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First Hand Confessions of a Product Engineer

I'm writing this post in response to the article posted here at the DP titled 3 Secrets of Engineering Being Used to Keep You Poor

I am a product development engineer so I thought maybe I could offer some first-hand insights to the process of developing your products.

Throughout my career (actually, I left a couple years ago to start my own business), the products I've worked on included refrigerators, office furniture and filing cabinets, and most recently consumer outdoor power equipment like lawn mowers, weed trimmers, etc.

My duties have ranged from designing products, testing products, setting up manufacturing processes, and manufacturing quality control. Much of my work was done overseas (supplier development engineering, which is pretty much all the same engineering duties except you get to be treated like the customer).

OK, so now comes the brutal truth:

The whole goal of my job was very simple: to maximize company profits.

There, I said it. What a load off!

Now, wait until you hear about HOW engineers do this...

For an engineer to maximize profits, he must develop products with minimal cost and maximum sales price (we often use the buzz-word "value added"). Also, development time should be minimized so the company can start earning those profits asap..."time is money" you know.

So, how do we design products that minimize cost and maximize value? Get ready for a shock:

To minimize COST the product should be:
- safe (lawsuits can end a company)
- easy to manufacture
- minimal material cost
- use standard parts and common materials
- small container size (minimize shipping cost)
- reliable (returns and warranty claims are a HUGE cost. Also, poor quality will hurt future sales)

To maximize VALUE a product should be:
- easy to use
- reliable
- safe
- contain features the customer actually wants and is willing to pay for
- aesthetically pleasing

You'll notice that Safe and Reliable are especially important, because they both help REDUCE cost and INCREASE value added to the product.

That's it. There is no conspiracy. There is no trick. You're not being hoodwinked.

Just hundreds of thousands of hours going into making your stuff as good as it can be for the lowest possible cost.

Don't believe it? Well try this:

Just look at something. Anything. Maybe the monitor or device you're using now to read my post. Your relationship with the engineer that designed it for you went something like this:

You demanded to have it and demanded him to design it for you (which he did).
You didn't tell him what you wanted.
You didn't tell him when you wanted it.
You didn't give him any specifics on what you wanted it to do, or didn't want it to do.
You didn't tell him how much you wanted to spend on it.
You wanted it to be the best possible product.
You wanted it to be the lowest possible price.
If whatever the engineer provided didn't meet your needs you refused to do business with him.
If you DID buy it and weren't satisfied, you would fire him by not buying his brand in the future.

That's your relationship with your engineer. And it's a great thing!

This cutthroat competition is what leads to product improvement over time. If engineers try to skimp to save a buck, the market won't want their stuff. If engineers over design something so it costs more than the customer wants to spend, the market won't want their stuff.

Product Engineering is pretty much the science of finding the perfect sweet spot of quality and cost.

And it works too, the proof is in the puddin': Stuff gets BETTER and CHEAPER over time!

Take cars for example. In EVERY way, cars are better now than they were 30 years ago.
-more fuel efficient
-more dependable
-safer
-more comfortable to drive
-more features
-easier to maintain

oh yeah, they're CHEAPER too. When you measure either the amount of man hours needed to build a car, OR the amount of hours needed to work at an average wage to be able to afford a car of similar class, cars are cheaper.

Now I would never hold Cars as a pinnacle example of good industry policy. The auto industry has long been a center of cronyism and protectionism and over-regulation. But think about that! Isn't that then a real testament to the engineers? Even in those awful market conditions manipulated by government, that cars are STILL getting better.

Look at a more unregulated product (electronics for example) to really see the type of improved quality and reduced cost that engineers are truly capable of.

