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Technologies that Have Exceeded Their Expectations? 1037

drfunch asks: "With the recent 'passing' of Pioneer 10 after over 30 years of service, I wonder what other technologies have far exceeded expectations. One example from my own experience is my trusty HP calculator, which is still going strong after 21 years. What technologies or devices have gone far beyond your expectations?"
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Technologies that Have Exceeded Their Expectations?

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  • Voyager (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elvisisdead ( 450946 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:13PM (#5462321) Homepage Journal
    The Voyager Probe
  • by superdan2k ( 135614 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:13PM (#5462323) Homepage Journal
    The paper-ballot voting booth -- worked just fine for over 200 years...and then, one major screw-up in one state and everything goes to shit. Go figure.
    • Yeah, well, people were ok with reading and then punching a hole in a piece of paper for 200 years. But that was before MTV, Fox and Hip-hop.
      • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:35PM (#5462673) Homepage
        The system has always been as bad as it was in the last election. Ballots lost on the way to the counting center, polling stations running out of ballots, ballots getting jammed in the counting machines, people not understanding what they were doing. It's always been crap. The margin of error was always one or two percent. It's not that people got stupider, it's that this was the first time the margin was close enough that this always-existant problem became relevant.
  • by Andy_w715 ( 612829 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:13PM (#5462324)
    My washer and dryer are almost 30 years old....
  • Not Just HP! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by davecl ( 233127 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:13PM (#5462327)
    I have a Casio calculator (FX501p) still running happily after more than 22 years!
  • by Ec|ipse ( 52 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:13PM (#5462333)
    My Magic Eightball is great for answering questions from our sales department. Saves a lot of time on some of those questions that rely on actual thinking.
  • TV/Telephones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#5462341)
    Both the tv and telephone are excellent examples of technology that seems to defy the ages. Esp. the good ole telephone. In this high tech age, it hasen't changed much (well at least from the end user perspective).
    • Does it count if it sucks and we JUST CAN'T get rid of it because of compatibilty issues?

      Or how about Intel's shitty (for now) chip design based on a great (for then) 1970's design?

    • old phones (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tomzyk ( 158497 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:39PM (#5462742) Journal
      My parents still have a rotary [pulse, dial...] phone in their kitchen. It still works just fine (after about 25 years of use from a family of 7) so there hasn't been a need to replace it. Although impatient people complain that you still have to wait a full 5 seconds longer to complete your outbound phone calls compared to touch-tone phones. (oh the horror!)

      A friend of my younger brother was over there a few years ago and had to ask my dad how to use the phone because he'd never seen a phone without a number-pad on it. Pathetic. Times are changin and these young whipper-snappers aren't learning things that we took for granted. Like learning to read the time off of the face of a (non-digital) clock.

      Anyways... back to the subject.

      TV, telephones, wallclocks, pocket calculators (solar powered ones too), etc... there are a bunch of pieces of technology I use every day that have lasted beyond initial expectation.

      I wish I could say the same thing about computers now-a-days. (Most are considered "old" or "out of date" within 6 months.)
      • Re:old phones (Score:5, Insightful)

        by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:31PM (#5463787)
        A friend of my younger brother was over there a few years ago and had to ask my dad how to use the phone because he'd never seen a phone without a number-pad on it. Pathetic. Times are changin and these young whipper-snappers aren't learning things that we took for granted. Like learning to read the time off of the face of a (non-digital) clock.

        Uh huh. And can you successfully start up a crank-started car? Ride a horse (sans saddle)? Skin an animal from stone chips you've made yourself?

        Remember, just because something *used* to be a certain way, doesn't mean it can't be improved. And people aren't stupid for not learning how things aren't done anymore.
    • Re:TV/Telephones (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:54PM (#5462915)
      I agree, except for cordless telephones. For some reason, my cell phone works virtually anywhere in the world, for days on a charge, and is usually crystal clear. For the same price, my cordless phone works only up to about 20 feet away from the base, can keep a charge for no more than 1 hour off of the base, and sounds like shit. Cordless phone technology is perhaps the worst technology of our time.
      • I'd be interested in a make and model of a high quality cordless phone.

        Wouldn't bluetooth work pretty well for household cordless phones? I can't remember if the range is good enough or not.

