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Planned obsolescence

This is my favorite pocket calculator, the Casio CM-100. I’ve had it since the mid-80s, and unlike countless writing utensils, hats and pairs of sunglasses, I’ve managed not to lose it.

I’m particularly attached to it now, because none of the calculators currently for sale at Staples, Office Depot or are nearly as good. You can buy “Scientific” and “Financial” calculators these days, but they don’t make “Computer Math” calculators any more. I know that when I lose this calculator, I’m going to have a very hard time replacing it – everyone I know who has one loves it and is unwilling to part with it.

Why is this calculator so good? I mainly use calculators for simple math (multiplication and division) and for converting numbers from decimal to hexadecimal and back (“computer math”). Current “scientific” calculators can do this, and much more, but they treat computer math as one feature among many, so it requires more button presses to get to the essential computer math functions I need.

Also, it is solar powered and never runs out of batteries. Maybe that’s why Casio stopped selling them: No planned obsolescence.

In short, I like this calculator because it

a) does what I want, and

b) does not do what I do not want.

This second criterion is very important, and it reminds me of a fundamental problem in mature computer software these days (such as word processors and operating systems made by companies in Redmond).

Software is often compared, feature for feature, in comparative reviews. People sometimes buy software based on lists of such features, even when they don’t need the feature. They worry that they might need the feature some day.

What people forget is that adding features to software usually makes the software more complicated. The more features a piece of software has that you don’t need, the more difficult it is going to be to find and use the features you do need.

And this is why version 2.0 software is often far more pleasurable to use than version 7.0. There is a certain point at which many well known pieces of software stop adding features because they are necessary, but because they are simply trying to stave off competitors. Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop reached this point some years ago.

Perhaps some of these software warhorses need a bit more planned obsolescence?

UPDATE: William David wrote to tell me about a free iPhone app he made that emulates the Casio CM-100. You’ll find it on the Apple app store..

One Response to “Planned obsolescence”

  1. eyespot Says:

    If you lose it, write a mail, my wife has got one in the cellar. but don`t tell her , that you have got it , then, caus e she loves it, too:-)