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?


23 comments on “Technology

  1. I know what you mean, even in my relatively short life so far (having been born in the mid 80s) I have seen technology gain shorter and shorter life spans. One of the worst I have noticed is televisions – I remember having televisions that were decades old when I was a child. The last TV I had before my current digital one was one of the last older-style models, but it only lasted about three or four years before it died. I hope my current TV lasts longer than that or I’ll be annoyed 😛
    I definitely find it concerning that some of the newer technologies are becoming so embedded in the younger generations that it is reshaping the way their brains work and their abilities to learn and to socialise work – it is resulting in a generation growing up that is completely different to previous generations, and who nobody quite knows what to do with, including the kids themselves.

    • I know what you mean. Working in the schools, I see how some kids are so addicted to texting, they can’t concentrate for five minutes on what the teacher has to say, let alone get any work done. There’s supposed to be a ‘no phone’ policy in most of the schools here, but the hard-core texters still try to get away with it. That much reliance on technology and mechanical socialization cannot be good for them.

    • Love the post, Susan – and totally agree with theotherwatson on this one. Wherever you go in developed countries people have their noses in iphones/ipads etc as they walk along the street, talk to eachother (whilst texting) or even sit watching a movie! Get off a plane and you can see everyone dive for their gadgets as soon as they can. TV (especially commercials) is training the brain to become reliant on fast-changing edits and hijacks the whole fight-or-flight response. It’s like a massive social engineering experiment that we’ve embraced with open arms. I wonder what would happen if all those gadgets were rendered useless, even for a day or two, by say a solar flare? I’m all for technology helping us with day to day chores (I look forward to something that can do the hoovering for me!) but I have serious concerns about children becoming dependent on TV/cellphones/ipads….and whatever else comes along. One prediction is that the next ten years will see faster tech-growth/new gadgets than the whole of the last century…will that make us more or less able to truly communicate? As yet, we don’t know…

      • This current generation of teens and young adults are having enough trouble talking to others face-to-face, I dread what it will be like if the technology develops to a point that no one needs to give anyone any face time!

  2. Our world is full of amazing things, but at what price. I don’t know how half the gadgets I own actually work. That scares me a bit – I rely pretty heavily on things I don’t fully understand. Whereas back in the day, people had a much better understanding of the technology around. I’m fascinated by the shift brought on by the 20th century. We are moving so fast and I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Perhaps, a bit of both?

    • Even my 23 year-old son has a lot of concerns about the way civilization is heading. He’s worried that there will come an event that will throw us back to the Stone Age. He’s always been a bit of a worrier, but I can see it happening, too. I think that’s why the premise of my books was so appealing when I was writing them. The question of how our ancestors did things without electricity was intriguing. Throw a modern teen into the mix and you’ve got a kid without a clue! I’m sure we’d all be the same way if our power ran out. What would we do?

      • Totally agree with you and your son. Technology gives us an illusion of control, but in reality takes it away. I guess as a race we’d adapt if something came along to throw us back to the Stone Age (we always have in the past). Makes me wonder if that has happened before, back in the dim and distant past? Who knows, maybe there were phenomenally advanced civilizations that disappeared, leaving us to start afresh? Right now, I’m very glad the central heating works, though!!

      • Me too, especially here where we could experience -30 degree temperatures for days.In ’97, we had a record breaking month of January when the temperature only rose above that for a day or two.

        I don’t doubt that there were more advanced civilizations in our past, but we’ve just forgotten the technologies. Look at the pyramids on both Egypt and Central/South America. Look at stone circles like Stonehenge and Avebury. The ancient technologies used to create such wonders boggles the mind. Sure, it might have taken many men to accomplish the task, but I think they must have had some kind of mechanical device that helped them. Despite popular belief and a lot of speculation (even on my part for the sake of a good story!) I don’t really believe aliens were involved in the creation of those miracle structures! It was our own forgotten technologies. 🙂

  3. Oh yes indeed I do agree, another thing that has made us rather sad is that brand loyalty is now a mistake. There was a time when, if you had something that had given you good service but needed to be replaced, then you would buy another one safe in the knowledge that it was a “good make” now that simply does not apply. By the time an original, of pretty much anything but particularly electronics (printers for example), needs replacing the new equivalent is of much, much poorer quality.

