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New and improved

I don't mean to keep keying off of A.J. but we seem to be on somewhat the same wavelength these days. His comments on new products once again has coincided with my thoughts.

Why are we continually bombarded with "new and improved" products? Well, it seems to me that the answer is obvious. There are only two reasons to buy a new one. Either the old one has worn out or broken or the new one is better. For the most part, when we buy tools, we don't expect them to be worn out or broken (not to say that they won't be) very soon. We tend to think that we will use the tool for years and if it is of decent quality, for the most part that's what we do. This is not a problem for us but it's a major problem for manufacturers. Why would anyone want to buy a new tool if the one they have is working fine?

Enter the "new and improved" model. Even though we are presented with numerous ways in which the new model is preferable, for the most part, the new tools simply look different. But every effort is made to insure that things like batteries from the old model will not work in the new ones. The concept of backwards compatibility is not consistent with maximum sales figures. Auto manufacturers and the fashion industry have been on to this for decades.

Every now and then, a real improvement comes along. But even then, I end up wondering if it really does make the tool better. Speed controls on routers, for example. The only thing I ever got out of those was frustration when I accidentally dialed down the speed of the motor and had to stop to find the dial and crank it back up again. And the circuitry that controls the speed is, more often than not, integrated in such a way that one cannot replace the parts when they inevitably burn out. Most of my variable-speed routers ended up with lobotomies and only one speed. Same with switches. The days of replaceable (or repairable) switches ended long ago.

Most of the time, the only answer to a malfunctioning tool is to buy a new, improved one.


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