is still possible to find spare parts online.

Even Kubota cheap out on parts, too. The hydraulic filters are laughably tiny, they are smaller than most motorcycle oil filters. Especially egregious considering ~90% of the small yard tractors are equipped with a loader. But they are far better than the cheap Chinese tractors from places like Northern hydraulic.

Eh, I just bought a new set of HST and hydraulic filters for our L4760 and they're anything but small.

I'm sure their tinier on the B/BX line but those also have a lower flow and capacity.

Luxury cars are very much an exercise in form over function. How easy they are to service is not a high priority like it is in every other mass market vehicle. It doesn't help they have large (often supercharged or turbocharged) displacement engines which is a challenge to package in themselves, let alone consider the ease of servicing.

Their high powered, boosted engines also puts the entire powertrain under relatively high stresses causing accelerated wear out and fatigue of components. Although some durability test takes place to pick up on issues, if a design issue occurs late into the development phase it won't be fixed, if the cost to implement a change is too high. It will just become another 'service' item which has to be changed every x,000 miles. Sometimes the required technology does not exist to allow a component to last the entire life of the car so just has to be replaced at a set interval.

Luxury cars are often used as the test bed for new technology. This new technology is often novel or experimental and has new unforeseen failure modes which the design engineer is unlikely to account for. The accelerated testing done during vehicle development picks up most issues but a few slip through and only present themselves during actual customer use. The quality of these any new components can also be highly variable especially if a new process or material is being used in their manufacture. If the supplier has poor process control this can lead to high failure rates.

Another consideration is that luxury cars (well luxury sports cars at least) aren't driven that much - most will never reach 100,000 miles - so are designed to a lower durability than most cars. There's no point in over-engineering a component but if a customer has an extreme usage profile, they may exceed the design limits of a component. Cars are not designed for the worst case customer but rather the median usage profile. If cars were designed for the most extreme customer I imagine the cars would weight significantly more or have to use expensive exotic materials.

It doesn't help they have large (often supercharged or turbocharged) displacement engines which is a challenge to package in themselves, let alone consider the ease of servicing.

Luxury cars now do not have significantly bigger engines than those of the past --- it's mostly the emissions control equipment and other auxillary components (including the not-so-useful plastic covers) that take up the bulk of the space and make servicing difficult. Look at the difference between a late 60s/early 70s Cadillac and one closer to today, for example:



The latter is 3.6L V6. The former is a 7.7L V8. They both have over 300HP. The former is also FWD. But the difference in serviceability is enormous.

A major driver of this "cheapness" is weight reduction, which has been drive by CAFE and similar laws. It's a trade off. Want a transmission with enough meat in the casing to take replaceable bearings, or even enough to machine in a bushing? Adds weight.

Make that decision hundreds, maybe thousands of times and it all adds up. However, I agree that there are some obvious decisions I disagree with choosing the weight reduction.

I don't understand why mass market cars (often by the same manufacturer) get better fuel economy and yet need to be serviced less frequently, then. A Toyota Corolla will do 300k miles fairly easily and yet gets better mileage than a Lexus.

The cynic in me says it's price segmentation. People who buy luxury cars have the disposable income to throw away several thousand a year in repair bills and pay more for gas to boot. In fact, if they buy the car to signal that they have disposable income to burn, it's actually better for their purposes if it has terrible reliability. It shows that they have the means to not care. So it's a win-win-win-win all around: the car manufacturer extracts more for the car, the dealers extract more for service, the luxury car buyer gets to show off their wealth, and the mass market buyer gets a car on razor-thin margins that are subsidized by the luxury buyer.

I think it's an artifact of luxury cars being designed to optimize a handful of metrics (horsepower, an exterior that "looks good") at any cost.

I see something similar with high-end phones (particularly iPhones). Every reasonable practical concern takes a backseat to making the thing as thin as possible. The result is a phone with mediocre battery life, antenna problems, and a body about as impact-resistant as an egg.

There's also the matter of tuning the design. There are features, design decisions, and engine loads you have to reject if you want high reliability. If those fall into faster acceleration, better ride, more convenience, then the luxury market will get them and the economy market won't.

I mean a Corolla has less power, weight and smaller wheels, and arguably better aerodynamics (looks count less, needs less cooling, smaller size).

Also, a Corolla will have more inherit more R&D, uses less of new tech, etc.

>they buy the car to signal that they have disposable income to burn

I agree with you there.

Luxury car buyers don't want to maintain their cars. They are ok with paying someone else to do it, and cars come with long warranties these days anyway. Many choose to lease rather than buy, because that way they will always be driving a relatively new car.

These people are getting exactly what they want from the luxury cars that are currently available. If a manufacturer spent money on making its luxury cars more durable and easier to maintain, they would need to raise prices and would then lose sales to other brands.

In other words, this situation is a result of consumer preferences, not a conspiracy by manufacturers to cut quality. And that applies to a lot of things, not just cars.

>cars come with long warranties these days anyway

Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes with a 4-year or 50,000 mile warranty in the United States, which actually has pretty high level consumer protection when it comes to cars. However, in my country, the E-Class has a 2-year warranty and I get the feeling that the situation might be the same in many of the other European countries. That's not that much of a warranty for a car starting at 48,071 euros (53,996 USD).

You have to wonder if the warranty in the US extends to second purchasers. Most US leases are 3 years and 8-12k miles, meaning that the typical off lease vehicle will not exceed 36,000 miles.

Most lease returns are cleaned up and sold as certified preowned cars. The CPO warranty is usually just as good (and sometimes even better) than the new car warranty.

Very true. I purchased my last BMW two years old. It came with a two-year warranty and a two-year maintenance package.

> Luxury car buyers don't want to maintain their cars

I think most people prefer to pay someone else, luxury marque or not. Not everyone has the skills, knowledge and tools to do maintenance beyond topping up the washer fluid.

> They are ok with paying someone else to do it

Yep, I'd rather pay someone that knows what they're doing - that doesn't mean I want to get ripped off though. BTW, a tip for car owners - always haggle on service costs. I've been a car owner for 20 years, and every time I've asked, the dealer has offered a discount, just because I asked.

> cars come with long warranties these days anyway

At least in the UK, the luxury car makers (e.g. BMW, Mercedes) come with a 3 year warranty, same as they have for a long time. This is short by comparison to Kia's 7 year warranty, and I seem to recall Hyundai offers a 5 year warranty.

Of course, if you need to actually claim on the warranty, that's when the fun and games might start... I've never actually had to claim on the BMW and Mercedes I've owned, but I've had a hell of a time getting pissed about by Nissan and just assumed other makers did the same.

The problem is, those concerns still apply even if the owner is hiring the service done.

When I was working as a mechanic, we had a few customers with land rovers (most of our business was trucks & SUVs). The land rover owners had to pay roughly 2x for everything, simply because the cars are so much more time consuming to work on. And from family members who have owned them, BMW & Mercedes are just as bad, albeit slightly more reliable. If it is time consu3and a PITA, the customer will be charged more.

There are not fixed, linear relationships between quality, ease of maintenance and cost.

Consider that the cost of man years of engineering is essentially irrelevant to the cost of a vehicle.

(of course the total engineering costs are going to be significant, I'm talking about incremental costs of spending time thinking about how to make vehicles a bit nicer here or there)

Candy bars and sneakers seem to be in this category where manufacturers would rather reduce the quality of the product than raise the price.

Reduce quantity too.

Out of curiosity, are there any brands which don’t do this? I’m a little dismayed that even Lexus does this.

Anecdata says that Japanese cars are the most reliable ones. (Old) Toyotas in Africa are a must. They endure and can be repaired in a local car workshop.

Small Korean cars (Hyundai and Kia) have excellent reliability metrics in EU. They are, in some ways, equivalent to old Toyotas.

They are also backed up by great guarantees (5 years without mileage limit in case of Hyundai, and 7 years from Kia).

African markets used to love Peugeot 504 and Mercedes E 200. Extremely reliable in harsh conditions.

Lexus usually tops the reliability ratings even above Toyota. That’s why I was surprised.

So what happens to Africa when the old cars finally completely disappear, and nothing can be repaired in any reasonable sense of the word?

