You have always been able to buy long life incandescent light bulbs, and still can to this day. They're called rough service bulbs, made for ovens and closets and areas used infrequently. People just never used them for general purpose lighting because they're dim and power hungry.
If you read the report by the British monopolies commission quoted in this article, you'll notice that they came to the same conclusion . Pop science articles and Reddit love to bring out the Phoebus cartel over and over as an example of planned obsolescence, but always completely ignore the factors that go into making a good incandescent light bulb.
I would believe this if the cartel fined members based on the inefficiency of their lightbulbs relative to light produced (lumens per watt), and fined according to this.
Or allowed longer life bulbs if they met a lumen per watt efficiency target.
Or even if they added a minimum life to ensure that consumers got quality, and fined producers if they produced bulbs that were too low-life.
They didn't, they fined members who produced lights that lasted longer regardless of bulb efficiency.
Because the decision to limit bulb life to 1,000 hours had obvious financial benefits for cartel members, I think it's pretty generous to think that this policy was solely based on wanting what was best for consumers.
The Pheobus Cartel wasn't just about bulb lifespan, but also bulb price. They also used their power to increase the price of bulbs. The fact that they converged on a practical trade-off in terms of life span & energy costs doesn't change their anti-competitive nature.
Is it even desirable to mass produce at one specific point in the tradeoff curve? Wouldn't society, or at least engineers, appreciate being able to choose where in the curve you land?
One amusing tidbit not mentioned in the IEEE article I noticed while looking at some congressional testimony: the Scandinavian competitors apparently did not just undercut Phoebus, but signed up first to get Phoebus to bankroll construction of their lightbulb plant and then began undercutting them with it!
which are ?
But the cartel colluded to prevent such innovation. The British monopolies commission effectively colluded with them by first decided that there should be a single lifetime as a standard: with that decision already made, then of course they could easily claim to have reached a decision based on the facts provided by the companies they were investigating.
And I would happily pay an extra $5 in electricity for a bulb that reduced my need to change them. Should we ban the iPhone because you could easily use a cheap Android instead?
This will never happen with incandescent bulbs because the lifespan vs efficiency trade off is fundamental to how they work. More power means more heat which causes it to fail faster. However, this did end up happening eventually with the invention of LED bulbs and now many big companies formerly in the cartel (including Phillips) are in the process of shutting down or selling off their lighting division because it's no longer profitable to sell light bulbs when LEDs last so long.
>The British monopolies commission effectively colluded with them by first decided that there should be a single lifetime as a standard
Just as companies today agree on standards like USB or WiFi, back then they also agreed to a standard bulb life and efficiency. This means that one company's bulbs are interoperable with another's and you don't end up with a house full of mismatched bulbs.
>And I would happily pay an extra $5 in electricity for a bulb that reduced my need to change them.
This doesn't account for the extra greenhouse emissions and environmental effects of running inefficient bulbs. Also, long life bulbs were never banned, even when the cartel was active. You've always been able to buy them if you wish, most people didn't because they had a poor lumens/watt
That also means that you couldn't make a bulb as bright as a 100W bulb that only uses 90 watts: if you advertised it as a 90W bulb, people would think it was less bright.
Essentially, every compact fluorescent and LED light bulb I've bought in recent years states both the power consumed and light output (which means that if one bothered one could calculate the overall efficiency of the bulb).
Also, for those who still have difficulty with the new specifications, manufacturers state the new bulb's light output to be equivalent to an incandescent of 'x' Watts
(i.e.: the light output of say a 20 Watt compact fluorescent ≡ to a 100 Watt incandescent bulb). This is now rather irrelevant where I live as incandescent bulbs have been banned for so long that everyone has forgotten about them.
True, one has always been able to buy long life incandescent light bulbs and I've done so myself to use in certain industrial situations. However, I'd contend that that has little or nothing to do with planned obsolescence.
Moreover, there's more than a whiff of the Phoebus Cartel still about today with light bulb manufacture. Let me give you an example: when compact fluorescent bulbs first came out some four decades ago, I installed many of them. The principal brands I bought were Philips and Wotan and the majority of them lasted well in excess of 10,000 hours. I recall losing track of the life of one low power bulb of ≈8 watts after it had passed 50,000 hours operation (that is, after having being in service for over 25 years and used between 4 and 5 hours per day over this time, eventually it was replaced not because it had failed but rather to replace it with a bulb of higher wattage).
Take the current situation: almost every compact fluorescent that I've bought in the last 10 or so years has only lasted about 1000 hours despite the fact that the packets they came in usually advertised their life to be a nominal 8,000 hours or so. The fact is that none of them ever reached anywhere near these published figures. To make matters worse, often these bulbs would break (usually around the base) and sometimes the coiled glass would fall to the floor (no doubt dispensing its small amount of Hg everywhere in the process).