    Our first cooker like yours lasted over twenty years and then we gave it to a charity as it was still in full working condition but we were moving to a new house with a fitted unit. Needless to say that within 5 years the fitted one had to be replaced and now that replacement is being kept going with chewing gum and prayer.

    Still we do have MRI and the internet eh – happy Easter 🙂

  4. I would add that people are accepting the cheap shiny crap that is offered by discount stores.They have filled a need for cheap readily available goods.Unfortunately the shoddiness and lack of workmanship have become the norm rather than the exception.One can still find quality handcrafted items but at fantastic prices.

    I am particularly annoyed at the easy acceptance of throw away clothing that is as sturdy as tissue,is mass produced with very little attention to detail,and of the cheapest possible material.Go into any Urban Behavior, Forever XXI,or similar store and you will find racks and racks of trashy clothing.Legions of 14 year olds with limited budgets flock to purchase colourful cheap clothing that has no longevity-perhaps a few washed before falling apart.

    Why should any anonymous drone in a factory halfway around the world care about quality if all that matters is the bottom line?

    It is sad, but true.

    • That IS sad and how true, Kathy! And look at a good percentage of cleaning products that are on the market. One particular brand name comes to mind that is happy to sell you a sweeper, duster, or mop that requires you to keep coming back to them for replacement cloths. Vileda, on the other hand, offers products that can be washed and reused instead of thrown away moments after you use them! Their mop, unlike its cheaper competitor, has a removable canister to fill with your own cleaning fluid or just plain water, if you prefer. It does not require you to purchase a container of their brand of cleaning liquid that is the only way you can use their product!

  5. I completely agree with you. We just upgraded our appliances and we were hoping to find a shop around town where we could take them for repair people to use parts off of them to repair other similar products. They told us they didn’t do that anymore because it didn’t make sense for them to keep old appliances around so they could use old, used parts when they could get brand new parts as a fraction of the cost.

    When I think of it, I get ill, like you. I’m also reminded of a great little Disney film my kids used to watch when they were little: The Brave Little Toaster, about five little appliances that go out in search of the owner that abandoned them. Unlike our abandoned appliances in the landfill, Disney ends the story happily.

  6. That WAS a great little film. My kids loved watching it!

    In my parent’s day, things were repaired when they broke down. Most men knew how to fix things around the house to save money. Nowadays, we just tend to throw stuff away, mainly because people can’t get parts for their stuff so they CAN repair it or the electronic parts are too complicated for the ordinary Joe to fix. We have to wise up as a society and find solutions to electronic graveyards.

  7. My daughter’s school has chosen to stop teaching cursive writing because of technology. Cursive was originally designed to make writing faster, and since most people don’t write at all much these days, typing or texting instead, they’ve decided that printing is all kids need these days. I…don’t know how I feel about that, frankly. It kind of blows my mind. Only tangentially related, but this post made me think about this because technology is what is driving this choice.

    • A FB friend shared an article about Gmail Tap. It’s basically a device for texting using Morse Code! It’s supposed to be faster than hunting down letters because you’re basically using only dots and dashes. They even have a split screen where you can carry on two different conversations at the same time! To me, that’s just crazy! I doubt it will catch on, but what if it does? I think my brain would explode! lol

      • I will have to be the one to break it to you…that Tap thing was totally an April Fool’s Day joke! 🙂 But even so technology is crazy wild and blows my mind regularly.

      • I hear you! I thought the hologram practical joke was real until someone told me about it wasn’t! (It was a video showing the “new iPhone” and it had this hologram projection on it, etc, and I thought it was legit! I showed it to a bunch of folks and they were all like, “Uh, no. It was a practical joke.” So, I’ve been there! And technology has been consistently so amazing that it was believable to me! 🙂

  8. My mom and I were just talking about this. Especially about cars–the new ones have so much computer in them, it’s impossible for anyone to fix them on their own. It’s too bad; it’s a LOT easier if you can repair something yourself!

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