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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last? 702

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-my-sister's-smartphone dept.
itwbennett writes: "When you think about tech products these days, you probably think 'refresh cycle' more than 'built to last.' But there are plenty of tech products that put up with hard, daily use year after year. Here's a few to get you started: Logitech MX510 mouse, Brother black & white laser printer, Casio G-Shock watch, Alvin Draf-Tec Retrac mechanical pencil, Sony Dream Machine alarm clock. What's your longest-lasting, hardest-working device?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

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  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:11PM (#46789161) Homepage Journal

    Still works as does my IBM PS2 Model 95. There are still DEC PDP-11s in daily use as well.

  • My toilet (Score:5, Funny)

    by kruach aum (1934852) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:12PM (#46789171)

    It's gotten nothing but shit every day for 30 years and it still works just as well as when I first got it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Let me guess, you piss in the sink?

    • by omnichad (1198475) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:55PM (#46789751) Homepage

      Works better when you hook it up to your home water supply.

    • Re:My toilet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:59PM (#46789809)

      Toilets really are one of the best tech inventions of all time. And I do mean tech in every sense of the word. Porcelain is the best material for it, and while the chinese had it for a long time, when the west (Kingdom of Saxony) got it/discovered it, it gaurded the secret closely. Thankfully it got out, are it would be relegated to fancy sculptures and plates.

      This isn't to mention all the requirements like running water and sewer system... but a lot of tech resembles Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as in the oldest stuff is generally the most essential, and as time goes on, the newer stuff is icing on the cake.

    • I picked up a magnavox am/fm radio turntable cabinet model at a yard sale in the 80s the couple told me they had got it for their son as a gift when he started college in 1962 but he didn't have room for it so it sat in their attic. It was open but still had the original packaging I used it for about 10 years then gave it to a friend who still uses it {the fm radio anyway it has a really great sound}.

      It's actually older than my toilet.

  • by JoeWalsh (32530) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:12PM (#46789173)

    My Atari 800 home computer is my longest-lasting, hardest-working electronics device. It was built like a tank (the metal shielding alone weighs several pounds).

    Other than that, I suppose my alarm clock. I've had it since 1988 and it just keeps going. Nothing fancy - LED display, just a clock with alarm, no radio functionality or anything like that.

  • MacBook Air 13 Inch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MuChild (656741)
    I have had my MacBook Air running almost continuously for three years. Almost no hiccups. That's about it!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rochrist (844809)
      I've got a Power Mac G4 from 2002 that's been running my professional recording studio for 12 years now without a hiccup.
      • by tipo159 (1151047)

        I had a 12" Powerbook G4 that I sold a couple of years ago. It was just too slow to running the applications that I needed to run.

        I still have a Powerbook 540c (from 1995) that I play SimTower on. I also use it as a serial console for my collection of Sun lunchbox systems and Axil 320 SPARCstation 20 clone. They still all still run (despite PROM battery failures), but I don't use them frequently.

    • My primary work laptop is a 2007 MacBook. When the time came that the company would buy me a replacement, Apple products were no longer on the list of corporate approved laptops, so I have just continued to use the MacBook. It has been pretty much trouble-free. Had to replace the battery and the power adapter and that's it.

    • Last generation 15" AlBook from 2005 and 4th gen iPod from 2004.

      I have some Sennheiser earbuds from 1995.

      These really don't cut it though. I have an early 60s Triang 00/H0 model of the BR 70000 Britainnia if that helps, but it's not really "tech".

    • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:30PM (#46790117) Homepage Journal

      A computer that has run for three years. That's so cute!

  • HP Calculators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:14PM (#46789199)

    I still use my HP-11C and HP-32S calculators at least weekly. They're now 25+ years old, and I've changed the batteries maybe twice.

    Enter > Equal ..... Yeah!

    • by mark_reh (2015546)

      I, too, have an HP-11C that I still use almost daily and have only changed the batteries twice since I bought it new around 1980.

      Later I got a HP-48SX and the keyboard started out as crap and broke just after the warranty expired. They just don't make them like they used to...

