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36 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Very nice documentary on consumerism and product lifespan

Author: nikola from Bulgaria
16 September 2011

Very nice Spanish/French documentary on consumerism and the history of 'Planned Obsolescence' - companies make products last less, so that customers will have to buy them again and again.

The documentary is very well done and strict in its point of view. I think it is nice that the movie is not from US, as US ones tend to show their opinions on solving the issue a bit too much. You don't need any specific knowledge to go with the movie.

Also it is very good that at some point the movie makes a comparison between western capitalist industry and eastern socialist industry during the cold war. It makes a huge point on what actually happened.

I totally recommend it to everyone.


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16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant program, should be watched by everyone

Author: crashman_123 from Australia
2 June 2012

The program concentrates NOT on the Phoebus Cartel (as stated in an earlier review), but on the story behind "Planned Obsolescence" and how it has affected consumerism and innovation in modern times.

The title "The light bulb conspiracy" relates to the FIRST known case of planning to make something worse (than they currently were) in order to sell more and make higher profits, and the global conspiracy behind it. However this is only one small part of the story.

By creating a world-wide MAXIMUM limit of 1000 hours (not minimum as stated in an earlier review {reading this Peter}) on the life of incandescent globes (when they were making 2500 hour globes at that time) they stifled all innovation in that field. (They had FINES for companies whose bulbs lasted longer than 1050 hours, and the more they exceeded this by, the higher the fine)

But Planned Obsolescence was not just limited to Light Bulbs, but to nearly every consumer item manufactured in the western world, and has done so until very recent times. Even today obsolescence is achieved, not through planned failure, but through innovation. (Who wants to own and use a Mobile phone that ONLY makes calls and sends text messages, when a newer phone also lets you take photos, surf the internet, play games, etc?) But where does all the OLD, USED, and BROKEN equipment go? Watch the documentary, and you'll see just how irresponsible some companies are with their cast-off equipment.

I liked the story enough to recommend it to my lecturer on ICT Sustainability for my current IT course. He's looking to include it in future classes.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A critique of consumer society and planned obsolescence

Author: Even Blindheim Børve from Trondheim, Norway
30 May 2013

As for being an informative and well made documentary, The Light Bulb Conspiracy suffers a bit from the choice the creators made when naming it something that includes the word conspiracy.

The documentary itself does not focus only on light bulbs, but exemplifies how manufacturers of products make products wear out faster, so that the demand in consumer society increases - making profit for their own company.

Other products that have been adjusted from being long-lasting to wear out within a given time or after a number of uses include printers (which is portrayed in an amusing way in the documentary) and nylon stockings. Products that could last long, are made short-lasting, to keep a high demand, thus keeping up high production.

A number of people who a critical to this way of thinking tells how they think production should be based around sustainability.

Anyone that has been annoyed by things that stop working for no good reason will find this documentary informative.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Amazing facts on what you already knew but never dared to ask

Author: OJT from Norway
19 May 2013

I love these kinds of documentaries! Those which tells you something new or tells you something you didn't know about something you've been suspecting or thinking, but get confirmed.

This brilliantly made documentary tells about a dark secret which had gone so far that we now accept it. But even worse. The whole concept of "things bing too expensive to fix, buy a new one" is a false. It's fake! Not so that it is produced to fail. No, it can last longer if you know how to do it! A printer is made for lasting 200.000 copies. Then it tells you it's life is over. It's just programmed to stop. You can download a program on your PC install it, to make your printer last another 200.000 copies.

Nasty business, you say! Well, it's in your house! See this, and get enlightened!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Quite Possibly, the Stupidest Film Ever Made.

Author: LydiaOLydia from Cambridge, UK
15 November 2015

"The Light Bulb Conspiracy" is, as my title states, quite possibly, the stupidest film ever made.

I don't write this to be insulting. I mean this very literally.

Specifically, it baffles me how anybody would create or finance a film that is so ignorant of history, ignorant of economics, and ignorant of basic engineering that anybody with a college freshman understanding of any of these can trivially and conclusively debunk its core thesis.

Basically, this film has it in for "planned obsolescence", the idea that modern products have been designed to fail.

Virtually every example they use to illustrate this "grand conspiracy" of planned obsolescence is nonsense. However, the one that they use as the tying-together core thread for all of this is the humble light bulb.

Basically, they argue that a long time ago, a light bulb with a much longer lifespan was invented and then suppressed in favor of shorter life bulbs in order to sell more light bulbs over time. To prove this, they show off an old light bulb that has been in service for over 100 years.

now here's the thing: if you want to light a room, there's almost no limit to the material that you can use in order to do so. Heck, you can put a strong enough current through two ends of an iron girder and it will glow and give off light. Nobody does this because the energy involved would be tremendously expensive and wasteful and for all sorts of technical reasons the light given off would be poor (too dim).