Probably hard to know, but by now, we're already seeing that blu-ray players are rendered nearly useless by lost remote controls (because they (all blu-ray player manufacturers) no longer build adequate physical playback controls into the set top box, and 99% of blu-ray on-disc software requires a directional keys and an enter key to trigger playback of the main content, which can only be found on remote controls), leading to a necessity for bootleggers that can rip and recopy the main content of the movie to a version stripped of menus, that immediately plays automatically upon insertion.

You can buy a new remote control if you want. It's a little annoying to set up but works flawlessly thereafter. I recently bought an all-in-one remote because my TV's remote broke apart and now I've got one remote for all the devices in my living room.

>blu-ray on-disc software

It's shocking to me that this is even a thing. I looked it up and apparently Blu-ray players are required to execute Java off the disc! How far we've come since the Sony CD rootkit days...

A cursory read over the spec on Wikipedia indicates (among other horrifying things) that it is possible and supported to release a Blu-ray that contains no media, but instead streams it over the internet from the studio's server.


> Where can I find more about how it works? Is there a VM of some sort?


Ah, sorry, I looked it up myself and edited my comment. Bad habit of mine. Thanks anyway.

> So what happens to Africa when the old cars finally completely disappear?

The latest 2019 Land Cruiser (not the US luxury version) is nearly identical to the version sold 30 years ago.

VLC still works...

As for the Toyotas, they can become the Ship of Theseus, they can live forever, as long as there is demand.

Someone needs to design a future-proof upgradable car. Get the design right the first time and then technology upgrades as science advances, but no planned obsolescence.

There's two ways:

- 3D printing + open/royalty free

- Modular car, speaking to a car designer, they said it'll cost a lot, there's safety issues and laws (ie cage)

Wait, is this a thing now? I’ve long cut the cord but back in the day universal remotes could work with every major brand of tv, DVD player, etc

Toyota Land Cruiser is supposedly designed for a 25 year life span. If you want reliability, this would be your best bet. It's not cheap, but has good resale value.

Honda Civic that I had would have automated service recommendations based on some sort of diagnostics or heuristics, and tended to recommend service (oil change and tire rotation with some inspection and sometimes air filter replacement) every 9k miles for me.

I had the impression 6k miles is the standardized recommended interval for most brands (e.g. my current Subaru) but I guess that isn’t true for Lexus?

As I understand it, Buick seems to be doing fairly well along these lines and was a fairly good seller in China for its reliability.

Its reliability was compared to the China-native brands... not to the rest of the brands in the world. Difference is relative.

Hugely expensive service at major service intervals is pretty much the norm with luxury brands.

>'make it work.'

This is a major problem with capital taking over industries. Financiers don't care and also don't remotely understand what is happening in the details. Technologists running companies at least have the high level insights required to make nuanced decisions regarding whether to move fast or focus on quality. Finance just cares about the quarterly figures and we end up with a make it work rather than make it good approach to building tech. As long as we're making money who cares right. The Boeing scandal is a good example of this.

that’s definitely a big factor for sure, at least in my experience...

maybe our definitions of “technologist” is different, but i think even with technologists it’s important to understand that just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should (e.g alan kay’s “reverse vandalism”), and is still a danger with regard to entrepreneurship/business vs what is actually “good” for the world...

i think there is a lot to re-examine about how and why we do things...

I believe the phrase is "inverse vandalism". Terrific point regardless. When it's easier to create things that work 'good enough', not as much work will be put into making things as great as they can possibly be.

Yes I definitely agree re your reverse vandalism point. It's another dimension of the same issue.

I've stopped using "cheap" or "expensive" to describe mechanical things. I like the expression "designed to narrower tolerances", it conveys that something can be more expensive but also less durable.

As someone who constantly buys the cheapest version of something possible, I am now rarely surprised when it turns out to be the "best" actual version of it.

As mechanically inclined person:

"Designed to narrower tolerance" usually just means it's more expensive and accurate. For bearings it's great idea if you want longevity.

Allowance on the other hand is completely different matter.

the practice of buying the cheapest version of something, in my experience, should not be applied to things like tools. there is a remarkable difference between a $20 no-name multitool and a nice Leatherman, or a nice pair of binoculars and a cheap Chinese knock-off. electronics, of course, is a totally different story. everything has nearly the same brains, with perhaps a UI quirk or two on the cheapest version.

It should also not be applied to consumer electronics. When buying the cheapest no-name device available, you'll pay back what you "saved" in continuous frustration. These devices are as bad as possible; any worse and it'd be fraudulent to sell them.

Tighter tolerances often lead to increased reliability.

I think it is a matter of both domain for how things fail and how reliability is defined. In some circumstances looser tolerances can be a bit less efficient but more fault tolerant and thus 'reliable'. Although its lifetime might also be shorter than a tighter toleranced device if both were fed 'clean' inputs.

Of course the fault tolerance (apologies for overloading the term tolerance) also isn't guaranteed in every domain. If a seal breaking would wreck the process it certainly wouldn't give /any/ reliability over a tight seal.

How do you see fully electric cars improving over this situation you describe with low quality ICE car internals failing? For example, oil filters are no longer an issue if you opt for a Tesla.

How do you service electric cars compared to ICE cars?

Will the move to electric cars fundamentally hurt the car repair industry and will you have to go back to school to learn about servicing electric engines?


As it currently stands, electric cars are going to hurt the car repair industry, excepting body work. The parts on an EV either last forever, or are relatively easy to replace.

This is going to be a problem for most dealerships, as repair and service is a large chunk of their profit.

I agree that the car repair industry will be hurting due to electric vehicles, but not for the same reasons. As Tesla has shown, locking out non-corporate repairs is easy, even body work is something you can choke out from 3rd party shops by refusing to provide parts (hence the incredible repair costs for Tesla vehicles).

A profit driven electric car company can decide that any minor damage to the car will mean they push out a firmware update to brick the car. You don't own the software that makes the vehicle function, hence your at the mercy of the manufacturer letting you use their software.

> The parts on an EV either last forever

For now. It's an iron law of the market economy that once this sector becomes competitive, costs will get optimized to the point that - like currently with ICE cars - the reliability will be lowest possible that they can get away with. There's no law of physics saying EVs are built reliably; there just isn't enough economic incentive to start building low-reliability parts. That will change as EVs gain popularity.

There’s also an iron law that simpler machines are easier to make reliable, and the electric motor is orders of magnitude simpler than a supercharged multi-cylinder internal combustion engine.

Mercedes has a consistent pattern, going back at least to the 1960s, of excellent design sabotaged by inferior parts here and there. (I've repaired many of them.)

Fords, on the other hand, have a consistent quality.

I'll never own a Mercedes.

Ford? Look at the spark plugs on the triton v8... Awful

Need to service the turbos on Land Rover LR3/4/First gen Range Rover Sport Diesels? Easier with the body off.

This isn't by accident or incompetence, it's to maximise servicing revenue.

I wonder how they compute the fine line between luxury and crap so that people don't feel their brand new "high end" car was not what was advertised..

For the most part high end cars do work as advertised until the lease ends or they're traded in. At that point they become someone else's problem.

By consensus of the Joneses.

What car do you recommend?

What does Malaysia have to so with this?

He’s just implying cheap subcontracted labour from a foreign country where labour rates are lower.

There's also a different culture in Asia. In Europe if management tells you to do stupid /unoptimal thing employee can rejoinder.

In Asia they'll just do what they're told to do without questioning. You'll notice this immediately if you work with Asian people. They never discuss decisions with the management.

And as an Indian American[1] friend said the power relation means they do whatever stupid thing they are told to do by management rather throwing shit back.

[1] My friend has complained that managers confuse him with the Indians on a H1B visas and get bent when he tells them their idea is stupid.

It doesn't have to be Malaysia. They are being designed by people who will never use the product.

Ford EcoBoost engines that require a VERY specific oil and VERY regular oil changes (iirc something like "every 10k OR ever year, whichever is up first" or the timing belt disintegrates and you'll have immediate engine damage. Because of Ford's relatively unique construction of running a rubber timing belt in the engine oil.

BMW handbrakes are notorious and have been for decades. Even when they're factory new they won't really bite.