      RPN FTW!

  • by TimeZone (658837) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:14PM (#46789201)
    These things are awesome. The ones I've got were built in the mid 90s and still clicking.
    TZ
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Damned right.

      I tend to type hard. I've broken a space bar or two. My Model M has put up with me for almost three decades now, and has almost no visible damage. Some of the key caps might be getting a bit worn, but I expect they'll last until I bother to print replacements.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by anagama (611277)

      November 6, 1989 is the date on the sticker on the back of mine.

      I found it in a thrift shop while killing time walking around in a small downtown area waiting for an appointment. It was in a pile of used crappy bubble keyboards. I paid either $5 or $10 for it -- can't remember which. I should have asked if they had any artwork or old vases too.

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        mine is the 122 key model (24 function keys, 2x12). weighs over 8 lbs. The coiled cable is thicker than what the old analog phone receivers used to have

    • Apart from cockroaches, the Model M keyboards will be the only things to survive a nuclear blast.

  • HP LaserJet 4M+ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jakedata (585566) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:15PM (#46789211)

    It sits there in standby waiting for print jobs that almost never come, then with a wheeze the top fan blows out the accumulated dust, the lights dim briefly and I get my printout like it was 1999.

    • by afidel (530433)

      The 4 series was built fairly well, but it was nothing compared to the beast that was the LJ 3 series. I once was called out to repair an ~15 year old LJ3 with just under 1M pages (at ~3PPM!). The reason it needed repair? The single sacrificial plastic gear had grown brittle with age, everything else in that beast was metal.

  • by sphealey (2855) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:15PM (#46789225)

    HP LaserJet II and LaserJet 3 - worked reliably for 20 years and probably quite a few of them still in use.

    sPh

    Admittedly as noted above no high-tech product can yet match the longevity of a well-built plumbing system - some of them are over 2000 years old and still functioning as designed, while most major cities still depend on water and plumbing infrastructure build 1880-1920.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      we have two laserjet II's here that print 300 invoices a day. and we will use them until they catch fire or explode.

    • Those early-generation LaserJets were built like tanks. I've seen them pushed off a table (which took some effort -- the early ones were 70 lbs), hit the floor, and aside from some cosmetic damage, just keep printing. The same-era Digital Equipment Corp LN03 was pretty good too (except for having a toner tub which could spill); corresponding Xerox printers while larger-capacity and faster were much finickier.

      HP and Apple's printers of that generation used the Canon print engine and optics. Whatever happen

    • I still use a LaserJet 4L at home for light printing work. This is now over 20 years old. It was used heavily in business for about 5 years then light use at home. I just buy a new cartridge about once a year (recycled ones cost about $15).
      This thing never jams, always feeds properly and the print quality is as crisp and sharp as the day it was new.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      We have a LaserJet 5 in the office set up. They were supposed to get our department (in IT) a printer but they never did. So I grabbed a LaserJet 5 that was sitting in a pile and fired it up. Prints great.
    • One of my college profs offered a plausible-sounding explanation for all the really old things still working (bridges, building, plumbing etc.): simply put, the designers didn't really understand what they were doing, so they just over specced up the wazoo. Of course, if they hadn't built stuff to last, it wouldn't still be around for us to wonder about how it does.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:17PM (#46789245) Homepage

    The quality difference between pre 2001 electronics and now is astounding. Current products are all utter junk compared to earlier stuff.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:28PM (#46789379)

      There were junk devices back then too.
      I got a $15.00 mouse that worked for 2 month and failed.
      Laptop Drives were notoriously bad. Memory could fail on you...
      I needed to get a new internal modem every few months.

      The real difference before 2001 we were expected to pay a couple of grand on your PC. and a lot more for a workstation. Because these things were so expensive they made sure they used quality parts. Post Tech Bubble pop. We started to opt for cheaper/faster/lighter So cheaper and Lighter means more flimsy plastic, where metal was used, but we wanted faster too so they had to cut costs in more areas of quality. Having it last 4 now is considered a good run.

