How about some sustainability in electronic devices?

Posted on May 2, 2010 by

I am fascinated by the stupidity of the engineering and pricing models for electronic devices. Case in point – my TomTom GPS unit. There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact it is almost as cheap to buy a new one as it is to update the maps on my existing device.

I completely understand that the governments of the world we currently inhabit remain more concerned with today’s economy (read ‘the corporations’) than with living within our means or even trying to save the planet for the future of our kids. I also realize this is capitalist consumerism at its finest, forcing society to buy crap they don’t need just to “keep the economic cogs turning”.

But this is ridiculous. How about throwing even a small bone toward being environmentally friendly? Really, the world is shifting, albeit slowly, to a greener way of life, and this is driven by absolute necesity and the survival of the species. But corporate bulldogs fight it every step of the way with misinformation, threats, warnings of economic impacts, and outright lies. I think it is time to call their bluff!

I recycle. I turn the water off when I brush my teeth. I buy vehicles that get a gazillion kilometres to the tank. These are all the usual suspects that are in keeping with the propaganda the government is pretending to push these days. But if the government truly cared about the environment and sustainability as opposed to simply greasing the wheels of the corporate economy, they would implement some simple rules to ensure the products we use lasted a little longer and were not created with planned obsolescence.

And it would be easy to fix this issue. All electronic devices for sale in the modern world should be required to have memory expansion ports that accept industry-standard media cards. The Secure Digital (or SD as it is commonly known) card format would be a good choice for most devices simply because of size, capacity, and standardization. This small enhancement would enable additional features, software, operating system upgrades, etc., to be loaded to existing devices, regardless of a lack of built-in memory (also known as a lack of foresight and/or a war to bring you the cheapest price possible, regardless of consequences).

Having the latest processor that can power up my GPS 0.25 seconds faster is not a big deal to me. Having up-to-date maps on the other hand, can be pretty handy. That is only software. That is easy to implement. And that sure doesn’t cost as much to distribute as it does to build, market, program, and distribute a whole new device. But you would never know that from the price.

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