Compared to older oil and vehicles, 10,000 miles or 1 year is pretty long.

10k kilometers. Most VW engines are on a schedule of 20-30k or 2 years, though those have other, less dramatic, issues (direct injection + AGR = dirty intake valves). And while engines don't like it when you change the oil late, they're not immediately scrap metal.

This is something that bothers me as well, though my reasons are slightly different. It feels that every new product that is released now is purely designed to drive new sales for some flashy feature that actually make the product worse and less reliable. I'm just not interested in things that have IoT/"smart" features added on, I want something high quality that works reliably and well because it is designed thoughtfully.

I realize that these desires simply go against the shareholder mindset that a corporation must be constantly growing and releasing new products in order to be viable. So we aren't likely to see any shift anytime soon.

In a less capital-intensive industry, you'd see small competitors building higher quality goods for a premium price. You see this in, for instance, leather goods (where you can get very high quality leather wallets for under $100), clothing (much better goods available online for only slightly more than mass-market retail), etc. Small competitors don't care about planned obsolesence when they could only dream about capturing enough market share where planned obsolesence becomes necessary to keep profits growing every year.

But the capital barriers to entry for new cars and smartphones are way too high. Elon and Tesla were the last true upstart to even come close to a semi-affordable premium option, and they burned through billions in startup capital to get there.

If the government can't reduce the barriers to entry for Smith's Invisible Hand to naturally produce competitors, then the government needs to regulate the natural oligopoly.

I’m really surprised no one has come up with a reliable appliance brand. The old machines from decades ago are absurdly reliable, and not patented anymore. Also, most appliance technologies stagnated more than 17 years ago (front loader clothes washers are the only counter example that comes to mind).

There is still R&D to be done to update for modern manufacturing techniques, but an upstart that simply built old classic designs and added a 30-year warranty would do well. Bonus points for standardized dimensions (for easy replacement years from now).

You can get a commercial or industrial version of most appliances with relatively few features, and a focus on durability and ease of maintenance. One problem is commercial units are loud. The other is they are often slightly larger. For most users the cost alone means the residential versions are a better option.

I've wished for this myself. We replaced a refrigerator, and I thought "what a waste - 95% of the mass of that thing was non-moving parts that could've lasted centuries".

> There is still R&D to be done to update for modern manufacturing techniques, but an upstart that simply built old classic designs and added a 30-year warranty would do well. Bonus points for standardized dimensions (for easy replacement years from now).

Extra bonus points for publishing manuals and 3D printing plans for replacement parts and ensuring they remain available long term - eg, creating a web site and funding a foundation to keep it running + seeding torrents with the info.

> I’m really surprised no one has come up with a reliable appliance brand

Speed Queen has done this for Washers and Dryers. https://www.speedqueen.com/

I used to think the same thing, however looking at some recent reviews it appears as if Speed Queen has succumbed to the cost cutting movement. People are complaining that the latest machines no longer clean properly and are not up to the old standards. I don't know about the repair-ability of the machines but if they don't do the job they were built for then it doesn't really matter if you can fix it or not.

If you want reliability generally you want to go with the 'industrial' version - which may or may not be ideal for whatever you want to do.

Do you have any concrete examples of good quality clothing e-stores?

https://tripleaughtdesign.com, its tactical clothing that at one point was very similar to the stuff special forces guys were wearing. (They are selling more and more 'urban' friendly stuff these days). Most of it is made in America.

I haven't tried them yet, but I heard Outlier is this kind of company. Here's an interesting Wired article[0] about them.

[0] https://www.wired.com/story/outlier-tech-clothes/

At least for me personally, a $125 t-shirt does not tick the "only slightly more than mass-market retail" box. These are expensive clothes.


The t-shirts do seem ridiculous, but they're famous for their pants, which are definitely in the same range as normal pants. A lot more than $20 at Wal-Mart, but less than many mall brands.

A regular t shirt might last 10 to 20 years, but a $125 might last generations as long as it doesnt get torn or stained.

In all seriousness though, how many people are really going to consider a t-shirt to be a family heirloom, that you _should_ pass down through the generations?

The handme downs are passed down through each generation of siblings, but unless you have space, or clothes are adult sized its probably gonna be donated.

Definately not heirlooms even at 125 bucks.

Do you have t-shirts you've been wearing regularly for 20 years? How old are you if you don't mind me asking?

Not the parent, but I have many t-shirts that are well over 10 years old. Some of them I wear regularly. A good quality fabric can definitely last decades, we're just getting unused to that and assume everything has to break down.

Im mid 20s, and I can still have tshirts from over 10 years ago. Rotate through them everday, in my experience brandname 10-20 dollar shirts, or kirkland 3 dollar shirts have held up.

Gustin makes good looking stuff, but the buying process is different in you fund a piece and when it gets funded they make it. Their fit is for stick figures though :\

Reading the article the thought occurred to me that "disposable" is probably more a factor fo cost + materials (and obviously related). By that I mean, if a thing is cheap and "plasticy" it really doesn't matter how beautifully designed it is — it will feel throwaway. Make the thing from aluminum, glass, magnesium, steel ... the price goes up (the durability goes up) but the value (both perceived and monetary of course) go up as well.

While Apple (as an example) try to tempt their customers each year with something new and new-featured, I'm not actually aware of people tossing out their old iPhones (or MacBooks for that matter) even if they do in fact spring for the latest. Instead they seem to get handed down or repurposed (media center, man-cave, etc.).

I don't feel the same way about my $150 plastic Chromebook.

The retina MacBook Pro is by far my favorite machine. I remember for many weeks, being delighted every time I saw it, which isn't an experience I've had with any other kind of laptop.

I also tried an iPhone for a while, but couldn't get the hang of iOS. The physical device itself, though, was great, not just visually, but the tactile experience is spot on. I wish I lived in a world where Apple made Android phones.

>I also tried an iPhone for a while, but couldn't get the hang of iOS.

Huh? It's a much more designed and coherent experience than Android.

It really isn't. My girlfriend is a committed iOS user, I'm not. She recently got a new iPhone. Her apps and info transferred over through iCloud, kind of (certainly wasn't as smooth as setting up a new Android device, but it mostly worked), but she couldn't sign into email through Apple's app. There was no setting in the app itself to manage accounts. So we went to the settings app, searched for the email app entry, no dice. Eventually through trial and error, we discovered some obscure entry in the settings app to manage accounts. It makes no sense at all. Literally none. Why not just manage email accounts through the email app? In the Gmail app, want to add a Hotmail account, it's in the fucking Gmail app's settings, where it makes sense. Not in some god forbidden obscure entry 4 layers deep in the OS settings app. No, it's in the email app, where is the first place every sane person would assume.

>So we went to the settings app, searched for the email app entry, no dice. Eventually through trial and error, we discovered some obscure entry in the settings app to manage accounts. It makes no sense at all. Literally none.

It makes a lot of sense. iOS uses your Gmail credentials for more than just mail (it can also sync contacts, calendar items, and notes to your Google account). So it makes sense to not have it within the Mail app.

Besides, it's not "4 layers deep". It's directly under a top level Preferences heading called "Accounts & Passwords" in Preferences, which should be the first place to look for, well, Preferences.

Third, you could find it also by just typing "accounts", "gmail" etc on Spotlight search. Again, just a click away.

If that's the sort of "problem" iOS has, it's pretty solid.

It's funny but one of my first contact points with iOS (after owning a 3gs some years back) was when I tried to fix the mail settings for a friend and I had the exact same problem described here.

After finding out that you have to add the account via settings it kinda makes sense, but the first thought is: you have an email account, you have an email app, of course you add the account in the app, why would it be anywhere else? The account and the app could not possibly be more directly related to each other. If you already know how accounts are managed in iOS you will think this is fine, but it is absolutely not intuitive, let alone easy to understand for people who do not know about sso and shared accounts.

A top level settings item called “Passwords and Accounts” is obscure?

And if you type "Mail" in the search field in settings, "Add Mail Account" is the 5th search result. It's not that hard.

Why wouldn't you manage email accounts through the email app? It makes enough sense that it's what all other email apps do...

Because “email” accounts aren’t actually email accounts. They typically include Notes, Contacts, Calendars, and many other associated pieces of functionality that span multiple independent apps, and you don’t want to have to log in 4 different times.