      • by egarland (120202) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:38PM (#46789525)

        We always get a false impression of the reliability and quality of old stuff, because the stuff that sucked and broke got thrown out years ago, and the only things that we still encounter are the ones that were well made. It's true with old houses, old cars, old furniture, pretty much everything. I'm sure there's a law for this phenomenon with some pompous dude's name on it but it's a well established and discussed phenomenon.

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:19PM (#46789255)

    IBM's Model M keyboard.

  • by catseye (96076) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:19PM (#46789257)

    A 1971 Panasonic AM/FM clock radio with this erie, blue-green glowing, segmented time display. It's the size of a goddamn shoe box, and easily weighs 3-4 pounds. It was my brother's, and when he moved out of the house he gave it to me. It's as old as I am and has survived multiple in-city, in-state, and one cross-country move, in addition to numerous drops, bumps, being rained on through open windows, splashed with various items spilled from ill-placed glasses, etc.

    I haven't used it as an alarm or for music in years (my phone took over those functions some time ago), but I can't bear to remove it from my nightstand at this point.

    • by ThosLives (686517)

      Mine is similar - I have a GE AM/FM alarm clock radio with red LED segmented display, but mine is a bit newer - I got I think in 1993. 21 years is pretty good - 100% fully functional (go go pre-ROHS analog radio!) and still keeps accurate time. Only thing wrong with it is the tab on the 9V backup battery compartment broke, so the door falls off if you lift the thing off the nightstand. I refuse to keep my phone by my bedside, so I still use the alarm function.

      Contrast to a new one - it was either Emerson or

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:20PM (#46789271)

    I always like to point to one of my fave brands of TM gear (test and measurement): power designs.

    go to ebay and search for these 3 words 'power designs precision'. see the metal concentric dials? those are not to be seen in today's gear; unless its a photo of one on a touch screen somewhere (sigh).

    I have at least 4 of these models and they date from the late 50's to early 60's. some caps might need changing (not need but suggested) and some deoxit-d5 cleaner on the switches and that's that! 100uV dial-in resolution, microvolt level noise and hum, current load at full rated cap for 7x24 duty cycle and the PSU can be thrown off a truck and still work to factory specs.

    they tend to be $100 or so, used. if you built that today using those specs, it would be 10x to 50x the price, if you could even GET it built today (no, china could not even build this if they tried).

    old tektronix and HP gear still works great after 30+ yrs. lots of old US designed and BUILT gear is still fully reasonable to use today. its repairable and the user guides, back then, actually had circuit descriptions, schematics and even names/addresses of companies that make the parts that go into the box! you NEVER see anything like that today. you can't even get schematics from agilent or fluke or keithley or tek anymore, on their current gear.

    I like to point to power designs (precision) line of gear as stuff that was built to last 50+ yrs and I have actual proof that this is not a dream. I'm over 50 and I'm not doing as well as some of the gear in my tech shop.... ;)

    • by mlts (1038732) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:55PM (#46789753)

      I would say that my old HP48SX calculator with a card for additional functions still works and is useful. Engineering calculations are engineering calculations, and the tactile feel of the buttons is a lot more accurate than trying to use an emulator on a smartphone.

      Just the small engineering touches showed outstanding build quality. For example, the card had an edge connector, but there was a sliding metal flap that kept the connector on a card shielded until it was inserted into the calculator.

  • Toaster Oven... a 25yr old Hamilton Beach Standmixer. Though there's probably a few people out there with ones older than this.

    I still use the same lawnmower I bought in '79. Had to replace the blade, but it still cuts the grass without problems.

  • Teletype machines (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:22PM (#46789303) Homepage

    I have several Teletype machines from the 1926 to 1940 period. [aetherltd.com] All are in good working order. They're completely repairable; it's possible to take one apart down to the individual parts and put it back together. But they're high-maintenance. There are several hundred oiling points on a Model 15 Teletype. There are things that have to be adjusted occasionally, and manuals and tools for doing that. Every few years, the entire machine has to be soaked in solvent to clean off excess oil, then relubricated and adjusted. This is the price of building a complex machine good for a century or more.