        Every cordless I buy stinks. I've stayed away from 2.4 GHz just because I don't like it fuzzing out while someone uses the microwave and all the 900 MHz phones I buy either have crappy quality or don't answer half the time when you hit the magic "talk" button.

        Does anyone have a high quality recommendation?
  • Unix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leerpm ( 570963 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#5462343)
    Still going strong after all these years, in some form or another.
  • Palm OS Devices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IgD ( 232964 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#5462345)
    I'd have to put Palm OS devices in this category. I have had a Handspring Visor Deluxe for nearly 3 years now. It's black and white. The are no fancy graphics or sounds. However it keeps a mean phone list, address book and calendar. As a Physician, I like the third party software that is a handy quick reference for pharmaceutical dosing information. I have absolutely no reason to upgrade to anything better.
  • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:14PM (#5462347) Homepage Journal
    Although all I play on it is Karateka (sp?). That damn bird...

    I got it in 1983.
    • by ( 557454 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:18PM (#5463701) Homepage
      The server running our family domain is an old SE/30. It runs totaly headless because the onboard video went out, the ram is maxed way past what you are supposed to be able to put in it, it runs MK linux, and at last count was hosting 15 domains. The surpizing thing is just how fast it is! I never notice any lag when I connect and I'm about 1500 miles away!
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:15PM (#5462358) Homepage Journal liver.
  • FAA System (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:15PM (#5462369) Journal
    The FAA had a top flight (my pun) system 30 years ago. It's still running and they want to spend billions to upgrade it. The programmers have all retired (or jumped off of buildings in the bust).
  • Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob.Mathers ( 527086 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:15PM (#5462371) Homepage
    This is a pretty obvious one, but I think Linux has surpassed everyone's expectations, esp. those who knew about it in it's earlier stages. I'm sure Linus never expected it to become so huge, as well as a posterboy for the OSS movement.
    • Sad, I think (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GCP ( 122438 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:55PM (#5462922)
      A free knockoff of a 30-yr-old OS is the "latest thing from the 'bazaar' of great ideas". I think it's really Unix that is exceeding expectations, in its Linux avatar.

      I just find it depressing that, as good as the ideas embodied in Unix were 30 years ago, they haven't been dramatically surpassed, perhaps two or three times, over a time span in which hardware performance has offered four or five *orders of magnitude* increase in power.

      The GUI probably counts as one, but it's not as if the CLI itself has improved dramatically (except in performance), or the GUI and CLI have joined forces to dramatically increase the power of the combination. The closest you get is running a GUI to do GUI-only things and to open several simultaneous windows in which you can do 30-yr-old CLI-only things.

      I guess a technology can exceed expectations by virtue of the fact that no significant improvement has occurred in years.

      • Re:Sad, I think (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:58PM (#5463554)
        One might point out that the steering wheel is a technology that hasn't moved much in 100 years.

        Technology isn't supposed to change. It's supposed to *optimize.*

        I would suggest that since it hasn't changed significantly for decades is an indication that its users, at least, consider it something near optimum.

        It is the *fact* that it hasn't changed much, and your objections to this, that combined serve to prove it has exceeded expectations.

        Further proof that it has exceeded expectaions can be found in the fact that your premise is essentially flawed. The developers of UNIX have since gone multiple generations beyond in development, i.e. it *has* changed over time, but the users see no particular reason to make any switch.

        About the absolute worst you can say about the 30 year old technology of Unix is that "it suffices."

  • by LordYUK ( 552359 ) <> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:15PM (#5462375)
    The Real Doll. That thing goes WAY beyond expectations!

    Oh, wait, I dont think thats what you mean, was it...

  • I know one.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WndrBr3d ( 219963 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5462390) Homepage Journal
    The x86 Processor. Created in 1982 with the unveiling of the all mighty 286 (both 8, 10 and 12Mhz speed demons).

    Granted the main core has gone through some overhauls (Major ones include 486DX2, Pentium, P6 Core, K6, Athlon).

    Seriously though, who would have thought it would hang in there for this long ?! :-)
  • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5462392) Journal
    The design is very much the same as it was 100 years ago and, with the exception of fuel injection and emissions "add-ons", has changed very little in the last 50 years. With some of the V8 engines, manufacturers have been using the same block design for decades.