Moreover, a while back, so called 'green' environmentally friendly compact fluorescent bulbs were all the rage. They were advertised as having less mercury and thus more environmentally sound. What a joke that turned out to be. All the Greenies loved them because they contained less mercury. Unfortunately, most never knew how the bulbs worked anyway and thus they never realized that reducing their mercury levels below a certain concentration would dramatically reduce the bulb's life to such an extent that the overall result was a net loss for the environment. Right, environmentally friendly bulbs actually had an even shorter service life (hence, Watt for Watt, they produced much more environmental e-waste over the long run)!
Clearly, all manufacturers were disingenuous by not stating the consequences of lowering the mercury levels in compact fluorescent bulbs. They deliberately played on the fact that consumers weren't cognizant of the facts, thus the lowering of manufacturing standards was a win for them as there were few complaints. Manufacturers not only made savings by including less mercury but also other manufacturing standards were lowered such as using lower grade capacitors and the maximum working voltages on capacitors and semiconductors were reduced to much closer (lower) tolerances which made these bulbs much more prone to failure from over-voltage spikes, etc.
In the end, many more bulbs were consumed than there should have been. Concomitantly, we've ended up with even bigger piles of electronics waste—and the net amount of mercury used was actually higher than it would have been if the bulbs had been designed to have a service life of >10,000 hours (as had been the case some 20 years earlier). Incidentally, the same unacceptable logic is now being applied in the manufacture of normal fluorescent lights† in that current tubes have a much, much shorter lifespan than those made 50 or so years ago).
Yep, it wasn't kosher to go around advertising the fact that 'our bulbs have a little more mercury but they will last you many times longer'. Right, manufacturers must have been laughing themselves sick over the fact that they could double-dip their profits by playing on the fact of the public's current, almost irrational, phobia over Element 80 and that reducing the amount of it in bulbs automatically led to vastly increased bulb sales. Moreover, they gloated even more when some governments made compact florescent bulbs mandatory but did not also introduce mandatory manufacturing standards to ensure their long operational life.
The overall net effect being bulb manufacturers scoring two wins whilst consumers and the environment both scored nil. Right, the incarnation of the Phoebus Cartel is alive and well.
† Several years ago, I was involved in relocating a factory and the old site used T12-type fluorescent tubes the majority of which were made by Crompton Parkinson and were over 50 years old and still in good working condition!
We decided not to relocate those old lights and we replace them with new T8-type fluorescents of Eastern manufacture at the new site. These new tubes are now already starting to fail. The lifespan difference between the old and new types is so startling that I reckon it ought to be part of a study into changes into manufacturing techniques. These new tubes have to represent one of the most quintessential examples of planned obsolescence ever. Frankly, it's absolutely outrageous that this can happen.
Whereas incandescents were trading lifespan versus efficiency. You can make 5000 hour incandescents, but your "60 watt" 5000 hour lamp will put out far less light, so it costs the same to run but it's not bright enough, then you buy the 100 watt version, now it's bright enough but you're paying two thirds more money to run it!
A hypothetical 5000 hour incandescent only makes economic sense if your electricity is basically free (greedily maybe it makes sense if you don't pay for it, e.g. rental inclusive of electricity bills) whereas a Dubai lamp makes sense regardless of electricity price, because over long enough periods the increased lifespan saves you money anyway.
Actually, they're simpler than a lot of other LED lamps, because they're not dimmable and use only a capacitor to limit current followed by a small post-regulator.
The driving electronics often fails before the LEDs, but they've minimised that with these.
I find a regular supply of cheap LED bulbs with that issue in the bin.. They really should put out a stupid modular model so you can swap the circuit for 1$
"This is why we can't have nice things" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5v8D-alAKE
To me, hot as they ran (fire hazard if used improperly) halogens were the pinnacle of artificial light quality. Of course I've changed all mine to LEDs now. The LEDs give adequate light and are better in every other way. But the light from halogen bulbs was beautiful.
The 30% commission has a long history. There are precedents going back to the early days of games consoles. Both the iTunes music store and Steam opened in 2003 charging 30% or very close to it (iTunes tracks were 99c so it doesn’t work out exactly).
It’s hard to argue the 30% in either of those cases were a matter of abuse of market power. Steam was struggling to establish itself against the incumbent distribution channels. The iTunes rates were negotiated with the major labels who were notoriously hard deal makers and very wary of online sales channels. They held all the cards is their negotiations with Apple and yet they seemed to think 30% was fair. So at that point I don’t think it’s possible to make a credible case that the 30% rate was extortionate.