    (The Model 33 of the minicomputer era is not one of the long-lived machines. This was by design. The Model 35 was the equivalent long-lived, high-maintenance product; the 33 required little mainenance but had a llimited life.)

  • Really impressed with how it's held up over the years, including the battery.
  • Typing this on a Unicomp model based on the original design. Awesome keyboard, but it lacks the heavy steel backplate of the original.

    Please buy a keyboard from this company so they keep making them. :-) http://www.pckeyboard.com/ [pckeyboard.com]

    Generally, any computer equipment before the mid 90s was made quite well, simply because it was so expensive at the time. It also tended to be heavily over-engineered. Some Compaq ProLiants from that era are 100 pounds because they're just solid metal all the way through.

  • Alarm clock???? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:27PM (#46789363)

    Alarm Clock? Really?

    I used to live across the street from police & fire stations. I can sleep through anything. A few years ago, searching for ever louder and more earth-shaking alarm clocks, I got to thinking about that. For tens of thousands of years mankind has not had alarm clocks. We relied on the Sun and Daylight to wake us up. So I went down to the local megamart and bought a digital outlet timer. You know, the sort of thing you use to turn your lights on automatically while you're out of town. Hooked up a power strip to it, and plugged in a bunch of $5 floor lamps. Nothing like a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Lamps.

    Every morning at exactly 6:55 the digital timer turns on and my room is brightened by 5,000+ lumens of light. It's a nice way to wake up. Very gentle. You come out of sleep slowly rather than abruptly.

  • HP48g (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:28PM (#46789377)

    Still works like a charm (and still a bit slow, hehehe).

    • by PRMan (959735)

      I didn't think about calculators, but my daughter is still using my Casio FX-4000P in high school.

      Mine looks about exactly like this (except in English):

      http://mycalcdb.free.fr/galerie/Casio/casio_fx-4000P.7.jpg

      I also have an HP 28S that still works great (although it has a really bad interface):

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/HP_28.jpg

    • by jandrese (485)
      I still use my TI-85 I got back in the 90s. The nice thing is that it's not too different than a "modern" TI calculator, and it lasts forever on a set of AAAs. I'll probably pass it down to my son when he's going to take the SATs or something.
  • The thing still turns on and runs. Unfortunately Iost my ADB keyboard and mouse so I can't use it.

  • I've got this giant pipe wrench that's been taking a beating (well... giving one) for decades. I can't tell you how many passwords and pin codes I've cracked with that thing. Best hacking tool I ever bought.
  • True, the NES had some issues with the 72-pin connector... but my SNES still works just fine after I cleaned the cartridge contacts and cartidges. First time, every time. Same with my N64 and gameboy color. Do a web search for Gameboy in Iraq. You'll turn up a fully-functioning gameboy that survived mortars(bombs?) hitting a base. The thing is mostly black and has some of the plastic melting, but it still plays tetris and is on display in a museum.
  • Those cameras were built like tanks.....
  • In a world where most of my smart phones break down after a year, my Palm IIIx will still reliably turn on and run with two fresh double AAs. Amazing device from the early days of handheld computing.
  • Cheap noname LED spotlights, cheap noname LED flashlights...

    I'm sure pricey brand name LED lights don't break very often either.

  • Scoff if you must -- I'm not using it for audiophile, but as an employee-project-completion gift, it's made a fantastic $300 alarm clock.

    I've had it for close to 15 years now (it debuted in 1998). It does exactly what I need: Good UI, wake up to radio, tone or CD with slow volume increase, two alarms. Most CD players I've seen don't last this long, and this thing has been a rock.

  • A mechanical pencil is a tech product?
  • It's been decades, and that thing is still going strong. When we're all gone, phones will be making calls by mapping whatever you're doing to:

    ATDT your_number

    Note: does ADTP still work? What if you did that on a 4G modem?

