Technology

It is amazing to think how much science and technology has changed over the past century. When I think of all the inventions my grandfather experienced over the course of his lifetime (he was born in the 1890s & died in the late 1980s) I often wondered how he coped. Electric washers and dryers save us a lot of back-breaking work, much better than washtubs and scrub boards or even wringer washers. Microwave ovens cook meals in minutes instead of hours. TVs replaced radio plays with moving pictures that changed, over the years, from black and white to colour to high definition. Airplanes, helicopters, motor bikes, mass transit modes (from streetcars to buses to high-speed trains) were other inventions that my grandfather would have seen, but I think the most exciting of all of these would have been space travel – things of science fiction.

However, not everything has been for the better, I’m afraid to say. The old adage, ‘They don’t make things like they used to’ holds true for far too many things. The fact that greedy corporations have ‘Planned Obsolescence’ says it all.

For example: last week as I was cooking a meatloaf in the oven, it suddenly started smoking. I thought it was grease spatter. Then the control on the oven started spouting error messages. Fortunately, by that time, the meatloaf was cooked through, so I took it out and shut off the oven. When I tried to turn it back on, more error messages came up and a ‘this function is not available’ message appeared. That had not happened before, so hubby checked the reset instructions. It seemed to reset – until the next time I wanted to use the oven. Everything looked ok, no error messages, except for the fact that the elements did not heat up. That’s fine, I had bought the extended warranty for the elements, so I thought it would be an easy fix. I called the repairman. Over $575 later, I now have a new ‘control console’. The repairman showed me the old one – a computer motherboard thingy that only a computer wizard would know how to repair, so naturally it had to be replaced. Our last stove lasted 31 years and needed only minor repairs – up until the day when we could no longer get the parts we needed for my husband to repair it with. Our new oven lasted 3 years before it needed almost six hundred dollars in repairs! Does that make sense to you?

In my parent’s old house sits an upright freezer, still fully functional, that is almost 55 years old. At our cottage, there is a pink blow-up toy inner tube made by the Reliable Toy Company (no longer in business, unfortunately), that is 54 years old, still inflated. It sprang a leak a few years ago. Dad fixed it with a piece of tape. It still holds air.

Word processors and personal computers are a modern-day miracle compared to type-presses and manual typewriters. The only problem is, they don’t last as long as they could and it takes an expert to fix them. Same with cars. Cars used to be fixed by 16-year old boys who wanted a first vehicle. They certainly couldn’t figure out all the computer stuff in cars today without years of training!

When I think of all the useless, broken electronics that are piling up in landfills, it really makes me ill. It seems we live in a throw-away economy because it’s more convenient than doing things in a more eco-friendly way – and because big business are only looking at the grand total of their profits. The more they sell (because it doesn’t last very long), the more money they make for their executives.

(Sigh!) Sorry about the vent, folks! It’s just we have a very sore bank account, right now, and it’s making me a little cranky!

What do you think of today’s technologies? Is there anything you think is an asset to our society? Are there things you wish had never been invented? Have you owned anything that stood the test of time?