Fine, but an item in the email settings that says "Manage Accounts" that links to the appropriate section of the Settings app would go a long way.

The "Mail" menu item in "Settings" is immediately below "Passwords & Accounts".

On an Android phone you don't have to re-log in. You can share accounts across apps. Accounts are also in the settings. You can still manage your email accounts through the emails apps however, and the makers of most apps allow you to manage your account in the app itself, even if the login spans multiple apps. It just makes no sense to not have it in the app at all.

Sharing accounts across apps also works on iOS, FWIW. Most Google-branded apps will offer a “Continue as _____” button on the first open if you’ve signed in to another one of their apps.

That's not the issue. The issue is the lack of account management in the Apple email app itself. For example, let's say you're using mail to manage a Gmail account and Outlook account. You can't simply manage those accounts from the email app. Odds are you don't have an Outlook login across multiple apps on an iPhone (fuck MS), so why can't you access it from the app itself?

Anyhow, this is becoming circular. I guess if you've used an iOS device forever you get used to its quirks, but it makes no damn sense if you use other OSes. Gmail, you can manage accounts within the app. Apple's app, you can't. Makes no sense.

> Odds are you don't have an Outlook login across multiple apps on an iPhone (fuck MS), so why can't you access it from the app itself?

HUH?? This is exactly why Accounts are a global setting.

What you are describing it literally EXACTLY HOW IT WORKS on iOS. Set it up once and it will work in Mail and Calendar

Historically on built-in iOS apps settings go in the Settings app. With that pattern in mind, it makes no sense to have settings in the app itself because the user would be looking in the Settings app.

I'm very reluctant to give up my 2014 MacBook Pro Retina. I've used it every day for 5+ years, and it still has the original battery. The only reason why I've been checking out recent models is that I don't want to lose the headphone jack.

That's because more expensive goods tend to be repurposed or recycle more. Take for example, a car is way more likely to be recycled for scrap metal than a bike because there's more value.

Same for apple goods which tend to depreciate in value slower than a generic brand PC or Android phone.

I agree, large corporations tend to design their products for early self-destruction. There are exceptions, for example Seiko makes very good watches, but it's a good rule of thumb.

However, if you research carefully you can often find a long-lasting high-quality product from a smaller company. For example: Unicomp keyboards,the Docter Monocular, Kaweco pens, the Fisher "bullet" space pen, saddlebackleather, Beyerdynamic and Grado earphones. Despite all the marketing hype, you can sometimes still sometimes spot when a company takes real pride in their products.

What bothers me that it's hard to find good consumer electronics, though. That market seems to be flooded with crap.

I was mostly thinking about things like consumer electronics, tools, appliances, etc. when it comes to this. Items that have to be built by larger companies rather than ones that can be built at a more "craft" scale where the companies developing them aren't beholden to investors trying to maximize their return.

> Beyerdynamic and Grado earphones

it makes me really sad that these companies (and sennheiser) are not more well known. I get that not everyone can be an audio enthusiast, but what kills me is that people will actually spend more money on skullcandy or beats and never know how badly they are getting shafted.

What's more depressing is that most people can't tell the difference, so it doesn't matter to many. It does to me. But I've let people Liston to my Grados and say "meh, my EarPods are good enough".

I guess that comes down to "because my EarPods came free with my phone; they're a high-enough quality experience for free" as opposed to having to actually go out of their way to research and pay for audiophile stuff.

I mean, most people are listening to pop music, heavily-crunched podcasts, and 32 kbps audiobooks; there aren't any subtle nuances they're missing that are worth spending money for.

Even when people do go for things like AirPods instead of some nice, high-quality Grados as you own, you have to weigh up the complete difference in experience outside of audio quality, so that if people do happen to drop money on headphones that aren't to your taste, you still understand that their preferences are different to yours.

Except Beats, those are rubbish. ;-)

If there's somebody to point the finger at for consumerism and short lived products is the consumers themselves, nobody cares for a product repairability or durability or quality they just want flashy stuff and the latest gadget and of course at the lowest price.

I'm not so sure I point the finger at consumers entirely. We have been trained by marketing teams to desire the latest and greatest to keep up with those around us.

Just look at the massive price increases for flagships in the smartphone industry, but people are still buying them since they have been convinced that they are still acceptable value. The problem I have with this in particular is that Android smartphones have incredibly poor update support, so there is built in obsolescence to convince users to upgrade every 2 years even though a device from 2014 is still plenty for most people today.

I buy solely Android flagships these days (and we just shelled out for one for my wife), and I'll tell you why. I've been burned multiple times by mid-range Android phones - both personally (old LG smartphone) and indirectly (family buying mid-range smartphones). It's not worth the daily frustration of living with a device that constantly lags, hangs at random times, making it difficult to use with the standard suite of apps (mail, maps, social media) and sometimes making it difficult to answer a call. This is death by thousand cuts, it really takes a toll on your psyche - particularly if you use your phone a lot.

Buying a flagship is pretty much a guarantee that you won't have to suffer through this, and will have a device that's reliable for years. I used my Galaxy S4 for years (replaced broken screen two times, and broken camera once; had luck of doing that when I was in Shenzhen, so it wasn't even expensive). When I switched, the device was still better in use than a new mid-range phone, so I gave it to a family member, who used it until it died of mechanical damage. I'm on S7 now, and it still doesn't show signs of age - and I expect it to live and perform for couple more years still.

Flagships may seem overpriced, though if you calculate in their longevity and mostly-frustration-less experience over whole lifetime, I'm not sure if the price is really that bad. So I prefer to save up for one, instead of going for mid-range phones that magically tend to start breaking after couple months of use (P8 Lite, I'm looking at you).

I've wanted to buy durable items - far from luxury cars, things like lawnmowers and chainsaws etc. What I've realized is that durability seems to come from having simple mechanisms that are relatively easy to service and maintain. But that implies that you have to maintain the machines. You have to clean your chainsaw regularly, you need to know how to adjust the carburetor, you need to take the time to sharpen the blades etc.

For the luxury market, that probably means the customer pays someone to do that work. Maybe it's just cheaper to put in disposable parts that are replaced, since labour costs are pretty high these days.

I'm not a 'car guy' - but love my 2003 Mk1 Ford Focus. I live in a city, it parks on the street, I don't really even need a car - but I'm emotionally attached to the little-blue-fella. Why? Well I bought it as after numerous Hertz rentals, I liked driving it. Why I have it 16 years later is that it 'just works' - for minor stuff like broken wing-mirror, air filter, wipers, bulbs, batteries - parts are easily available on ebay for practically nothing and can all be fitted with a leatherman and a cheap socket-set. It had a single breakdown where it went into limp mode (new coil pack needed) - and couple of years ago needed £400 of welding (sills close enough to wheels that would fail an MOT). That was a tough decision, as car wasn't even worth that - but I'd have felt like a traitor to have it 'put down. Last 2 years, sailed through check without issue. Now of course I'd like a new car with built in GPS.. well basically "a screen" - and better safety, lower emissions and all the rest... but bluntly not worth the cost (to me, the environment etc etc). This will be my first car I bought myself, and I suspect the last one. "There are many like it, but this one is mine"

I have one as well. I don't love it but it has been reliable and is holding up well. Something weird is happening to the paint at the hood now however, like peeling off in places. Given how little I drive, I can't motivate to change it.

If it's little spots where the paint looks like it's 'gone crackly' - that's bird shit you didn't wash off. I know, as my roof is covered in them. Fortunately the undercoat seems impervious - so can be considered as 'just cosmetic' (although entirely likely you have another affliction).

Ironically one of the major barriers is actually modern environmental laws. Simple engines tend to have poor control over combustion and produce lots of pollutants. Two-stroke engines, while far simpler, have fundamentally far higher emissions.

Two stroke engines are not durable. They require frequent rebuilds. There are very few cars and bikes with old two stroke engines survived to this day, and I suspect that quick wear is one of the reasons.

Tons of two strokes on things like lawnmowers, dirt bikes, and chainsaws, though.

The buyers of these cars only keep them for three years. That's their design life.

