Stay Free! has an interview with Giles Slade, author of Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America.
STAY FREE!: Have you looked at consumer warranties at all? They seem to be shrinking. I saw some headphones the other day that had a 30-day guarantee!
GILES SLADE: Ha! All I know is that I went to the industrial standards board in Washington and they told me that the standard for durable goods was fixed at three years around the beginning of WWI. I guess that three years came from the three-year product cycle of General Motors. They figured a new GM car would come out every three years, so a car only needed to last three years. The funny thing is that three years now sounds like a long time.
Slade has faced a flurry of criticism but he’s not saying anything insurrectionist. Figuring out long it’s supposed to last is one of the first things a designer does when creating a new product. And over the years, that “product lifespan” has been universally decreasing. — BEN POPKEN