    • by TWX_the_Linux_Zealot ( 227666 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:06PM (#5463050) Journal
      ... the spark plug.

      Spark plugs have not changed at all in at least 60 years, as far as the OEM styles go. They have been remarkably similar since their original designs, a graphite core surrounded by a ceramic insulator surrounded by a metallic threaded ring. Amazing.
    • by good soldier svejk ( 571730 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:49PM (#5463458)
      with the exception of fuel injection and emissions "add-ons", has changed very little in the last 50 years.
      Actually, fuel injection is older than 50 years. Daimler-Benz aircraft motors [] were using it by 1932, although it took Rolls Royce another eleven years to add it to the Merlin []. Other than the belated addition of FI, the Merlin was a remarkable design. It was all aluminium, dual-stage supercharged unit with four valves and two plugs per cylinder. The exhaust valves were filled with sodium to improve cooling.

      I think the biggest changes in internal combustion engines over the last half century are the addition of solid state electronic management and improved production methods and materials. These have rendered high end technologies like the Merlin sported practical for mass production and distribution.
    • Not that it is a good thing. I have even seen newer Ford cars with push-rod engines(An engine configuration where the camshafts are located lower in the engine). Ok it was cheap, but really amazing since other mainstream cars have left that concept before 1986.
      But maybe one day when Americans have to pay real money for gas, they will start looking at producing and buying cars with higher fuel efficiency. But until then, you'll excuse me if I keep my old Pontiac.
  • SR-71 Blackbird (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5462405)
    The SR-71 Blackbird aircraft was in many ways 20-30 years ahead of time when it was first created and put into service. An amazing piece of engineering and materials technology.
    • Well, if we're gonna mention aircraft, the Shakleton [] was originally built just after WWII and was still flying active duty in the UK (for surveilance duty) until the 90s.

      I remember a documentary about it just as it was retiring describing this bird as "10,000 loose rivets flying in close formation".

    • DC-3 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by perfessor multigeek ( 592291 ) <> on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:19PM (#5463716) Homepage Journal
      No doubt, the SR-71 is/was purty, but nothing ever has beat the record of the good old Gooney Bird.

      So durable that eventually the FAA gave up and declared it exempt from end-of-life regulations.
      So durable that some have been flown under combat conditions with a third of the wing blown off.
      The only thirty year old cargo plane ever to be reconfigured as a combat gun platform (the Dragon, a.k.a. Spooky, a.k.a. Puff the Magic Dragon)
      Rebuilt as a turboprop and outperformed new aircraft.
      Left abandoned in a field of snow up past the Arctic Circle for an entire winter and then, dug out from under the snow, started up, and flown home.

      No longer manufactured after 1946, still in use to this day.

      The one, the only, The DC-3!


  • My cell phone. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5462407) Homepage Journal
    I only paid $10 for it. I'm surprised it works at all.

  • Tech Life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fascist Christ ( 586624 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5462408)
    Is it too much to expect a technology to last a few decades, rather than it being a shock?
  • pants (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hnice ( 60994 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:18PM (#5462421) Homepage
    for what seems like decades now we've been hearing wild, utopian speculation regarding an endless stream of leg-covering technologies, each hailed as a 'pants-killer'. on seemingly a yearly basis, it seems, sony or microsoft or archer daniels midland trots out some promising technology to replace pants -- some intended to render not just the item but the entire pants PARADIGM obselete forever. but for all this new-fangledness, what's that on your ass, i ask you? huh!?!?

    man, am i hung over.
  • HTML (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seldolivaw ( 179178 ) <me&seldo,com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:20PM (#5462438) Homepage
    It started off just being a simple language for describing academic documents. Now you can plug so much junk into HTML that you can create whole applications. HTML is bursting at the seams because of all these hacks and extra languages tacked on to the end, but it still works. I think that's amazing.
  • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:20PM (#5462441) Homepage
    I don't use floppies for much more than install disks for linux anymore, so pretty much any disk I have rotting in the closet is fair game for a reformatting to serve as a boot disk. I've gone through stacks of disks, one goes bad, I toss it out and pick the next one on the stack.. except for this one ancient maxell floppy I have.

    I used it back when my parents got their 486 (in the early 90's) for holding windows 3.11, it was an OEM release and the first time you loaded the machine it prompted you through swapping disks to copy out recovery disks.