If 30% was abusive, we’d expect to see it act as a brake on adoption of the App Store by developers, but is there really any evidence for that? On Android have any of the smaller stores tried to differentiate on price at lower than 30% to attract developers, or has Google tried to woo iOS developers with lower rates? If 30% was abusively high we’d expect to see something like that happening.
So the fact that these competitors use the same pricing model and the same price has a bad smell.
This would be like supermarkets charging product manufacturers a uniform fixed rental for shelf space. No supermarket would stock toilet paper, it’s too bulky and low revenue, or if they did they have to charge a lot more for it.
Or is it more that "Apple stuff" is not directly substitutable with "Google stuff", and that Apple has a monopoly on "Apple stuff"?
Pretty much everyone has, with the occasional exception.
I wonder how much of this is deliberate collusion, as opposed to an equilibrium where companies all realize that it's more profitable to match each others' fees than to try to compete on price.
If other app stores charge 30%, you know that developers are willing to pay 30%, and there's not much to be gained by reducing your own rate below that.
I saw a theory in the comments on HN once that companies can 'collude' without communicating with each other. If memory serves, it was different than just achieving an equilibrium.
Maybe it's enough of a theory to have a name? Hopefully someone who knows what I'm thinking of can chime in.
Edit: I may be thinking of "tacit collusion". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacit_collusion - "Tacit collusion is a collusion between competitors, which do not explicitly exchange information and achieving an agreement about coordination of conduct."
Just because bosses didnt sit down a and sign a deal in a smokey room doesnt mean no decision was made
I am unsure how we got to a point where the life span of a $900-$1,200 device is measured in months not years is acceptable but is seems to me it would have to involve some conspiracy especially when the technology they replaced or augmented (traditional phones and laptops) where all measured in years, multiple years.
Because we didn't get to that point? My Apple phones last 3+ years unless I break them, and only the ones I hold on to for closer to 5 years aren't still working entirely fine when I upgrade; usually all they'd need to keep working for another couple years is a battery replacement.
The hallmark of a Phoebus-cartel-style situation would be if smartphones from N years ago from multiple manufacturers were still going strong but newer phones were slower, or had crappier battery life, or broke down more often (consistently year-over-year). I'm not sure that's an easy comparison to make; go too far back in the space and you pass into the pre-iPhone, pre-Android era "smartphones" that were robust as hell but remarkably featureless relative to what came after.
That having been said, Apple has been sued over the planned obsolescence of its smartphones (https://www.macrumors.com/2021/04/08/apple-chile-planned-obs...)
Sometimes things happen to make companies uh take note:
Phones last years now although first party software updates are frequently only available for 1-2 years and apps eventually are made that require more recent android versions effectively forcing you to update in 5 years to have access to all possible apps. Games may be more aggressive in their requirements as well.
Bingo, that is the planned obsolesce part. too many people here are focusing on physical viability, not software viability.
From a security standpoint, if it is out of support it is a brick, and the number of vulnerabilities that are discovered on these devices NO ONE should be running a mobile computer with current updates
So sure the device may physically still turn on, and you can still "use" it, it is not something I would recommend.
The first step of solving a problem is defining it.
Maybe if there was a website where enough people self-reported device failures out of spite, wonder if that would help pinpoint PO cases. Incidentally it may solve the fake review issue.
An open source bug reporting tool but for IRL failures. BBB comes to mind.
Just a random and free idea.
Yep, and the issue is that most people will run from the opportunity to make their relationship with technology more complicated. Most people don't care if you can't replace the battery on the new iPhone because they intend to replace it in 2-3 years. As sorrowing of a statement as it is to say, it's hard to get first-class citizens to care about issues that don't affect them. In other news, the earth is round and gravity pulls downwards.
Or a lot more expensive. And if you don’t care about the 10 year reliability, you are being hurt by having to pay more.
Obviously, these laws will only apply to the tech sector, but it's a start.
A company doesn't have to build in some sort of off switch to force obsolescence, all they have to do is use cheap parts to cut costs and put the burden of paying for maintenance on the buyer. Basically, planned obsolescence can be indistinguishable from a product that is cheaply made.
None has lasted even half a year here, which is shorter than incandescent bulbs. It is all a big fraud.
But then it's also not unlikely that other people got the same YouTube recommendations, after which they did some online research and posted interesting links to HN. Or maybe the causation was the other way around. Who knows?
Can't affect fraudulent cartels but can apply pressure on merchants not to carry flawed merchandise