Planned Obsolescence and the Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

Ninety-nine years ago, a group of leading manufacturers gathered in Geneva, Switzerland for a meeting.

This group of lightbulb manufacturers quite literally changed the economy with a concept now known as planned obsolescence.

The first lightbulb was invented in 1802 by British chemist Sir Humphry Davy. This design ran electricity through a thin strip of platinum to create light.

The Birth of Planned Obsolescence

Decades of experimenting and tinkering gave rise to bulbs that lasted years. That proved to be a terrible thing for companies trying to sell people lightbulbs.

Their solution? A cartel. In 1924, executives from the top lightbulb producers formed Phoebus. It was dedicated to the “effectiveness of electric lighting to the advantage of the consumer.”

Not everything they did was exactly pro-consumer, and this was clearest in the formation of the “1,000 Hours Life Committee.

Under the supervision of the committee, an audit system tests sample lightbulbs to check their life spans. Sample bulbs should only last between 800 and 1,750 hours.

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