  • If youre trying to find tech products crafted with longevity in mind, you're going to have a bad time. The entire technology industry is built around intentional, and unintentional, Planned obsolescence. Connectors are intentionally standardized then customized slightly to stymy interoperability and in turn drive sales of every other accessory they use. cellphones are made from thermoplastic and glass, and come with a multi billion dollar advertising industry to ensure you buy new ones every year or two.
  • A calculator older than me which I inherited. Many calculators have come and gone but this thing has survived much time and abuse. I always liked it's glowing LED numbers, even if it takes two AA batteries to power it.
  • I've had mine 15 years. I had to buy a PS/2 to USB adapter and occasionally clean out built-up dust. Once in a great while I miss not having a mouse wheel. Otherwise it's given me no issues. Added bonus, it's saved me from carpal tunnel.
  • Powermatic 66 table saw

  • TI-36 solar version. Came with the vinyl flip case which still has part of its spine holding on like grim death.

    Bought it just out of high school (back in the day) and recently used it for my stats class (about 2 years ago).

    I still take it with me every time I go grocery shopping to keep track of how much I'm spending.

  • I can confirm from experience that an IBM 3270 terminal is practically indestructable. Standing on a loading dock I picked one up over my head and threw it as hard as I could down into an empty metal dumpster at ground level. The result? A small crack in the housing.
  • The HP 2647 terminals we had in my high school were built like tanks. I'd bet they'd still work today.

    -jcr

  • by rbrander (73222) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:54PM (#46789741) Homepage

    My Compaq P1210 catwarmer [cuug.ab.ca] only died a few months ago, after daily use since early 1998. When the cat went to jump on top of the new LCD and simply landed on the desk behind, he was not amused. I put a pillow back there, and now it's his secret hiding place; he leans up against the back of the LCD for his catwarming needs. (This is Canada; as I write, a nasty mix of snow and rain is blustering around outside.)

  • Voyager 1 & 2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MetricT (128876) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:09PM (#46789891) Homepage

    Roughly 40 years old and still doing science.

  • by LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:39PM (#46790217)
    Simpson 260 Series 8 Analog VOM. Built like a fricking tank. Simple, beautiful and reliable. Reads when a DMM wont. Will probably outlast the guy that buys it from a garage sale after I'm gone. :)
  • by Gim Tom (716904) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:49PM (#46790343)
    Genuine old land line telephones built by Western Electric for the Bell System. They built them, they owned them, and they NEVER wanted to have to repair them.
  • by Curlsman (1041022) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:55PM (#46790393)

    Late 80s, upgraded to SCSI and 16 MB @ 200ns, run OpenVMS 7.3.

    Also, my penis, late 50s, works just fine, does everything I want it to.

  • As another commenter mentioned, old test equipment -- the design of the Bird 43 wattmeter hasn't changed in over 50 years (and mine is over 30 years old). Similar story with the Simpson 240 series of multimeters (VOMs). I inherited a set of Starrett micrometers that are wonderful, even the ones my son used as C-clamps as he was growing up...

    I also have a stack of old HP and Tektronix test equipment -- stuff that has service manuals and more-or-less replaceable parts (except for things like 'scope front ends, which are custom assemblies made of pure unobtanium).
  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday April 18, 2014 @05:03PM (#46791025)
    I used to go through one about every six months. Their cords were shit, and would break over time.

    I replaced my 8th and last MX510 with a RAZR Imperator about 3 years ago, and haven't looked back since.
  • Nokia 5110 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Onuma (947856) on Friday April 18, 2014 @05:17PM (#46791165)
    My old Nokia candybar phone (c. 2000) is practically indestructible. To this day I can still charge it up and play "nibbles" in all its LCD monochrome glory. Too bad the cell towers don't support its signal anymore...
  • I have a 1990 Saab 9000, with all the original parts. It is close to hitting the 400,000 kilometer mark. The "onboard computer", as it is grandly called ( basically a piece of electronics computing instantaneous and average fuel consumption, as well as capable of predicting ETA based on a rolling speed average ) still works perferctly. Just like the Bosch cassette player. And the engine.
  • by Custard Horse (1527495) on Saturday April 19, 2014 @04:54AM (#46793731)
    ...were built to last but more as objet d'art when the 'functioning' element stops working after, well, 10 minutes or so.

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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