I have a tractor. It’s just a small one that I use for mowing and landscaping. Its a 1986 model and pretty much held together by wire ties and gaffers tape. But that’s not the point of this blog posting.
As I said, my little Japanese tractor is 20 years old. The amazing thing about this little workhorse is all the implements that my neighbor uses on his 40 year old Ford red belly tractor will fit my tractor too. The mower, the spreader, the bucket scoop-they’ll all work on both tractors.
Even more amazing, both his implements and mine will work on a brand new tractor being imported from Russia or China. Fifty years of tractor manufacturing across the globe and all the implements will work on all three tractors (and thousands of others).
Can you think of any other mechanical system with this sort of compatibility? Imagine a window mechanism from a ‘56 Chevy working on a 2004 Lexus. Not in a million years!
At first, I thought that this was some sort of great master plan by farmers and tractor makers, but now I believe that something else is going on. Something that all the tractor manufacturers really regret.
Here’s what I think happened.
It doesn’t take long for most farmers and landscapers to have as much invested in their implements as they do in the tractor. A good tow behind mower can cost as much as $1000.00 and its not unusual for a farmer to have a dozen or more implements all designed to work with the three point hitch and the power-take-off on the back of the tractor. Implements usually last a long time.
What this means is that even if the tractor manufacturer came up with a better system for attaching the implements to the tractor and powering their moving parts, the farmer wouldn’t buy it because it would mean that his old implements wouldn’t work with the new tractor. This back-and-forth decision making by the farmer-this year I need a new plow, next year I need a new tractor-means that the tractor builders can never make the system obsolete.
You’ll never find a farmer taking his implements to the landfill the way we all dispose of our old electronics because some new upgrade (e.g. USB ports on computers) makes the old system obsolete and the new component incompatible.
Just a theory, but I think that its a pretty good one.
Know of another idea that has risen above planned obsolescence? Let us know.
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