Lastly, here's some figures from "The Rational Optimist" by economist Matt Ridley. It's the amount of hours an average person needs to work at their job to be able to afford 1 hour of reading light:

1750 BC - 52 hours of work (sesame oil lamp)
1800 AD - 6 hours of work (tallow candle)
1880 AD - 15 minutes of work (kerosene lamp)
1950 AD - 8 seconds (conventional filament bulb)
2012 AD - 0.5 seconds (18W compact-fluorescent bulb)

What profession do you think made that happen? I can tell you one thing: it's not the accountants. Haha.



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deacon's picture

spending extra money?

The consumer isn't asked what they want to buy
they are given options of what crap they will spend their hard earned money on
will it be this flat screen or this one? and all the while they are all designed and manufactured by one or 2 companies?
or shall I spend my money on this fridge,stereo washer,dryer,ect ect ,When they are all made by foreign companies,and maybe,just maybe assembled in america
seems to me,your concern is to keep your job,to keep that job the BOSS comes first9the one who signs the check),to do other wise,would be suicide
maximize profits!!! and to do this quality goes down,it has to,one cannot have quality and a product that lasts,and can be handed down
I already mentioned a plastic drill that the first time it gets hot,the bearing wobble in the plastic housing,because it does,this is the trade off between you keeping your job and selling a product
say what you will,memory plays a huge factor on what people buy
this post should been titled..confession of one who gives the boss what he wants
NO one ever asked me how i wanted anything designed

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

haha

1 or 2 companies in the world design and manufacture flat screens?

Haha. You are a waste of my time.

Final comment to you.

deacon's picture

Oh,I am assured of that

Your whole post was justification for selling shit and trying to say
we have the consumers interests at heart.
When you know damned well,it is a lie
This is easily proven by your own comments to others who agrre with you
This post was nothing more than trying to sell the DP on your own version of the world..as seen through the eyes of an engineer..and who's whole livelihood depends on appeasing the signer of your paycheck
How many chinese/mexican build them so-called flatscreens?
OUt of that total,how many use foreign parts,and assembled here on american soil? And no,I am not talking about shipping them here and sticking in an american made box
take your pick...which ones are made with parts,not from the same owners?
Yeah,I didn't think so
A waste of time? I don't think so...But upon reflection,your post is to me
reading the comments,very few actually agree with you
Admit it,you try to justify selling crap

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

Let's say that a Jet engine

Let's say that a Jet engine costs $50,000 and has a life cycle of 5000 hours. Five years later and technology has improved, you have a choice: maintain the the life cycle and decrease the price, or maintain the price and increase the life cycle; which do you choose to do? If you are within an actual engineering/development industry then you know that maintaining the life cycle and decreasing the price is what would be chosen. Hell, in most circumstances -as our modern technology- the companies will choose to decrease the life cycle if it saves a few dollars, because they are hoping to make greater profits by selling more units to more people and also to have a faster rate of new purchases due to the product not lasting as long.

You can claim markets all you want; however, we do not have a Free Market, and therefore the government helps to curb competition. When all -or nearly- all of the manufacturers of a certain type, set their prices and product quality at a certain level, there really is no option nor is there a market. If we really had a market system, then when a product doesn't sell for its Retail Price, the logical solution would be to drop the price until an equilibrium is established. Does that happen? Really?

If this happened then one would be able to agree with you that consumers set the price; however, since a product could sit on the shelf for a year and maintain the same price certainly shows that the price is not determined by the purchase of the product; and therefore is not determined by the consumer. To solve this problem by manipulating the consumer the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Value was created. It is a high price which nobody ever sells their product for, so that retailers could claim to sell the item for X% off -to make the consumer think they are getting a deal- and take a loss on their taxes for the fictional loss to reduce their tax liability.

If customers won't want it ("price" is too high), then why exactly should producers make it?

How could you determine if people wouldn't buy a higher quality version of your product for a slightly higher price if you have never made it and put it on the market? What if the difference is between maintaining the current price perspective and increasing quality or decreasing the price perspective and either decreasing quality or maintaining quality, then what would you advise your company to do? Save Money. Even though the price perspective has been established and proven that your product could sell at that particular price; you would still advise to make it cheaper and sell it for less, as apposed to increasing quality and selling it for the same price.

