What if future-proofing becomes common?

Some electronics have been upgradable for nearly all of their lives. For example, most people don’t toss their desktop PCs when they want to add a stick or two of RAM, and retail outlets, from electronics stores to big-box department stores, now carry components like external and internal hard drives and new video cards. Cameras can swap out different lenses and flashes. Video game console companies develop new types of controllers and accessories that use everything from body weight to posture to interact with their products.
Television sets, however, are another matter. When consumers wanted the newest features in a TV set for the family room, the old TV was relegated to storage, or to the curb.
TV technology is changing rapidly. In the course of a few years, TV manufacturers have introduced 3D technology for home viewing, smart TVs that connect to the internet without additional hardware and ever-improving LCD, LED and plasma technology.
This improvement, and the quest for the latest-and-greatest technology leads to increasing volumes of e-scrap. Some TVs are resold, but it’s common to see old sets in the household solid waste stream, or dumped at the roadside, even in states where such dumping is illegal.
In January, Samsung introduced an “Evolution Kit” which will plug into the back of select Samsung TVs and deliver the upgraded features of 2013 to 2012’s models.
While it doesn’t future proof all purchases, the add-on “includes an upgraded main processor, plus a faster graphics processor, which should speed up Web-based activities such as browsing, as well as multitasking when using apps with TV in a window on the screen,” ConsumerReports.org reports of the device.
This is an interesting concept. In the ever blurring world between electronic devices and their uses, where televisions stream internet content, mobile phones surf the internet and tablet PCs act as workstations and secondary TV screens, making a TV set as upgradable as  a computer could reduce volumes of e-scrap. What effect this will have on the industry, especially if it becomes a widely adopted technology, remains to be seen. Many state electronic recycling programs are, in effect, subsidized by TV recycling, and TVs tend to be one of the largest segments of the refurbish-reuse market in the U.S. e-scrap industry. While reducing the volume of e-scrap generated, it may have a negative impact on an industry that relies on new consumer spending to drive consumer disposal.

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