    This disk has followed me in moving about the country four times now, it's gone from alaska to oregon to new jersey to california to illinois. Currently it's a boot disk for redhat 7.1, and I use it at work several times a week.

    No it's not a 20 year old calculator, but considering most claim floppy disks have two year lifespans, the fact this is STILL my most reliable floppy makes it interesting. It even has the original "Windows 3.11 disk 8" label I wrote up for it on it, scribbled out. Underneath it is written "slackware #1" and "redhat boot".

    They really don't make 'em like they used to. ;)
  • by WndrBr3d ( 219963 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:20PM (#5462458) Homepage Journal
    How about VHS technology ? I know that DVD is soon going to phase it out, but I mean seriously. The first VHS recorder was released in 1976! And I mean, if you exclude the ESP, EP, SP recording options, there wasn't really any major changes to the format since then!

    I exclude SVHS because it's more or less a completely different format on the same media.

    Kinda crazy if you think about it.
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:21PM (#5462464) Homepage Journal
    When I was a Junior in high school - 1989 - I bought a Casio scientific calculator, solar powered with a lithium cell back-up, for about 30 dollars. Through high school Trig and Pre-calculus, three college calculus classes, and a chemistry undergraduate degree, I used the thing a ton and it took a beating in the process. 14 years later I'm still using it... and the battery is still good (I guess that solar cell is doing its job.

    Oh and another thing - when I first started college, I bought a single Sony double-density 3.5 floppy disk. That's 12 years ago and it still works. Yes, yes, I know, floppies are obsolete... but really, I bought a box of 3.5s (figuring they'd be a lifetime supply) and I'm lucky if I get a dozen rewrites out of them. That original floppy has been overwritten literally thousands of times. What gives with that?

  • by ethzer0 ( 603146 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:21PM (#5462465)
    I love my old Amiga 2000. It still does some things better than a damned PC. *sigh*
  • With all the ways to capture information we have today, these two still are quite effective.

    Other methods have more fidelity, but none have the simple human factors.

    Guess I have to add paper to this list as well...
  • TCP/IP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clevelandguru ( 612010 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:24PM (#5462513)
    The people who developed TCP/IP would have never thought it would be used as widely as it is now. ISO OSI stack was supposed to be the standard network protocol. But It failed miserably.
  • by Dr Caleb ( 121505 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:24PM (#5462518) Homepage Journal
    Think about it.

    Invented more than 100 years ago, it's been refined to a point where it is very reliable and reasonabally effecient (from a chemical energy perspective).

    Even a modern engine is still basically the same as the Ford Model T. We've just made it more effecient.

    My first car, a 1975 Buick LeSaber had an Olds 455 that sucked so much gas I needed to take out a loan to fill the tank (and gas was $.34/l). My latest car, a 2003 Mercury Marauder has a 4.6l Cobra Engine that would kick that old 455 easily. It uses 1/6 the fuel with 3/4 the displacement developing 40% more ponies, and won't need to be rebuilt as often.

  • Ballpoint pens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sowbug ( 16204 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:28PM (#5462564) Homepage
    They're pretty cool if you think about it. A whole bunch of ink that rolls out onto the paper over a tiny little ball. If you remember to keep the cap on and don't leave it on the dashboard of your car in the sun, it doesn't leak. And you can buy 12 for $1.00 at the office supply store, which if you didn't lose them all in a month would be a lifetime supply.
  • by elcheesmo ( 646907 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:29PM (#5462579)
    Over 50 years after it was introduced, it's still in use...with a few slight changes of course.
  • Ethernet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:29PM (#5462601) Homepage
    Ethernet must be at the top if the list.

    The Aloha based system was not supposed to scale. The problem pointed out by IBM / TI and others were that collisons increased as the useage increased, prohibiting a steady throughput. The problem of non predictability of packages was equally mentioned.

    Token ring and other methods were supposed to supplant Ethernet in a few years, back when we were at 1Mbps.

    10Mbps were supposed to be the EOL for ethernet.

    Where are we now? 10Gbps is getting to be deployed.