Huffy bikes were only ridden for 50 cumulative miles over their lifetime and were designed for just that.

Was that a typo, or is there a bike that is literally only expected to be used for a couple of bike trips?

In fairness, they’ll last much more than 50 miles if kept inside and properly lubricated.

However, they use notoriously non-standard parts. So, if you want to fix your $100 bike, you’re looking at paying for someone to custom machine the replacement part.

You can’t even just find an old huffy and scavenge parts off those, since the geomoetries / threads / etc change constantly, so you’d need to find one made in the same production run as the one you are repairing.

They are disposable kid bikes. They don’t even make frames big enough for 6’ tall men. (and it is not even close; not sure what the cutoff is. 5’9”, maybe?)

not a typo :( search for "bicycle shaped object". huffy is one of those brands sold in big box stores to folks with little intention of serious use. riding these is so unpleasant there's actually a negative feedback loop.

Not a typo. They weren't road bikes. They were looks-like-but-aren't mountain bikes targeting kids. Real big when I was a kid in the 90s. Sold dirt cheap at ToysRUs and the like.

The buyers of these cars only keep them for three years

The OP noted that these cars need major service after just a few thousand miles. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect to drive less than 5,000 miles in three years.

By "major service" he means an oil change - and most of the Euro manufactures are running full synthetic with change intervals of 10,000 miles or longer, so it';s basically a once a year thing for most owners.

The consumers nearly always lease, the service is insured via the warranty and the customer gets a loaner.

Luxury car owners typically lease a new vehicle every 3 years. They couldn’t care less what happens to it in 5.

Not completely related, but... I always wanted to try an experiment: Don't buy any dishes. Adapt whatever packaging that you buy your food with to use as dishes. So a yogurt container becomes a bowl. The styrofoam trays that have meat on them become a plate (don't forget to disinfect it first...) Plastic drink bottles become cups (you can make a surprisingly nice wine bottle out of the top of a soda bottle). I wonder how long it would take you to kit yourself out with a complete set of dishes...

I often think that even as late as 20 years ago, you could go to your local tofu maker here in Japan with a container and they would put tofu in it for you[0]. If you imagine that you would only need 1 tofu container for your whole life, you could afford to have a really nice tofu container.

Out of stubbornness (and the fact that I live in a country that is hot most of the time), I wash all of my containers before I throw them out. I get sad, though, that I have all this stuff which is perfectly usable, but if I'm honest I don't want to use because it is crappy. I want that lovely $100 tofu container rather than the $0.00001 plastic wrapping. I want to look at and touch and enjoy nice stuff every day. It seems to me that it's kind of what it's like to be super rich, where you never see the garbage -- everything is repackaged into lovely containers for you.

Of course, in reality, the Andy Warhol-esq lifestyle we live, where everything is commoditised and you can't buy a $10,000 bottle of Coke that tastes different from a $1 bottle of coke is built upon the efficiencies of being able to dispose of these transitory containers. I wonder how much we lose as a society for running virtually every price to the lowest possible level.

[0] - There is a small family run tofu maker in my town and I'm always tempted just to show up with a tofu container that I could buy at an antique shop just to see what they would say. Maybe they would sell me tofu... That would be awesome.

On a slightly further tangent, a lot of take out places will serve your food in containers that you bring with you as long as their clean. If you're willing to break some perceived social norms.

You should absolutely try that at the tofu maker.

I keep plenty of containers and use them to store food or at a party to give people leftovers.

I know in SF, Rainbow Groceries require/allows you to use your own contaners for many things. spices, gains, nuts, pickled things, ... The only part I hate is I don't trust the other patrons to use each dispenser in a clean way.

I always wanted to try similar experiment - to see what I can build for the house out of used packaging; in particular, large plastic bottles from soft drinks (we already drink filtered tap water instead of buying bottled). The amount of plastic packaging I find myself throwing away weekly is ridiculous, and it's really hard to avoid it. We segregate trash, but with the stories breaking out recently that recycling is a code word for "shipping out to poorer countries to be dumped all over the place", one wonders what's the point.

> I wonder how much we lose as a society for running virtually every price to the lowest possible level.

We're losing the habitability of our planet.

I thought long about this in the past, and honestly - disposable packaging wouldn't be a bad thing iff it was efficiently (and actually) reused or recycled after being disposed of, and if we didn't have problems with energy security and fossil-fuel-induced climate change. 24ᵗʰ century humanity from Star Trek would be able to use disposable packaging to their heart's content (and note that in the show, they didn't). Our Earth can't afford this. And yet we do, and it's a market failure.

Make the producers take back garbage that's not recyclable/biodegradable as condition for selling.

Market externality now internalised.

Imagine garbage bins gone from streets, only green/recycable bins. Yes, consumers have to return garbage. Otherwise, those with long term goods have to subsidise those that throw out garbage (rates/taxes for gatbage trucks/landfill).

> I'm always tempted just to show up with a tofu container that I could buy at an antique shop just to see what they would say

Don't talk about it, be about it. It sounds like your assumption that you can no longer buy tofu in bulk or your own container is just that–an assumption. I've seen health-food stores in north america that buy tofu in buckets so you can pick what you want out bulk-bin style. Don't assume things are as bad as they seem! Be the change etc.

> The styrofoam trays that have meat on them become a plate

I've noticed a trend here in Tokyo of some supermarkets (notably the Summit chain) not even selling the trays anymore -- a lot of meat just comes vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag branded as "eco."

Not sure how new this is, but I buy whole chickens frequently, and that is how every brand I’ve seen packages them in the US.

I'm talking about stuff that usually comes on trays, like pork chops, ground beef, chicken breasts, etc.

I understand, just mentioning it.

Rams has contributed valuable lessons to the design community. You can read more about how his work influenced Apple products here: https://www.cultofmac.com/188753/the-braun-products-that-ins...

His utopian perspective only works if a designer of his caliber is balanced with a visionary CEO. He had a chance to work with such a CEO at Braun. The last time we had such a magic duo was with Steve Jobs & Jony Ive.

the same Ive who prided himself in designing the PoS macbook keyboard. I remember when they were first launching that new keyboard there was a video of him touting its revolutionary new design.

He is a good designer but needs to prioritize reliability/longevity a bit more.

That's the point, you need a counter weight on the product management side. Jobs/Ive also made marvels like the 12inch powerbook or the iPhone 3GS or the swivel-LCD iMac. Not all was great but there was a high number of winners coming out of that duo. The only thing since then that's on par are the Airpods IMO.

The swivel-LCD iMac was terrible, it was almost impossible to service or adjust and didn't hold up for very long. I had to wedge the arm to keep mine upright.

The iPod “classic” in its various incarnations was pure Rams

Maybe that time they made a mistake?

I don't think there is any doubt about the. The problem is they seem unable to step back from it.

I love my Nikon D80, a fairly mid-range to high-end DSLR from 2006. It might be challenging to repair (since it is full of a ton of complex and tiny mechanical and electronic components), but it has lasted me over a decade and still competes favorably with smartphone cameras (despite the huge advances in sensors [the D80 has a CCD] and processing since then). I haven’t needed to repair it and haven’t really considered replacing it for the last 12 (going on 13) years.

It wasn’t too cheap, but it was obviously meant to last. Nikon has since made cheaper, junkier consumer cameras (basically anything without the sub-command/aperture dial, which is under the shutter button), but the slightly higher-end models have stayed very similarly long-lasting and well-designed as my old D80.

The question is: will any smartphone ever begin to compete with that kind of longevity?

I second this comment! My old D40 has survived also almost 15 years of use and abuse, and is still going strong. I've since upgraded to a D90, which is also already a senior citizen in tech years, and it is still as reliable as ever. I don't feel the same confidence in their new Z line, although time will tell.

To that point, I'm linking here are a couple of images I took with my Pixel 2 phone while I was on vacation last year. The post-processing technology in the modern cell phone effectively compensates for intrinsic shortcomings in things like the tiny and shallow lens.