"How could you determine if

"How could you determine if people wouldn't buy a higher quality version of your product for a slightly higher price if you have never made it and put it on the market?"

I didn't say they wouldn't want it. YOU did. You said, in your hypothetical scenario, that increasing the lifespan would cause the price to be too high, which implies that consumers wouldn't be willing to buy it. That's precisely what "price is too high" means!

Truth is, not only do some consumers WANT to pay for higher quality, but producers give them those options. Actually, as I've said before in a different comment, producers WANT customers to buy the high-end options, as they have much better margins.

The whole field of marketing is dedicated to trying to figure out what the consumers want and don't want. Companies that market their products poorly or produce things consumers don't want, die.

There's two errors that really come through when I read your words:

1. You assume that there is "a market" and it's controlled and manipulated by a few major players and government. Truth is there are thousands of industries and each has their own independent markets with hundreds of different players. While some industries are definitely restricted by government regulation and their big corporate friends, most things you buy are developed in much more of a "free market" than you give credit. In those true markets, consumers really do call the shots and producers do everything they can to cater to their demands. Even in controlled markets, consumers eventually call the shots, it's just that the producers are much more sluggish to provide what they want.

2. You've mentioned several times how people are "conditioned" to be bad customers who just roll over and accept that they are getting screwed with bad stuff. People aren't idiots when it comes to making decisions about their own lives. If you think they are, I have to question what you're doing at a site dedicated to maximizing individual liberty.

Infinite Life

You can not design a product for infinite life .. so what is the time frame for life cycle of the product .. you want 10 years NO maintenance, 1000 years product life ..... So tell me how do you NOT partake in planned obsolescence

By trying to stretch the life

By trying to stretch the life or usability of the product.

Stretching the life of products -especially those with an established life expectancy- is not a priority for anybody; it may be a happy accident, but it certainly isn't a priority.

Established life expectancy

Established life expectancy ...Huh? who establishes that? Where I work we the manufacturer establishes that, not the end user. And this is based on the end users expectations, so in reality the end user, you doesn't make it a priority because otherwise the market would drive the infinite life product .. so blame the consumer

How do you know that end

How do you know that end users expectations, before you make the products?

There are certain items which people buy new versions every 2 years like cell phones, however, there really is no reason to have to buy a desktop or laptop every 3 to 5 years. Nor should a car, which was taken care of, have to be replaced ever 5 to 7 years.

Unlike some people, as long as the item does what I need it to do, then I don't care how old it is. I don't let what my neighbors do -or what everybody else does- intimidate me into following along like a lemming. I'm not a jealous or envious person; apparently I'm in the minority. I would rather save money and buy something of real value like land or Precious Metals, and maybe some tools with a history of reliability.

I am have been working in

I am have been working in product development engineering for a lot of years now. The article is pretty much correct. And as usual with stuff like this the comments made by people who have no clue how to make things make me want to tell the american public 'fu*k you' no more products.

Stuff today is infinitely cheaper even if all it did was maintain price point. Hell, it's often cheaper if costs vastly more than it used to in dollars. The fed is your enemy, not the product development engineers.

You and your neighbors go into the store and expect to pay $100 for something. Well that $100 bought a lot more human labor and materials (really human labor too) in 1945. But you still expect it to buy you this product. So you get something with sub assemblies put together with automation. Sure if you have to fix it you have to replace the entire sub assembly... that's why you're getting it for $100. Want something as serviceable as it was in 1945? Buy the commercial version. You mean you don't want to pay four, five, even ten or hundred times more? Well, sorry. That's the way it goes. Blame Ben Bernanke or blame yourself for not forking over the cash.

That goes for computers too... why doesn't your consumer grade PC last? Because you bought cheap. Fork over 5 grand or more for a real computer. The kind people like me use at work. They hold up. Hell I remember when these things were $15 grand or more. They are way cheaper today. I have an old unix workstation from the 1990s. Commercial quality. It was a $12,000 machine at the time.

There aren't little magical elves putting things together, but real people with actual wages. People who have to eat and have a roof over their head. I can't keep labor in the product so you can take it apart easily without passing that cost on. I've done it too when the customer was willing to pay for serviceability.

I'll be happy to sell you the most wonderful decades long lasting products in the world made here in the USA, but you have to be willing to pay for it, and not only you but thousands or even millions of your neighbors.

One of the examples mentioned in the comments I have intimate knowledge of. I did product development for the product(s) mentioned. Each time people found a new way to break it we got a new test to pass that did that to the nth power. (ALT or HALT for those hip to the lingo).

Really americans have become so disconnected from making products I am not sure they deserve any.

Next up another article wondering why americans don't go into engineering... gee I wonder why?

That fact that you say things

That fact that you say things like you just did, is indicative of people trying as they may to justify their flawed positions.

First, in basic economics we understand that when a company makes a greater number of products, the price per item drops due to the ability for the company to buy the resources needed cheaper because of buying in bulk.

We also understand that when automation enters into the equation, the items cost less, due to lacking the need of human labor.

We also know that when a component is made to lower standards it is cheaper.

If we took these three manufacturing modifications and put them into the economy of the 1990's, but with the computer demand and concentration of today, do you really think that a mid-grade computer would cost $3000 like it did in the 1990's?

Of course it wouldn't have cost that much; no serious business person, engineer, or economist would suggest otherwise. However, that is exactly what you are suggesting; odd, huh?

Also, yes a person could buy a Falcon Northwest computer for about $6500, however, it is not going to last much longer than the current consumer grade computer; even though it is made with 'better' components. They are made with retail components which are the same as the OEM version just not as flashy like odd colored PC boards and such, but the components to make the boards are the same. The company which makes the three versions of the same mother boards are the same. Are there some differences between the Retail, OEM, and Business Class OEM motherboards, maybe, most-likely just the Bios; but the actually design isn't different, and neither are the components which make-up the motherboards.

If you are talking about business class computers, then you still have a problem, because business computers aren't necessarily going to do efficiently what a typical consumer uses his/her home computer for. Also, one of the reasons for the extended life of business computers is due to the fact that it is used for limited purposes. Most business computer users -in an office- have no ability to just install whatever software they want, and therefore the computers are less likely to be infected with viruses and trojans; which was why the email attacks were created.

Obviously, if someone bought a computer and only used it for one or two resource intensive programs; then it would obviously last quite a while. However, if one tried using a business class computer for home use, the computer wouldn't last very long.

If you think that the components found in a business computer are different than the components found in consumer computers, then you don't know what you are talking about. They are the same with different model numbers -but not even all of them have different model numbers. The only real special business class computing would be servers; but conventional workstations are not built to higher standards, it is the limited use which prolongs the lives of business workstations.

The different model number on the motherboards and such are usually for the ease of identifying which computer it is to be made into. It is much easier then to keep count on how many Business Class vs Consumer Class computers were assembled while they all used the same model numbers.

You're babbling. If you

You're babbling.
If you hadn't opened with an attack I'd probably ignore it.

The simple fact is you don't know what you are talking about. You've never brought a product to market in your life and you want to believe what you were conditioned to believe. I would think that a libertarian website would be populated with people who understand that engineers aren't looking to screw people over and/or kill them. That it would be a place where people wouldn't run to the government for protection. That they would realize that what they choose to buy drives the market. Alas, apparently not.

You get what you pay for. Engineers work every day to bring you more for less. And yes, that's what happens with improved manufacturing techniques and volume. That's the natural deflation. That's what the fed steals from all of us. But the fed and its cronies aren't content with that. They want more. But people won't pay more, so guess what happens? More has to come out of the products.

Go after your real enemy.

PS: I didn't write "business class" computer. I wrote the kind of computers I use as an engineer. Think your highest end gaming PCs and then add from there. Remember when there were small computer builders? They still exist for CAD duty, because the market price point is there for them.

I would like to know what you

I would like to know what you disagree with.

Do you really think that if inflation had not occurred that the price of computers would not have decreased due to the three factors of manufacturing which have occurred between the 1990's and today?

Seriously; mass-production reduces price, automation also reduces price, and so does using cheaper components. So, how could a computer cost the same, even though all three of these manufacturing aspects would have been initiated?

I didn't write "business class" computer. I wrote the kind of computers I use as an engineer. Think your highest end gaming PCs and then add from there. Remember when there were small computer builders? They still exist for CAD duty, because the market price point is there for them.

Sorry, but most CAD computer systems are not even equivalent to High-End Gaming PC's with limited exception. Sure depending on the actual work one does, one could have a 'special' graphics card which is expensive, but that is mainly due to the fact that the manufactures don't sell many in comparison to retail graphics cards. They may also use ECC memory modules which are relatively more expensive than regular DDR3 modules; maybe your particular computer uses RAMBUS modules -but I doubt it.

Also, even in the SILICON Grafix computers the specially designed motherboards still use general off-the-shelf resistors, capacitors, ICs, etc. so they aren't really meant to last very long either; however, their limited use does extend their life.

The reality is that special markets are easily manipulated. Very few products are actually designed and built from the ground up. Most just use conventional easy to purchase relatively mass-produced items; and then are sold to unknowing individuals and their departments for a premium price. Some of the high price -in certain situations- may actually be due to service to fix problems which arise; this is far different than making a product of high quality, which has few if any problems.

The price point is there for them.

True, but that is due to the fact that most engineers are incapable of building their own equipment anymore. They open a catalog -or whatever- and then they make an order. Yes, if you work in an actual engineering department, it would be more cost effective, to purchase the components and build your own computers, then to buy manufactured computers for $12,000.

I come from a family of engineers and mechanical types...

and they all subscribe to the tool theory - that everything is a tool designed to purpose: A car is a tool, the engine is a tool, the pistons are tools, the oil is a tool. The goal of engineering is to find that perfect tool through trial and error. And the tools they create serve another purpose collectively - to keep them in a job.

Pandacentricism will be our downfall.

Favorite engineer joke

Some people say the glass is half full, some say it's half empty, but an engineer will say the glass is too big.

i think it's safe to say

that engineers have become better at fooling people and lawyers have gotten better at passing the blame.

If you are an engineer who works for someone else, what "say" do you really have in a product?

* Engineers could have added a 13 dollar plastic part to ford pinto which would have saved 200 lives a year, but they "choose" not to because it wasn't cost effective... that happened. ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=0Q...

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

The Pinto case, like many

The Pinto case, like many others, is a media created myth.
http://www.pointoflaw.com/articles/archives/000023.php

And like most myths I watch it morph over time, including your version of it.

Like said in your video cite, the reality is far different than what the media tells you.

I think the terms 'better'

I think the terms 'better' and 'improved quality' are very subjective; kind of like hope and change.

You say that cars are better, however, people have a tendency to trade in a car only a few years after it is paid-off, if that long; were as before, people kept the same car until it no longer lasted which was nearly twenty years. Sure it could seem like the vehicles are 'better' because the appearance of the vehicle at the time someone is getting a new vehicle is greater now then it was in years past. However, like stated earlier people are not keeping cars as long as they did years ago.

Cars could last twenty years with minimum care, changing oil every 10k 15k or 20k miles; now, if the oil isn't changed every 3k to 3.5k miles the engine will not last very long. Is that 'better'?

Cars used to be made with 10 to 12 gauge steal; now they are primarily plastic or some other composite, which does not withstand impact very well, to the point that what once was a fender-bender now totals a vehicle. Is that 'better'?