    • Re:Ethernet (Score:4, Informative)

      by geirhe ( 587392 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:35PM (#5463335)
      Ethernet must be at the top if the list. The Aloha based system was not supposed to scale.
      Ethernet is CSMA/CD, not Aloha. Aloha is where people talk regardless of what is happening, and scales like shit. Ethernet is Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Carrier Detection, a refinement of the aloha protocol which scales much better - the dip for high channel utilizations is much smaller. More info here []
      • Re:Ethernet (Score:3, Informative)

        by bstadil ( 7110 )
        FYI, The idea for Ethernet came from radio communication between islands in Hawaii.

        The system were manual but the "rules" were when you heard someone else talk you had to shut up. Both parties. Then there were stocastic rules for how long you had to wait before you re-try. The stocastic manual system minimized repeated collisions. Aloha []

  • by Astin ( 177479 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:31PM (#5462626)
    Am I the only one who notices that appliances and other electronic/mechanical devices from 15+ years ago seem to be MUCH better built than today's models? Sure, today's stuff is lighter, but that plastic seams to break much too easily. Give me a 30 year old blender that can crush ice in seconds over a new one that has a hard time with bananas anyday.

    Somewhat analagous to the space program, eh? Pioneer, Voyager, etc.. much more longevity than anything that gets sent up these days.
    • Thqats a common misperception. If you had an appliance from 15 years ago that WASNT reliable, you certainly wouldnt still have it around, it would have been replaced 14 years ago. After an initial burn in period, when most appliances fail, appliances will last for quite a long time. In My grandparents old house they have a fridge that was bought in the mid 50's that has never been broken a day in its life. In fact it outlived my grandparents. Of course, if you make appliances too reliable, no one will ever buy another, which is what happened in this case, as the company that made those refrigerators, Philco, went out of the buisness of making fridges years ago.
    • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:07PM (#5463637) Homepage
      That, my friend, is because the only things that are still around from 30 years ago are the ones that were durable. In another 30 years, people will say the same thing about today's things, because the crap will already be broken and disposed of. Sure, there will be millions of Huffy bicycles in the trash. But people will have forgotten them, and will marvel at the amazing durability of the high-end Treks and whatnot that survive.

      And the space program differences are all about cost. The Pathfinder mission (which landed on mars) was part of the Discovery series of missions, capped at $150 million. Cassini, the last of the Voyager/Pioneer-type "heavy engineering" designs cost $3.4 BILLION. Pioneer 10 cost $350 million, in 1970. Voyager 1 and 2 cost $875 million together, in 1977. (those obviously need some inflation adjustment to be fair to a 1996 mission, but even Pioneer is more than double the cost without adjustment!) Of course there's going to be a performance difference when you pay many times as much. Even so, Galileo (another old-school nasa design) cost $1.6 billion, and its main antenna never opened. Would you rather have 10 cheap missions where 8 fail, or one expensive mission that fails?

      Sure, we've lost lots of recent mars missions. But all added together, they barely cost as much as some of those single probes.


      pioneer cost []

      cassini cost []

      voyager cost []

      pathfinder cost []

  • by dracken ( 453199 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:31PM (#5462627) Homepage
    Why Unix and C ofcourse ! Its really amazing that the creativity of one man (oh well, two men) is still going strong now (granted it had many overhauls). The entire concept of operating system has been influenced by Unix. We think processes and files. The beautiful simplicity and elegance! As far as C is concerned, the syntax and the semantics is elegant. (So elegant that I place semicolons at the end of sentences rather than a period).
  • by Savatte ( 111615 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:33PM (#5462652) Homepage Journal
    Quake, Super Mario Brothers 1 and especially 3. Sure the technology may be old and there are newer and flashier games, but these games are still fun to play, and I can't imagine I'm the only one who thinks so.
  • My jeep. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Exantrius ( 43176 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:38PM (#5462713)
    Any conversation about miracle technology has to include my jeep-- There are others out there just as good, but mine is special.

    It's a 93 jeep with 300,000 miles on it, mostly original engine (replaced after about 400 miles. See police car below). Original transmission, and, well, basically over it's lifetime, we've put maybe 25000 dollars into it-- including buying it new and only two major technical breaks in its lifetime (transfer case and shorted computer chip), and all of the copays.