It takes multiple images at different exposures, detects edges/objects, and automatically composes the images to deal with backlight: https://i.imgur.com/01kVB3O.jpg

It simulates portrait photography by detecting which objects are close and which are further away, applying various levels of blur to several composed layers: https://i.imgur.com/M5h2q3r.jpg

In hindsight, I have no regrets using my phone rather than dragging along my DSLR on my vacation, particularly because I'm one of those ultralight "take only a 19-liter backpack" types. I just don't see the marginal benefit of whatever that bulky 15-year-old technology has over today's ML-enhanced technology.

But I guess your point was about longevity. For me, my phone serves many more functions than just photography, and so I feel that I get so much more out of it than just that one thing. In that sense, it's hard for me to tease apart the camera from the rest of what the phone does when I make the decision to upgrade it. I suppose I can give some signal there, in that I haven't found any reason to replace my Pixel 2 yet.

Pretty much the only way to tell the difference between a great and an okay sensor is to process the photos, and then the difference is night and day. I used to complain about my 5D until I tried to process some images from my Xiaomi drone, and then I realized how vast the difference was.

A good sensor will let you pull detail from things you can't even see. The average person doesn't need anything better than a phone (and I've taken many of my best photos with a phone because I didn't have my camera with me), but a good camera will make the photographer's life much, much easier.

I used to take a DSLR everywhere when I travelled, but the bulk and weight was always a PITA. The quality of photos a high-end smartphone takes nowadays is really quite incredible, especially given the small lens and sensor. And the convenience of being able to carry all this photographic power in your pocket is even more incredible.

It was with some sadness that I recently sold my trusty Canon 450D and Sigma long-range lens - my wife and I travelled the world with that kit, so it held sentimental value beyond the intrinsic. It did me proud for almost 10 years, and I still got a decent percentage of the original purchase price on eBay.

I agree about the inconveniences of lugging around a DSLR kit. And for documenting a trip or taking amazing photos while out and about, high-end phones like iPhone or Pixel are the absolute best. But to me, this is a very utilitarian approach. Nothing can replace the experience and flexibility of a DSLR as a photographic tool. And while photos taken with a phone are comparable to camera shots in terms of quality or resolution, no phone can approach the optical capabilities of real glass at the extremes of the range (ultra wide or telephoto), and those qualities are not reproducible in software.

to be sure, I'm not trying to knock phone photography; it just for me personally achieves a different outcome than what I'm looking for.

i agree with your sentiment. until i zoom-in on one of those photos.

I’m afraid that has more to do with Imgur than the original pictures.

i was referring to RAW. just take any pixel or iphone photo and zoom-in. now zoom-in on a photo taken by a dslr.

I totally agree about the amount of detail being much higher on DSLR. However neither I nor anybody I've shown my vacation photos to have wanted to zoom in on any of them. And there exists commercialized ML technology to actually increase detail: https://topazlabs.com/gigapixel-ai/

I'm sure larger lenses with higher resolution sensors will always have a place in photography. Just not on my vacations.

i agree with your comment. for me vacations are tricky. for some all i need is a phone. for others i simply can't take photos without a proper dslr/mirrorless (safari) or sometimes a gopro (underwater).

I've started to wonder if designing things to last is truly the best option. Sometimes well built things out live their usefulness and then you have this well built paper weight. Braun razors are a good example. I have one that still works, but I stopped using it after several years. No one wants a used razor, so what happens to it? I think we need to stop trying to make things a permanent as we can and start thinking more about sustainability.

No one wants a used razor

This attitude is part of the problem. Maybe you're right -- although there are 450 listings for used men's Braun electric razors on eBay right now so it's a bit stark to claim that "no one wants a used razor" -- but being squeamish about stuff like this is a silly attitude that we should change. "Eww skin cells and hair" is not a valid excuse to throw away functioning things. We have running water, dishwashers and disinfectants.

I don't mean this as an attack on you, but on this prevalent attitude in society that makes you feel like your used razor is worthless.

Medical professionals say that a used razor can transmit infections and recommend even monogamous couples don’t share them. They wouldn’t re-use a razor more than they’d re-use a needle. You need to apply a little common sense beyond saying re-use everything.

Many electric razors (at last in Germany) consists of a head (which is a bit plastic and the blades) and separate handle (which has the electric parts). So reusing the handles is just fine as they don't get into contact with any cut (through desinfect them anyway).

For classical razors you could have a culture of getting a high quality one when you start needing it and then keep it for a lifetime if possible (through you have to sharpen it from time to time).

#notallmedicalprofessionals, says my SO. Needles get thrown because they're cheap, and expensive instruments get sterilized. Boiling will kill the few things that can survive on stainless steel, like the virii that cause hepatitis.

But we don't need to nitpick one tree, and miss the forest of products can be designed better for reuse. The central issue in my mind is that companies are usually incentivized for obsolescence.

You have exceptions like Patagonia with strong DNA for societal good, but companies generally need some extrinsic motivation. What could be effective here? I can see service models working, as the company providing hardware would want longevity to save costs, but I don't want my stuff's lifespan to be connected to its manufacturer.

Surgery tools are a common application for ultrasonic cleaners, because "only an ultrasonic cleaner actually gets in all the small nooks and crannies of a complex instruments and removes blood and tissue from those" (or words to that effect).

Any buyers are in for a surprise, Braun changes their blade designs every few years and after 3 or 4 years, a replacement foil will cost more than a new razor.

I have an alert for whenever Amazon's algo goes wacky and the price drops, but it's only happened twice in three years.

Thats a fair point (I don't feel attacked, but thank you). I'm getting more at the idea that maybe we start planning for things to wear out in a more radical way. I was struck by a story about how the Japanese knock down old houses after 30 years (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/nov/16/japan-reusabl...) and while this might be an extreme example, its an interesting perspective. Not without its flaws, but not without its benefits either.

I should point out that I don't think the Japanese home model is worth copying, only that it challenged the way I think about the "shelf-life" of a given thing.

I think Japan knocks down homes after 30 years because their building technology have evolved so rapidly that it would be irresponsible to keep people living in vulnerable homes (a bit like running similarly outdated nuclear power plants /s) when much better options have been developed. Plus, we all realized concrete does not last as long as wat thought to be in the '60s.

What I mean is, Japan might be special and not necessarily generalizable.

on the other hand, there's gotta be much lower hanging fruit to pluck before we start using each other's hygiene equipment. there's a lot of stuff to be reused first that doesn't require thorough sterilization. for one thing, you could just use your own razor for longer if they were more durable.

I think hygiene equipment is a perfectly valid place to start. In some form or another, products in this category are used across almost every demographic—except for maybe hippies—every day for entirety of out lives. Not really something we stop needing, rather we probably end up using more over time. Much of this crap is tossed into the bin or the ocean.

It's "reduce, reuse, recycle" in that order. The most sustainable product is a product built to last.

Yeah, I have found my cardboard Amazon boxes to be much more useful as mulch than putting them in the recycle bin, not to mention the fact that I'm pretty sure my municipality just dumps it all anyway.

Cardboard boxes and any paper product for that matter already contain a lot of recycled paper, and if you live in a country that collects paper separately you shouldn't worry too much about it being dumped. Used paper and cardboard is worth money to collect and sell separately. https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2018/08/14/the-late... mentions some prices.

Are you contending that this is reduce or reuse?

It doesn't appear that you're reducing your use of boxes, and you aren't reusing the box as a box.

Recycling it as cardboard would seem to be better than using it as mulch, but using it as mulch would seem to be better than putting it in landfill.

reuse doesn't have to be as the exact same thing. depending on how usable the product is for its original purpose as well, reuse <-> recycle is a spectrum -- if you tear up the box and then use it for something else like mulch, it's closer to recycle, but if you refashion the box to make a rabbit trap without destroying the box, it's not really being used as a box anymore but I'd say it's reuse because you are using it, and it could return to its original use as well.

There is only just so many times you can reuse a cardboard box, and there are only just so many boxes you need in your life. I receive more boxes than I need boxes, but the cardboard is still useful.

By using cardboard as mulch, I'm also not buying wood mulch. Some people do use wood mulch on top of their cardboard to give it a better look, but I just use grass clippings and raked leaves, which people typically also discard. So things that would end up being useless to me instead go back into my own yard.

Now, I suppose one could argue that the grass clippings could be used in a bioreactor to create methane fuel, but that's just more carbon in the air, when really we should be trapping it in soil and plants.

