High-Tech Throwaways Are The Rule

Lee cowan gadgets CBS

Many newspapers this weekend have more holiday shopping ads than news, and this year, more than ever, Americans will be spending their gift dollars on electronics.

The latest generation of high-tech gadgets, though, are see as more disposable than repairable, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan.

America's new love of gizmos seems to be fleeting.

More and more of these electronics are becoming throw-aways," said New York Times technology writer David Pogue.

"I just bought a $60 dollar DVD player last week. $60!" he said. "I mean, in two years, they're going to come in disposable 10 packs!"

He's joking, but he's not far off. The reality is that the high-tech wizbang you want this Christmas will probably see the inside of a garbage can before the inside of a repair shop.

"The repairs may cost you more than the original product did in the first place," said David Heim of Consumer Reports magazine.

In most American households these days there are at least 100 microprocessors running everything from your Palm Pilot to your Palmcorder — conveniences that have made life easier, but repairs harder and more expensive."

"The volume of products we repair today are dropping, has dropped from years ago," said Tom Ryan of Sony.

Fix-it shops like Sony's lab outside New York City still get old products to fix, but few new ones.

Proof, Tom Ryan says, that products are getting better.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the products are getting so sophisticated that customer service techniques are getting rusty.

It's especially true in the world of software. Try calling for help lately?

"Microsoft and Apple, for example, charge you beyond the first 90 days something like $45 or $50 dollars just to ask your question," said Pogue.

Some foresee a day when our gadgets are so advanced they can diagnose and repair themselves.

The paradox: By the time that happens, we'll likely be even more dependent on them — and more helpless when they break.
  • Lloyd Vries

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