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Disposable income buys disposable products

January 30, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

I have a prediction. One day, when we are finished with a trip, we will step out of our vehicle and simply dispose of it. I can't imagine how. Maybe we'll simply fold it up, or vacuum bag it, and throw it away. I also can't imagine where this place called "away" will be.

You think I'm kidding? Think back. Those of us old enough to remember the Dick Tracy comics might recall that he wore a two-way wrist radio back in the 1950s that worked anywhere in the world. It also had a video screen. This was wild science fiction. We now have all of that. But we lost something. His watch was probably mechanical, so if it failed he could take it to a watchmaker (remember that term?) who would take it apart and fix it. If you can find a watchmaker today, shake his hand. He won't be passing his trade along to his children because his is a dying trade, going the way of the buggy whip manufacturers. We now buy watches that keep impeccable time, and then quit. Then we throw them away. There's that word again.

As kids, we collected soda bottles and turned them in for two cents apiece. Now we throw them away. There used to be television repairmen. Now you take your dead TV to the curb and go buy another one. That's becoming true for all electronics. They are so miniaturized they are un-repairable. Back in my Navy days, nearly in the time of wooden ships and iron men, I repaired computers. They were the size of a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, and they actually came apart, with tools, to make repairs. Today's cell phones have more computing power, and they are disposable. We buy these things knowing that they are disposable, so we can't think of them as investments, so we are using disposable income to buy them. A world without investments sounds scary to me.

It's happening to your cars. More and more is controlled by small computers, dozens of them all over the car, and they are disposable. Some of them can be recycled to the factories where some of the parts are re-used to manufacture more, but very little can be done in the field. We technicians like to complain that we're not fixers anymore, we're parts changers. That is true to a large extent, and will be truer in the future. The trick is in knowing which parts to change. In the future, there may be no changeable parts. Maybe then I can finally retire, since there will be nothing to do.

Maybe the cars will be inflatable. You drag them to the curb and add air until they take shape. You might not even need air bags anymore, because you are driving one. No more dented fenders, they just pop back out. Think how much fun you can have bouncing around on the freeway like bumper cars. When you disposed of them, you would be able to recycle the air. They would probably float, so we could do away with boats.

Wait. I like boats. Running them is what I do when I'm not trying to fix cars. Do not pass along this brilliant idea I just had about inflatable cars. I want boats to stay.

Come on disposable cars. I want to retire.

 
 

 

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