    Three of the accidents were my family's fault-- Including the drunk in the truck. Cop called it her fault, but failed to give her a breathalyzer-- small town, cop didn't want to arrest his mom's friend. drunk contested, because of how she hit us, it looked like it was our fault, and no proof she was drunk. Let this be a lesson to you-- ALWAYS require a breathalyzer, even if it's obvious they're drunk, or the cop doesn't want to-- you can request it, and if the first cop won't, call 911, and say you were hit by a drunk driver.

    Things that it's been hit by:
    A) Big Rig
    B) Police Car
    C) Drunk in truck
    D) New driver in new truck.
    E) Idiot in el camino.
    F) at least three other actionable accidents (had to have almost every panel replaced-- the roof is the one exception.

    The most remarkable thing, 90% of the miles were put on within its first 5 years. After three years (180k miles), my parents stopped giving it regular maintenance("well, we're gonna sell it soon, what does it matter"), followed by not replacing the brakes. Six months later, they gave it an oil change. a year later "well, the brakes aren't getting any better".

    Most of my friends received new cars on graduating HS, or before or during the first couple years of college. I got the beast because the dealer was going to give them only like 1800 trade in on it-- So my parents signed it over to me. Most of said friends have since seen their cars blow up/go kaput/stop moving.

    Other than the cd player and the oil leak, there's nothing wrong with mine :-) *furiously knocks on wood* /Ex
  • Colt M1911 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:39PM (#5462739) Homepage Journal
    This is a firearm originally designed in the 1900's that is still one of the most popular designs of all time. The 1911 is considered by many to be as accurate, reliable, and rugged as any of the most modern firearms available. I inherited one that had originally been made for the U.S. Army in 1918 and belonged to my great-grandfather; it still functions perfectly to this day.
  • IBM PC/AT keyboards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:41PM (#5462756) Homepage
    I've got four of the old beasts and they all work like champs. The oldest is about 15 years old and apart from a missing keycap it is in perfect working order. Best keyboards money can buy.
  • by cbuskirk ( 99904 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:44PM (#5462792)
    Unless your old laptop burst into flames, if you have owned an Apple product, you understand that Macs are a hell of alot cheaper in the long run than any computer out there.
  • by ethank ( 443757 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:46PM (#5462819) Homepage
    The Mars pathfinder mission lasted far longer than anticipated.

    Pathfinder's lander had operated nearly three times its
    design lifetime of 30 days, and the Sojourner rover operated 12 times its design lifetime of seven days.
  • Easy one.. Paper! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:48PM (#5462832) Journal
    Seriously! Given the number of times the "death of the paper document" was predicted
    and the amount of "paperless office" ideas floated,
    one must say that there is still nothing like good old hardcopy.

    In fact, computers have increased the amount of paper used.
    A rep. for a paper-mill I once visited said that the laser printer was the best thing that ever happened to them.

    Computers are great for distribution. But they've got a long way to go
    if they want to beat paper at (text) presentation.
  • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:49PM (#5462842) Homepage
    Look at any aircraft, and the main movement is governent by these four:

    Ailerons (via "wing warping).

    That basic configuration hasn't changed since Orville and Wilber used it in 1903.
  • Microwave (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Salamander ( 33735 ) <`su.pyta.lp' `ta' `ffej'> on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:52PM (#5462882) Homepage Journal

    When microwaves first came out, people thought of them as a new way of cooking the same old foods, quicker. Nice, but not earth-shattering. Since then, though, microwaves have spawned a whole new kind of cooking. Whole supermarket aisles are full of products that have been specially formulated to be microwave-friendly, or that wouldn't exist at all without the microwave. People's lifestyles have changed because of the microwave. If you looked around at all the gadgets in the average person's house, you'd be hard pressed to find more than a couple whose absence would be more keenly felt than the microwave...the computer, the TV, the phone. All of those were expected to be revolutionary though, so they haven't exceeded expectations as the title asks. The microwave has had a much more profound effect than expected.

  • by eyefish ( 324893 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @05:54PM (#5462912)
    Who would have imagined that after 20 years the C= 64 is STILL being sold in places like china? (last I read it was selling a MILLION units a year).

