Anti-engineering

I often miss our family tape-recorder of the 80s, for lack of such durable products in recent times. It was a Panasonic, and, what was more important, “Made in Japan” marked. No wonder it survived the innumerable crash and drop tests that my brother and I subjected it to during our respective tenures of growing up. The device still played along – even when its speakers dangled out of its sockets, on the thin wires – and was able to marvelously record the audio tracks of  the rehearsals of our school events.
Such sturdiness has certainly had its death rattle; that is, if it has not perished altogether.
Even so, my romance with Japanese products continues – although most of them are not made in Japan any more. My camera ( both film and digital) are Japanese (Nikon), so is the TV (Sony), the motor-bike (Honda) , the heart (i,e. the engine) of our car (Suzuki), my (5.5 yr old) laptop (Toshiba), mp3 player (Sony). I have certain admiration for the Japanese and their precision engineering. Theirs is a kind of capitalism with heart, so different from the American mass, mindless, pure consumerism , which is forced upon us more often, these days. Where “planned obsolence” is practised ( maybe implicitly). I recently watched a story of the formation of the first cartel in the world which aimed to REDUCE the life of light-bulbs, so that the bulbs fail faster and  the producers sell and consequently profit more in a fixed span of time. (It’s no surprise that the Japanese were not a part of this cartel)
I call it anti-engineering, where engineers are called in to do the opposite of what they are supposed to do – in order to make more “business sense”. The story went on to say that the planned obsolence principle was not limited to light-bulbs – it had become an all-pervading doctrine by now. No wonder that whenever, in recent times I chose to buy non-Japanese products (for cost reasons of course), the product lost usefulness fast. The best example is the Rs 1500 ($ 30) Canon “Pixma” printer I bought just more than a year back. ( I was amazed that one could buy a reasonable quality colour printer and that too from a popular brand-house). In less than a year it stopped working; I’d left it unused for a couple of months and (like anything else in our house) cockroaches colonised it. I didn’t lose heart as it was still within the warranty period; but to my horror I was told ( after an inspection) that cockroach crap (and damage thereof) was not covered in warranty, and that I’d need to spend atleast Rs 1000 ($20) to get a new board for the printer. I refused and now have the latest piece of e-waste for company.  Some day I need to make myself open the cover and search for anything remotely salvage-able. Groan.

I wonder if  such absolute consumerism is going to be sustainable in the long term ( in the short term t does by generating more employment), especially with the limited resources that we have now.

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Wanted – Old worldly charms

Recently, I was able to get hold of a Reader’s Digest at my workplace and nostalgically I browsed for my favourites – “laughter, the best medicine”, “all in a day’s work” “life is like that” and “humour in uniform”. Appallingly, out of all of these columns I was able to find just ONE joke (or anecdote) which was NOT stale and which managed to evoke a laugh at the same time ( and no, I don’t think not I’ve grown bitter lately).
Understandably, the editors are offering cash rewards ( upto Rs 1000 for one good joke). Either the readers’ sense of humour has deteriorated or, what looks more probable readership has sunk rock bottom.
At least our IP generation ( IP can stand for Instant Pleasure, Internet Protocol and its applications like IPhone – IPad …, IPL ,IPill …ImPatient) never seems to have time for the such slow things in life like (non-work or curriculum-related) books. Any more.
I wonder if these things, which have taken the toll over old-world thing as books could not be dubbed substance abuse ( instant gratification – isn’t that what the narcotics are sought for).I’ve been in rehab for past month, after being de-addicted off the substance called TV ; lately I feel I can think clearly now. Not that I ( or rather we including my significant other) felt the courage to kick the bucket. The lousy software of the set-top box ( coded maybe by Facebook and Twitter addicted souls) decided to abandon the hardware body on its own volition)  3 years after it was installed and without any stimulus from user side.
My addiction forced me to call and singe customer support in a futile attempt to get it rectified –  thankfully – he demanded pre-payment for the support. And I was loathe to imagine paying more up for such a lousy box. And installing a new (and more reliable maybe) cable service looked far more expensive in these inflationary times ( where the only  inexpensive things are mobile talk-time and the Internet) – so we decided to ditch the cable.
And now everyone in the family has more time for each other – the days seem to have stretched. And I replaced crass movies ( which were generously forced down my throat) interspersed with equally obtuse and unwanted commercials for a more refined choice of say, Agatha Christies – read at my own leisurely pace ( I decide if the murderer is to be found out today or in one month – isn’t that wonderful).
Thanks Reliance for the favours received.
Thankfully also that I have a “dumb” phone and that I have not signed up for Facebook or Twitter. Even without all that Internet (especially news on internet) addiction is bad enough.But I’m reassured I don’t have to burn my grey cells thinking for the next attention-grabbing “Tweet” to broadcast. Or to lose sleep over best strategies to increase “friendship” count. Or to wonder whom to “poke” today and whose “wall” to spray paint graffiti on.Or to remember half a dozen passwords.

Oh such old-worldly relief.