Consumer Electronics Enters the 21st Century

Electronic equipment which is manufactured with the intention to be used by families or individuals in normal life situations are known as consumer electronics. Included in this category are products which are used for entertainment, communications and office work. In the entertainment category are devices such as televisions, cameras, and stereo equipment. Communication electronics would include telephones, GPS navigation devices and computers. Offices rely on computers, FAX machines, printers, scanners and many more devices.

Consumers of electronic equipment have enjoyed a constant reduction in the price of the devices they buy. This phenomenon has been nurtured by the increased efficiency of the manufacturing process, with automation and lower labor costs due to the moving of the manufacturing process off shore to lower-wage countries. Also semiconductor design is constantly improving, which also helps to lower prices.

One worrisome issue which becomes more urgent as the purchase of consumer electronics equipment continues to rise is the effect this trend will have on the environment. As more devices are purchased and newer and better devices are developed, the increased problem of e-waste becomes ever more pressing. In 2003 the United States produced an enormous 2.8 million tons of e-waste. A small amount of this is recovered by recycling, which means the vast majority of electronic devices which are discarded are clogging up landfills. This is a problem whose solution is still being developed.