As it turns out, relative to the every other technology available at the time, the tungsten filament that for a long time was in use produced a superior quality light for a relative minimum of energy use and could be mass manufactured at a price people were willing to pay even though such light bulbs needed replacing from time to time. The movie suggests that this was caused not by market forces, but by some grand conspiracy of light bulb manufacturers.


I've been to north Korea. Guess what - their light bulb factories make the same type of light bulbs. Were they, and the rest of the communist world, which did likewise, in on the conspiracy too? Oh sorry, not all of the communist world - the movie harps on an example of a supposed East German light long life bulb that was rejected, apparently by everybody in the western world, because of some 'grand conspiracy.' Or, maybe, just maybe, because it used a hell of a lot of power and didn't give off worthwhile light for all that power use (remember: in east Germany, power markets were skewed to make domestic energy artificially cheap through subsidy, leading to wasteful usage).

Engineers have a concept of "mean time between failure." It's the average length of time that you can expect some item to stay in service before it fails. If a product consists of several pieces, the MTBF of the product can be calculated based on the MTBF (and distribution) of the components. Let's say you're making a product with two parts. If for technical reasons the MTBF of one part is 5 years, if you have a choice for the other part of a MTBF of 20 years or 100 years, it makes little to no sense to pass on to the consumer the costs associated with the more expensive 100 year version since the weak link in the chain is almost certainly going to be the 5 year component anyway. Calculating and understanding MTBF therefore is what good engineers do. Totally misunderstand it and spin it into some conspiracy is what the guys who made this movie do.

Now, in the capitalist system, you CAN argue that at times companies have hobbled products to make other ones more attractive. Such forces price discrimination is a legitimate criticism of capitalism. However, it only exists by definition where the producer has what's called 'market power.' For the makers of this film to suggest a parallel between that and everyday goods, where there is huge market competition (including in light bulbs) is just daft. I don't see people clamoring for the irons of the 1920s for their "better quality." Instead, I see a range of irons from under $10 to over $300 on amazon corresponding to the budget and expectations of various users from students and mobile people to upscale snobs and dry cleaning professionals. What's more, I see capitalist economics having brought irons (and even light bulbs) the hands of peoples throughout the world who even a few decades ago had to do with primitive, inefficient, time consuming tools and darkness.

Quite literally, every example presented in the movie is trivially debunk-able by anybody with half a brain for basic engineering or economics. The movie implies conspiracy where none exists, and of course the implications are vague since they have no actual evidence. But, you know, the entire movie does have a near continuous x-files type conspiracy soundtrack going. So there's that.

As I said - quite possibly the stupidest movie (by which I mean "dumb" as in "uneducated") movie ever made. The movie doesn't contain any actual data or numbers or anything that could be construed as quantitative analysis. Just conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory that only a fool would believe.

If this movie at least addressed obvious objections that people with engineering, design, economics, and other backgrounds might have to this, this movie might be worth two stars instead of one. It doesn't do that, because to do so would cast this movie's deep deep logical and empirical failings into inescapably sharp relief.

Not worth watching. The writers should be ashamed of themselves.

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: Deema A
30 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The idea for the movie is decent. The examples they are based on, however, just feel very weak.

It is VERY well known that a long-life incandescent light bulb produces worse light and wastes electricity and therefore a costumer will be worse off buying a long-life bulb due to paying more for electricity! As to whether there was an actual conspiracy, I don't know, but in the end the consumer benefited.

The printer example? I don't really buy it either since it looks like the printer company simply took the easy way out in dealing with this ink sponge problem which most consumers might not run into anyway, rather than "planned obsolescence". If people want to print a large amount of documents, aren't laser printers more economical anyway? And don't the printer companies make most of their profit from ink rather than the inkjet printers themselves? Perhaps a better example would of been the link of often programmed wasteful use of ink and high ink prices.

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5 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Interesting - but Short Lifespan products may have advantages too

Author: peter dublin from United States
22 May 2012

This film criticises the way manufacturers deliberately make short lasting products that continually have to be re-bought, increasing their profit.

A main focus is on how light bulbs were deliberately limited to 1000 hr lifespans in the Phoebus cartel arrangement between GE, Philips, Osram/Sylvania and others. A favorable comparison is made with long lasting Socialist Narva bulbs, during the cold war era.

This is a little too facile, kicking in open doors: The easy conclusion is that "Hey it's good to have Minimum lifespan standards"

Not true! Brightness and lifespan tend to be trade-offs. Ironically, USA minimum 1000 hr standard - from the Phoebus Cartel in the film - therefore still denies the use of short lasting bright bulbs. It is not Socialist Government standards that makes good life bulbs. Nor is it Capitalist Light Bulb Manufacturer cartels. It is Competition on the market - by helping new manufacturers and inventors (like mentioned Billinger, behind a long lasting bulb) launch their products, for people to choose.

All light bulb types have advantages, and energy saving and lifespan mandates compromise other advantages that light bulbs - or indeed other products mentioned in the film - may have.

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