    But that's not all, the machine was hacked so much *in software* that near the end of its life in the western world hackers could display 640 x 480 (oe 640 x 400?) high resolution graphics on a chip hardwired to produce only 320 x 240 (I think those are the numbers if I recall correctly, might be 320 x 200). Hackers also broke the sprite (i.e.: high-speed moving/animated graphics blocks) barrier from 8 (or 16?) to basically an unlimited number. Hackers also figured out a way to display graphics in the "overscan" area (i.e.: the black area around the display), thus increasing even more the resolution. You can also find software-based synthesizers that could extend the number of sound voices to 6 (or 8?). There were also hacks to make it seem as if it could display hundreds of colors (as opposed to 16).

    Up to this day millions are still used for all kinds of control applications (robotics, telecom, industrial, etc).

    I guess we could call this machine the world's most hacked machine ever (and pretty close in second place was probably the Commodore Amiga).

    • Why doesn't someone make machines like this anymore? Something that could so infinitely be tinkered with? I'd sure buy one. Hell I'd buy parts for it and automate my room. :-)

      Oh, and as for old technology, my original Apple ][c is still working (the ugly fat beige one), complete with original disk drives and green monitor.

      The green monitor is the neatest part, it takes a standard RCA video cable. It really freaks people out to see themselves on camera on an ancient green computer monitor, but hey, Apples have always had better graphics. ;-)

      Where can I buy myself a nice C=64 these days? I'd love to own one, emulation is fun but nothing beats the real deal.

      PS One more thing, if you like the C64, you might check out the SidStation [], a synthesizer built with the C64's SID6581 sound chip. It has been used in numerous famous songs such as Zombie Nation's "KernKraft 400" (yes, that's right, the lead in that song came from a Commadore 64's sound chip). Kind of neat, and if you're into the whole techno thing, a novelty piece of gear, especially because they're limited. From Their site:
      The SID6581 is a very cool little soundchip, built like no other. Its original techniques have resulted in a very special sound with unique realtime control possibilities.

      Housed in a 28-pin DIP-capsule it is a mixture of digital and analogue technology with phase accumulated oscillators and analogue multimode NMOS filter. It has inherited the character and individuality from the analogue world, sometimes appearing to have a life of its own.

      SID6581 was a part of the Commodore 64 - the computer with the most active hacker community ever. This meant that thousand of hackers and musicians explored every little corner of the chip, trying to beat each other in doing the most advanced and interesting sounds. Over time hackers came up with many original ideas on how to squeeze even cooler sounds out of the chip.

      What this means for the SidStation is that not only the SID chip is original in sound, but the way it is programmed is based on over 10 years of experience from the C64 hacker community. No other synth chip has had this chance.
    • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:31PM (#5463290) Homepage
      You have several good points (4, or 6?) in there.

      Someone, mod this up to 3 (or 5?).

      The Commodore 64 (or 66?) was definately a cool piece of hardware, but at age 12 (if I am accurately recalling my age; 14?) I had to suffer with a Tandy Color Computer 2 (or 3?). :)

  • by mikey573 ( 137933 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:29PM (#5463274) Homepage
    The Pioneer and calculator examples suggest "technology that has long surpassed its expected life time (durability)", while the main question asks about items that have exceeded their original expect uses (functionality).

    I'm not too impressed with durability claims when it only involves a sample size of one. Do you know anyone else who owns the same model of your calculator?
  • by Angelwrath ( 125723 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:31PM (#5463287)
    The drying of a cheese-based mixture that, when combined with boiled, complex carbohdrates makes something relied upon by Men and students all over the world.

    Ah, Kraft Mac & Cheese....
  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:48PM (#5463454) Homepage
    With a half-life of 24,000 years, it takes a lickin' and still keeps you from tickin'.
  • GalileoSpace Probe! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @06:53PM (#5463486)
    Launched October 18, 1989 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It had some technical problems in 1991 (high gain antenna wouldn't deploy) but they were able to use the low gain antenna to send data back at a vastly slower rate).

    It became the first spacecraft to take a close up photo of an asteriod and when it reacher Jupiter in 1995, the first space craft to drop a probe into a gas giant. It's mission was to last only until 1997, but it was given a two year extension. The mission continued another three years AFTER the extension, sending its last scientific data back in November 2002 as it passed the moon Amalthea. In August of this year it will burn up in Jupiters atmosphere.

