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Turn it off & on again! Why does technology sometimes just fail?@LaraLewington reports
Lara Lewington investigates why so many gadgets break without anything seeming to be wrong with them.
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They break,so you buy a new one.
We are asking very complex interactions from complicated machinery with thousands if not millions of lines of code. All this means that we cannot test nor predict every failure mode and there simply isn't time to get it right before the next wave of innovation arrives. The future may be bright but it is certainly annoying.
Maybe if they followed the same rules we have to follow for airborne software and hardware there wouldn't be so many failures.
It's all in the trade-off between size, performance, price, reliability and time to market.
Commenting on the 'Why do gadgets keep on breaking' article, I'd like to share a story from when I was doing my degree in electronic engineering. Engineers are of course the people who design and create our technology.
I will never forget a lecture given on 'product life'. Much to the lecturer's embarrassment and disgust, he was required to tell us that as engineers we'd be required to build in a timed failure for the majority of consumer products we'd eventually design. In other words, nearly all consumer grade electric and electronic products fail only because they have been designed to do so.
This concept is known as 'planned obsolescence', and is very much the standard for nearly all consumer products designed and manufactured today. Otherwise the demand for next generation products would be seriously diminished.
The lecturer was very much 'old school' and made it very clear he did not approve of the practice, but it's a requirement for all BEng courses, and is very much a modern day reality.
The requirements for the engineering courses are predetermined by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) who in turn represent the needs of the engineering industry.
I did pass my engineering degree (with honours), but did not pursue a career in hardware engineering, as in these times of environmental concern I couldn't commit to a career where I would be required to design and create hardware products that were below the standard of what I could produce without these constraints.
I just wanted to set the record straight, as I was hoping the 'Why do gadgets keep on breaking' clip would expose the practice, but was very disappointed to see it did not.
+Dave Wooldridge you are either full of BS or your lecturer was winding you up. Planned obsolescence is about planning not designing. Tell me a technique you can use to make something fail at a pre-determined time in the future. Components have a life and a mean time between failures just like your car does, with electronics this is mainly determined by temperature. It would be ridiculous to design something to run at zero degrees just so it lasts longer. You were obviously on the wrong course if you are predisposed to conspiracy theories.
+Bob Marshall. My lecturer was a highly respected, experienced, serious and professional man who was a lecturer at Brunel University during the years 1997 to 2000 whilst I was there. I had and still do have the greatest respect for him. What he said was in all seriousness, and was the topic of an entire lecture, not just a passing quip. In his own words 'it's not how we designed things when I started out in engineering'.

I believe both Brunel University's reputation and the course's BEng accreditation are enough to show I was 'not on the wrong course'.

It's not a conspiracy, it's part of the BEng accredited material. Please, feel free to find out about planned obsolescence for yourself



(an interesting discussion on the ethics of the practice)

or on any of the other 700,000 examples you can find by simply googling the term.

Or you can just carry on with your head in the sand believing that nobody would be that mean - it's a free country.
It all comes down to one thing. Liability. Currently software vendors (and thus a lot of gadgets) can get away with anything and disclaim liability. Real hardware device makers can't do that.

The software industry has talked self regulation and standards for forty years, and though they'll scream and cry the way to fix this is to fix all the loopholes that allow services and software and other intangibles to dodge liability law.

Once they can be sued for being careless they'll spend some actual money on process, technology and being careful. Over time that'll do wonders to the standards of the industry.

The other half of the problem is that people in the UK don't take anything like enough stuff back. If it's not fit for purpose, if it breaks, if it sucks, send it back and demand a full refunding including the return postage costs.
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