It's also a hell of a lot easier than bagging all that shit and hauling to the street.

The embodied energy (~= the energy used to produce) of the cardboard is much higher than that of mulch.

I’m not sure if the incremental energy to turn the cardboard into new cardboard (and transport it twice) is more or less than that of growing, mulching and transporting some scrap wood.

Anyway, that is probably the right computation to run.

The equation is not "spend energy on wood mulch VS spend energy on cardboard", it's "spend energy on wood mulch AND cardboard VS spend energy on cardboard". The cardboard is a given. We purchase things and they come in boxes. By using it as mulch, I then avoid the additional spend in energy, time, dollars, and effort on wood mulch.

Mulch isn't typically paper grade wood though. It's either bark, or all the small branchy bits chopped up. So wood for paper and wood for mulch shouldn't be substitutable.

Where it does get marginal is with all the extra transportation and packaging.

"I then avoid the additional spend in energy, time, dollars, and effort on wood mulch. "

Agreed, that's as good a reason as any. Plus if we get to the point where our biggest problem is recycling or mulching cardboard I'll be happy.

Agreed, reuse doesn't have to be for the same thing, but to me it isn't a destructive process. Using cardboard for mulch is a destructive process. The cardboard will last a season if that.

It seems to me you're recycling the nutrients and biological matter back into the soil. This is a 'lower level' recycling than recycling the cardboard back to cardboard, and so less preferable.

Cardboard mulch can be thought of as generative instead of destructive. You are recycling it into soil in the lead into gold sense of “into” rather than the trash into bag sense.

Cardboard is excellent substraight for saprophytic mushrooms, which are dominant in certain desirable types of forest soil. It’s a common trick in permaculture circles for simulating second growth forest succession without having to wait forty years (takes about six to twelve month).

the most sustainable product is the one never built.

That's already covered by the "reduce" part.

There's certainly a market for the old 'safety' razors as well as straight razors. The 'safety' razors of course require blades, but they still generate less waste than modern cartridge razors. Straight razors require maintenance (keep them dry; strop; sharpen very occasionally), but generate even less waste, and last well (I have one from the late 1700s).

I bought a pack of blades 5 years ago that I'm still working through. There are no plastic bits to throw away, which is a positive IMO.

I switched to a safety razor about 10 to 15 years ago. In that time I've bought two of them (one broke). All I need to buy are the safety razors which are cheaper and use less packaging. It's a win-win. Those fancy cartridge razors from the likes of Gilette are scam!

A cartridge razor is a safety razor.

I'm referring to non-cartridge 'safety' razors though. I don't know a good way of referring to this class. Many of these are DE (double-edge), but there are some SE (single-edge) types as well. Razors which are not straight razors or cartridge razors.

"No one wants a used razor"

I believe there are actually quite some people who would take it.

But along with sex toys, yes usually a razor is something not for reuse. But actually I cannot think of much more conventionel products who outlive their usefulnes.

Except allmost everything with a computer today.. will it connect to other services in 5 years, when the ones from today die out?

There's a difference between sex toys and razors, which is the nature of the contamination.

People know how to clean their sex toys, which as a bonus are designed to be very easy to clean completely. (And when you do it the right way, it's feels obvious that you haven't missed anything. You don't have any lingering doubt.) With somebody else's sex toys, we have a feeling of contamination, but it's not physical, hygienic contamination. It's palpable, but intangible.

Razors are much more physically complicated, and many people never disassemble and clean their razor in its whole lifetime. They might know how to open it and shake out the hair that's inside it, but very few people bother to figure out how to clean every nook and cranny and wash out the oils that can accumulate in dark corners. With razors, I think people would be happy to buy a used razor if they knew how to clean it. But they don't, so someone else's razor will always feel dirty to them, in the hygienic sense.

Even if people did know how to clean a razor thoroughly, or had confidence that they could learn, they still might rather buy a new one for twice the price rather than put in the effort, but that's a judgement that can be influenced by the ethic of sustainability, if it was standard for manufacturers to design razors that could be cleaned with high confidence and a minimum of skill.

> They might know how to open it and shake out the hair that's inside it, but very few people bother to figure out how to clean every nook and cranny and wash out the oils that can accumulate in dark corners.

Have you seen a Braun razor? There are no corners. The product is as ergonomic as can be and since it's entirely waterproof, I don't know how you can say that "hidden oils" accumulate anywhere. The company even sells a station that cleans it for you. You've unwittingly fallen victim to the same effect you just mentioned: a feeling of contamination that is not actually there.

Ultimately, there is little reason for companies to design repairable products when most consumers disdain repair and even used items. I know many people that turn up their nose at buying used items such as cameras or headphones. "Certified pre-owned" is the magic dust that car dealerships need to sprinkle on their cars to make a used car seem new again, along with some vague incantations about inspections. Amazon even sells "expert assembly" packages for products as simple as a bookcase [0]!

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Atlantic-DrawBridge-Storage-Organizat...

Isn’t the point how long you used the shaver? And how many lesser shavers would you have needed in that period that would also have ended up on the shelf?

>I have one that still works, but I stopped using it after several years. No one wants a used razor, so what happens to it?

If it was really built to last (and not just some plasticky thing that happens to still work), then someone would very much want it. What's the problem with a "used razor"? People buy all kinds of used things...

More so, if it was built to last, any part that could be problematic (e.g. the blade being damaged by the use of the original owner), would be easily replaced, and the rest would be as good as new.

You don't give any particularly good reasons for why you feel a certain way. You have a very specific product, a personal hygiene product so obviously if you no longer want to use it that's your prerogative but that does not negate the value of having something that lasts a long time.

Not everything needs to last but I mostly agree.

Some items simply can't last a lifetime like shoe soles. You can buy a shoe that can be re-soled but even that will eventually wear down.

Tech products that outlast their usefulness or any product for that matter, should be made from more sustainable materials. Whenever I throw something out I get the mental image of that item sitting in a landfill for eternity and it upsets me. Moreso if it's mostly plastic and contains electronics. This disposable mentality is not sustainable.

It's kind of funny in the reddit "Buy it for life" community where people are talking about, like, socks... the thing you grind your whole body weight onto 5,000 times per day. I'm not going to start buying expensive uncomfortably thick socks just so I can be happy about how long they last.

Buy Darn Tough socks! If they get holes, you mail them back to Vermont and they mail you back new socks.

I second Darn Tough socks. I retired from the USMC and I will pay what ever they are asking for the socks. It really does make a difference on a 15 to 20 mile hike. Ever since I was issued my first pair I never went back and they are worth every bit of the $25 dollars per pair. I never got blisters since wearing them.

Thank you for your service! really cool they issued darn tough socks. Have you tried danner boots by any chance? good pairing :)

What’s the carbon footprint of sending them back and forth?

My heavy socks last forever because I only wear them when I put on my boots, which is maybe twenty days a year. Eventually the moths will get them.

You're kind of buying a sock subscription at that point.

Why would you assume that thick socks are uncomfortable? I find it quite the opposite- I wear almost entirely hiking socks these days, and find the thick wool to be like walking on puppies.

Just keep the old one in the attic.

Old Braun vs new razor is like nice laser printer vs. ink jet.

I bought a cheap Li-Rechargeable (Philips OneBlade). They charge you half the price of the whole razor for a single blade (15€) which sometimes breaks just when you fumble the long hair trimmer off of it.

I recently heard the word "upcycling". It's very self-explanatory and clearly is what we need to do consistently.

Drop it off at a local Goodwill or similar.

I watched a video today or something where you can see human beings testing a kids toy. You know that those humans spend there life building or testing plastic toys for kids in europe etc. which will play with it for a short time and wouldn't care for the world if that toy would be something else.

I feel sometimes bad hiring someone to do something i can do. I do know that a professional painter can paint my walls better and quicker than i can and thats probably okay but it still feels weird.

I also visited a 1 Dollar Store in US because we were looking for some tweezers and found them there. Those have been so bad, they couldn't hold onto anything. I also saw a cable adapter thingy which was 100% not functional as i was very aware of both plugs.This broken shit made it half around the world to be thrown away by me.

We should stop producing shit just because we can.

I have a pair of tweezers I bought from an electronic supply house 30 years ago for what $10. They are hard nickel tool steel. Sharp as ever.

The ones we buy at work last about 6 months before the tips get ruined. Why because it's cheaper to make them out of soft stainless. And there is no competition they are all crap.

Similarly it is basically impossible to buy good files today, because they're all somewhat dull and don't last. I have German, French and Swiss made files from well over forty years ago, which I received in their original wax paper packaging. They are much sharper now and seem to last longer than what I can buy new from the same German manufacturer today.

It is like someone forgot how to make proper file steel. Real shame. You'd maybe expect them to get a little bit better, for them to last longer, because more modern steels and better process controls for heat treating etc. may be used, but evidently this isn't the case.

And that's because people have gotten used to be able to buy a new one when the old one is crap - actually, most people never get to that point, they just lose them in the piles of stuff they have. Few people use tweezers that much.

Hustwit's documentary is quite wonderful.


Just cosmopolitan enough to know who he is, not cosmopolitan enough to know he is still alive. Fun read.

I can't figure out if you're referring to yourself or Mr Rams as cosmopolitan

> Just cosmopolitan enough to know who he is, not cosmopolitan enough to know he is still alive. Fun read.

Replying in case others may benefit from the brief explanation. JKCalhoun is describing the degree to which he, JKCalhoun, is cosmopolitan--based on the amount of knowledge he had about Rams. It's missing an implicit "I'm".

The sentences can be fully formed as this: "I'm just cosmopolitan enough to know who he is, not cosmopolitan enough to know he is still alive."

Yes, thank you. ;-)

I'm not sure if I completely buy the premise of this. We certainly have a lot of cheap, disposable things in our lives, but we also have plenty of durable items as well.

Most of the things that I own that are more durable are low-tech, like kitchen items. Yes, you can buy cheap, semi-disposable frying pans, and budget appliances, but that's always been the case, even back in Rams's day. I've owned and used the same cast iron pans, ceramic coffee mugs, drinking glasses, silverware, etc. for in some cases decades. They work and there's no reason to upgrade them.

I've got tools that I've been using for decades. Some were inherited from my father. Some I purchased myself. Manual tools can last nearly forever. Plenty of power tools last decades (decent brand drills, circular saws, etc). This hasn't changed. You can also buy cheap, poorly-built versions of many of these things, if you either can't afford or don't need better quality. Again, this has always been the case, even 50 years ago.

There's a lot more stuff now, and a lot more cheap stuff to be sure. This creates a disposable culture, but it's not that high-quality, repairable items have disappeared completely; it's just that now people who don't need or want them have more cheap alternatives to choose from.

Electronics are an exception to this. Computers and phones in particular are semi-disposable, over a few years. This isn't because they're shoddily-built and unrepairable, it's because they become obsolete. I still have 15-year-old computers that work fine, and have some components that are 20+ years old. They're sturdy, they function just as well as when they were made, but they're obsolete. My primary gaming desktop is nearly 10 years old, though, and it's still going strong. I've upgraded the video card and storage a few times, but other than that, it's almost all original 2011 equipment, and it still plays all modern games. That's totally repairable and self-serviceable.

I've heard people bemoan modern quality and disposability before, but I really don't see it as the modern plague it's described as. Plenty of junk was manufactured 75 years ago, but the things that have survived were the items that were built well and had timeless value. I bet Rams has thrown out his old black & white TV, and that photo of him sitting on his cheap, disposable plastic patio furniture shows that he's prone to the same price-vs-quality decisions as the rest of us.

To me, a fascinating angle is when the electronics obsolescence curve runs into the mechanical one. Cars are filled with that kind of thing, but two more interesting ones are products like sewing machines and power tools. Both used to be overdesigned, now they have have additional features and underdesign enabled by built-in microcontrollers. In drills, for instance, it'll back off on the power where an earlier model needed to be able to handle an animal wielding it.

This is often a good thing, as it can add some valuable functionality, but it drives me nuts when it goes wrong. I've had to deal with washing machines where the mechanical bits were perfectly fine, but the electronics fried. That can be expensive to fix, to the point that throwing it out and buying a used one off Craigslist is the more economical option. Same with modern stoves. I have never in my life gotten any benefit from fancy electronics on a washing machine, and the only sensible reason for non-mechanical parts on a gas stove is a timer, but I'd honestly prefer a simple pure-mechanical one that is going to last forever.

It'll be interesting to see what a 12 year old Tesla is worth.

Electronic control boards on ovens is a terrible idea. Guess what usually breaks on one (like mine, we don't use it so it's been broken for 4 years).

We have an oven at home that's about to be worthless because of a proprietary electrical ribbon intermittently failing. Sigh

The relationship with Apple products only stop at their look: Apple products were never meant to be repaired.

Patagonia embodies these principles far more than Apple

Wow, he looks a lot like Chevy Chase.

I like his message, though. We should throw away a lot less stuff.

- Saves natural resources - Reduces landfills - Provides jobs (the repair technicians)

Seems like a good future trend.

... And reduces corporations profits. They want to sell you the same product cyclically, not once in your lifetime. Corporations don't give a f*ck about saving resources, reducing waste or providing jobs to repair technicians unless it hurts them economically or they take a cut somewhere in the process. That's the 'bad part' of capitalism.

Anyway I agree with you. It's a pity that open source hardware is still in the infancy. Software shows us that open source can be unbeatable and even corporations have to comply if they want to survive.

Even if they did care they couldn't do much about it because they would lose out to the competition that doesn't care.

The only way we are going to get beyond this is to make sure they have to pay for their externalities.

Why can’t they run the repair shops? Alternatively they can run things like the old ATT and lease better built but more expensive items?

As a last resort they can - if the market forces them to - but I suspect that is less profitable than selling new stuff cyclically.

They do run the repair shops. They charge exorbitant rates for service.

Environmentalism and Western Capitalism don't seem at all compatible: either we kill the environment or we kill capitalism ...

Because the Communists were just so darned kind and gentle to their environment.

What's that got to do with it? There are more than just 2 possible financial/political systems.

Any particular communists you have in mind, there are few extent groups, kibbutz dwellers appear to be reasonably environmentally conscious.

What's that got to do with it?

You first. What does capitalism have to do with it? You're the one who brought an unrelated sociopolitical agenda to the thread, it seems.

kibbutz dwellers appear to be reasonably environmentally conscious.

Says someone with their own 3 GHz personal computer that was decidedly not built by kibbutz-dwellers.

Yes, I'm part of the problem. Unfortunately I can't unilaterally move us away from Western Capitalism.

Why does the dominant financial ideology relate? Because it prefers profit above everything, so externalised costs aren't considered if they'll provide a return on capital -- impoverish your workers, fine if that leads to profit; wreck the environment, fine if that leads to private financial profit.

Changing to a more communist ideology, eg all workers owning the companies they work in, restricting ownership that massively exceeds needs, democratising the benefits of automation. These sorts of things might restrict technological development, but if they can help to save the environment, and reduce the massive wealth inequalities (some of which hark back to feudalism) then that's good.

The FOSS movement seems to have made good advances despite being communistic, perhaps not as great as private software development, but certainly not without progress.

The main problem is that capitalism calls out to greed, which everyone feels and falls to. Communism calls to selflessness, which requires us to rise above our base natures.

That's actually quite related to the problem at hand actually, which is the problem of externalities (as stated a bit above in the thread).

The problem of externalities, ie of costs that are unaccounted for, is a side product of an economic system that fragment economic interest into many small actors, and where, as a consequence, the larger picture is only partially taken into account, leaving void areas (unsolvable, unfulfilled needs) and cracks (externalities).

It can be argued that another economic system would do better, but claiming it has nothing to do with it just reveals how taboo it is to challenge the dominant view, even in our times when that dominant view is really not threatened at all in principle nor in practice. Interesting.

I think communism had much less impact on the environment. For one thing, there were exactly zero disposable products. And everything was recycled. We brought the milk/soda bottles back to shop for maybe 10% of the price. Paper and metal was recycled also. We had to gather metal and old newspapers and magazines and bring them to school at least once a year. There were much less garbage. No plastic bags and bottles everywhere.

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