    The spacecraft has operated over twice as long as expected and has taken three times the radiation it was designed for, and still it mostly works. The plunge into Jupiter is because the craft is running low on fuel and they would rather burn it up than risk having it possibly slam into Europa, contaminating it before we can check for native ba cterial life there.

    While it's certainly not lasted as long as Pioneer, it has taken one hell of a beating from the intense radiation of Jupiter, the tidal stresses of orbiting the gas giant and its planet sized moons as well as flying through toxic (and possibly caustic) volcanic plumes kicked off of the surface of Io by eruptions.

    So I would say that Gallileo is in fact in the same class as Pioneer when it comes to be being built tough.
  • USENET! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:09PM (#5463646) Homepage
    The death of USENET was predicted many times (like, "when those AOL people get access, it'll all be over), and it's still going strong.

    It's still a little weird; may people post without having any idea what USENET is, but it still works, and is still (sort of) useful even with trolls and spam.

  • My vote goes to... (Score:4, Informative)

    by NewbieV ( 568310 ) <.victor.abrahams ... .at.> on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:18PM (#5463706)
    The humble paperclip.

    From a history of the paperclip on []:

    "Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian inventor with a degree in electronics, science and mathematics, invented the paperclip in 1899. He received a patent for his design from Germany in 1899, since Norway had no patent laws at that time. Johan Vaaler was an employee at a local invention office when he invented the paperclip. He received an American patent in 1901 -- patent abstract "It consists of forming same of a spring material, such as a piece of wire, that is bent to a rectangular, triangular, or otherwise shaped hoop, the end parts of which wire piece form members or tongues lying side by side in contrary directions." Johan Vaaler was the first person to patent a paperclip design, although other unpatented designs might have existed first."

    Over 100 years old and still going strong...
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:36PM (#5463817) Homepage
    Starting as a mere communications and education system, it has evolved into a multibillion dollar entertainment, marketing and anti-privacy engine, becoming a huge single point-of-failure that could collapse the world's economy within days.

    Who woulda thunkit.
  • Shuttle software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drix ( 4602 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @07:38PM (#5463831) Homepage
    No, this is not sarcasm or irony. The software that runs the Space Shuttles, to this day, was written in the early 70s. The computers they're running on, IBM AP-101s, were designed in the 60s. There have been a few upgrades over the years but nothing major, e.g. in 1992 they went from magnetic disks to solid state storage. The guts of the system, 400,000 lines of HAL/S, remain the same. NASA has no plans to change that, either; the software just works too well. The difference being able to read gyro data at 1000 times a second with 1960s hardware, versus 10,000,000 a second with today's, is meaningless. Statistically, the software has <1 bug, and none that impact the performance. Basically, it's perfect, and it will continue to exist as long as the shuttles themselves do. (Speaking of outlasting your design, NASA recently decided that the shuttles wouldn't be replaced until 2020, meaning that they could theoretically be launching a 40-year airframe some day. That's older than any school bus you ever rode on, and your school bus wasn't being frozen, pressurized, launched at 3Gs, and torched to 2500 degrees, six times a year, either.)
  • by fname ( 199759 ) on Friday March 07, 2003 @08:25PM (#5464169) Journal
    I think we have to remember that "technology" is not really synonymous with electronics/ computers. And the original example was more of an item than a class of technologies.

    So with that in mind, I nominate the Great Wall of China, still standing after all these years. I think it qualifies whereas things like the Pyramids don't, in that they never served any real function. I bet the wall would still work pretty well today, if there was a war. Not perfect, but good.

    If the goal was to pick classes of technologies, I think most of the responses here are exceptionally shortsighted. I think sail technology, the steam engine and the wheel had a lot more staying power, and who knew?

    I think there are some good specific examples. Any real old bridges out there? Panama Canal is great, 'course it was designed to last a long time. I bet there are some irrigation ditches somewhere that were dug thousands of years ago, and still work. Stepped hillsides fall into that category, too. Most people who built them probably paid no heed to them lasting longer.

    Pioneer is unique, because there was really no way to maintain it, and it was a 1 (or 2) shot deal. Those HP calcs are fine, but have more than 10% lasted this long? I'd love t hear about some scarecrow that's been scaring away crows for 200 years without a person laying his hands on it. What's the longest any manufactured item has lasted (and remained useful) for without human intervention? Kudos to the winner.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller