“On a long enough timeline, everyone’s survival rate drops to zero.” It’s a quote from the popular 1999 film, “Fight Club,” and the same can be said for many of the things and ideas we create.
The demise of these things or ideas is usually signaled by obsolescence. In the realm of consumerism, products fall out of favor due to a more efficient or more functional technology. Take for instance the latest news from the inventors of MP3.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits—the agency that invented and licenses the audio format—has officially terminated its licensing program.
In a recent statement, the institute says, “that while MP3 is still popular among some consumers, newer formats like AAC ‘can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates.’ It’s not wrong: these formats are indeed better for streaming and carrying more information than MP3s ever could. It’s just not all that easy to let go, though.”
Sometimes the survival of a product is dependent on the buying power of the consumer. Often enough that there is a business theory centered around it—the income elasticity of demand, which “measures the responsiveness of demand to a change in income.”
As I have described in previous columns, a good designated as normal increases in demand as an individual’s or household’s income rises.
An inferior good means a decrease in demand as income rises. Think, for instance, of the food we buy. An increase in income would result in us buying less instant ramen in favor of organic breads and lobster.
Lobster may be a better example of a luxury good—at least in the past. A luxury good being a normal good in which an increase in income means people will spend a higher percentage of that income on that good. Think big-screen televisions or high-end sports cars.
However, there are instances where a product or idea does not become obsolete or is not dependent on income levels, but rather is so functional, so cost-effective—in other words, so good—that it becomes commonplace, even taken for granted.
Take aluminum (but not for granted, though). A 2011 post on Quora.com states, “Before efficient refining processes were invented, aluminum was more valuable than gold by weight. Napoleon IIII had dinner services made of aluminum for honored guests while the less honored had to make do with gold. In 1884 the Washington Monument was capped with a cast pyramid of aluminum, then more valuable than silver, weighing 100 ounces, the largest casting of aluminum at the time.” Today, aluminum is commonplace and stalwart, particularly in the packaging industry
In the metrology industry, the same might be said of gages. In his article, “Get to Know the Height Gage” author David Wood writes, “Height gages have achieved a nearly universal presence in the quality control world. It is rare to see a QC department without at least one or two of these instruments. This commonality makes it easy to overlook just how accurate and flexible these devices are. They measure much more than the term ‘height gage’ would imply.”
So check out David’s article, and everything else we have to offer, in this month’s Quality.
Enjoy and thanks for reading!