You claim that fuel efficiency is so great, however, in the 1950's Chevrolet created a mechanical fuel injection system used on certain Cadillacs; these cars got over 50mpg on a 1950's Cadillac with a 327 cubic inch engine.

With the introduction of catalytic converters the fuel efficiency was cut nearly in half. Today, many cars have between 6 and 8 catalytic converters on them; do you think this helps or hurts fuel efficiency? Is this 'better'?

People used to be able to do work on their own vehicles, to mitigate the cost of owning a vehicle, today it is nearly impossible for an average individual to do anything to their own vehicles, thereby increasing the cost of ownership. Is this 'better'?

As for consumer electronics, you state that they are 'improved quality'. I'm not sure what your definition of 'improved quality' is, but it apparently is not based on any real metric of quality. A 1970's to 80's Motorola Brick phone could technically still work. Try seeing if a cell phone made in the 2000's could possibly still work. Is that 'improved quality'?

Personal computers today quit working at around 3 to 5 years old -maybe 7 years old if your lucky, but the Apple I, Apple II, Commodore 64, etc still function 30 years later; is this indicative of 'improved quality,' which you speak of?

I suppose it all depends on what 'better' and 'improved quality' means to you. To me 'better' or 'improved quality' means that the items last longer, do more, and are easier to use while being the same or lesser cost than the previous version. Not sure what your definition of 'better' or 'improved quality' is, but my definition surely is not indicative of modern consumer goods.

I'll tell you two products that are likely made better...

www.lrbarms.com (The M25 match)

www.dsarms.com (The SA58 with Hampton rear sights)

These represent true engineering improvements and they are made to last (a few) lifetimes.

disagree

Cars are not better.

I have a 1955 Chrysler. I can rebuild the starter almost from scratch, and it works perfectly. No parts purchased. Just cleaning. It's almost 60 years old. My wife has a 2010 Toyota. It is clear that it *may* make it another 5 years for a total life of 10 years.

Do any of you begin to understand the waste involved in modern automobiles?

Dishwashwer. Old one went out after 25 years---and was washing dishes well up until it went out. Should have fixed it. Bought a new one. Electronics went out after 4 years. Never washed very well. (Maytag---top of the line.) It was less expensive to get a new dishwasher than fix the Maytag, so now we have a Whirlpool which is limping along and does not clean well.

These are better in *no* way.

Computers? My 486 (from 1995 or so) still functions. Hard to get an OS which is small enough, i.e., well enough designed to run on it, but that first Linux never---I mean never---crashed. The newer fancier machines break (essentially irrepairably) within three to five years.

Yeah, I understand airbags and all that stuff. But the assertion that cars are better in *every* way is nonsense.

Here is a small list of small

Here is a small list of small Unix-like distributions which might be able to work with your hardware besides the NetBSD which I mentioned earlier:

Slitaz
PuppyLinux
DragonflyBSD
Lubuntu

Here is a list of other small distributions, however, not all of them are being maintained.
List

I bet my

3 year old smart phone has all higher specs than your computer. I was shocked a while back by how crappy the sega dreamcast's stats were by todays standards.

Cars definitely hit a nerve...

Better in "every" way...eh, I can back off on that. That is a bold claim, and probably impossible to support. I'll concede on that.

I'm confident that fuel efficiency and safety of cars has improved and can support that with statistics.

We all know that there are far more comfort feature options available now (power steering, locks, doors, mirrors, heated seats, heated steering wheels, power sun-roofs, power seats, etc, etc, etc.).

I'm also pretty sure that the longevity of cars has increased, both in terms of average years of use and average miles driven...but for the life of me I cannot find reliable statistics. If you can find stats on that, I'd love to see them. I've found a lot of articles written on the subject, almost all backing up my claim, but nothing with good stats.

I guess I'm really struggling to come up with a way cars have gotten worse. Granted, I'm not really a car guy, but in terms of all the data I've been digging up, nothing sticks out at me.

Dishwasher.

This is a little complicated, but to measure how much bang for your buck you get with your dishwasher, you should look at the ratio of hours an average dishwasher runs vs the hours needed to work at an average wage to afford the dishwasher. Calculated this way, dishwashers are far more affordable today, especially when you factor in energy efficiency.

Here's a good read, that is making my point: http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/12/the-good-old-days-are-now-t...

Here's another interesting read on appliance comparisons: http://cafehayek.com/2012/11/the-future-back-to-the-past.html

I would be a little more hesitant to make broad claims for an entire industry based on a comparison of a sample size of 1.

Computers? Come one. There's no product where the improvement AND affordability has improved so fast as electronics.

For your old computer you can

For your old computer you can try NetBSD. It is a small BSD distribution which is known to run on pretty much every computing hardware around.

You could also look into small Linux distributions, probably Slackware using xfce desktop environment.

Google the "Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer".

They will NEVER make anything like this ever again. EVER.

It's the tip of the iceberg as far as tech-dependent musical instruments are concerned. I mean *real* ones; not digital sample / "emulation" shite. Its price back when it was produced was on par with the price of a car or even a home. There may be a fun discussion in there somewhere....

I am a lucky owner of one of these Gargantuan feats of electrical and user/performance-friendly engineering, and there is nothing like it.

But it lies at the intersection of production and engineering costs v. labor costs. v. materials and components v. ______ and _____ .

(Neat and valuable discussion. Thanks to all. I started early on homemade absinthe this eve, so simply ignore me if I'm chuntering on....) : )

What would the Founders do?

I don't know about the design

I don't know about the design and manufacture of the items which you engineered, but in the 90's when I was a Design Electrical Engineer for a Consumer Computer Manufacturer, we were told that the life cycle for a personal computer was 7 to 10 years. In the mid 90's it was between 5 and 7 years, and by the early 2000's it was 5 years; by now it is 3 years.

The purpose of this time-scale was for the purpose of identifying the proper components to use, to save money. There is no point in making a computer with components which last 20 years if everybody is to replace their computer every 7 years; because the added cost is unjustified. When the new components came out with lower specs than the original components, the original spec components increased in price.

The specs of the components that we used in the early 90's became classified as Mil-spec components by the mid to late 90's. There was nothing different with the components, but the fact that lower quality components were then being produced which had life cycles slightly longer than the computers boards, which we were designing, was a more justified expense then the more expensive components which lasted longer which were the components we used in the earlier 90's.

So, in my experience with consumer electronics there was planned obsolescence.

One important thing to note

One important thing to note is that computers have gotten geniunely better even almost month by month now.

To climb the mountain, you must believe you can.

To what end, though?By 2005

To what end, though?

By 2005 the computing power of an off-the-shelf laptop had more computing power than 'Mission Control' of the 1960's, the computing power of a Ti-84 had more computing power than the 'Command Module,' and a Casio Iron Man watch had more computing power than the 'Lunar Module.'

Most modern programs could be redesign to operate on older computers if certain things were changed, like removing many of the wait-cycles which were added to the programs to slow them down, cutting back on the eye-candy, also increasing the front-side bus while keeping older processors and more memory.

Most High-level Programming languages waste computing resources because there is so many computing resources available for any program; this fact makes it just cheaper to waste resources and bloat the software, then to make small efficient software which could run on much older computers.

There have been plenty of things added to programs to increase the computing power needed just to operate the program. Look at the internet; our speeds have increased, and we get inundated with Flash, HTML5 video and all kinds of other bandwidth hogs.

Well, thats like saying that

Well, thats like saying that just because we added airbags and seatbelts to cars that people decided to drive faster and more wreckless. This is like the gun arguement, its the people that do stuff, not the technology.
The end is realistic simulation. Once we have reached the point where you cant tell the difference between simulated and reality, will be when anyone decides to stop.

To climb the mountain, you must believe you can.