In Praise of Old Technologies

A bit of a oxymoron, I know, but in these days of planned obsolescence, last year’s technology can be dismissed as ‘old’.

Now, I’m no pitchfork-wielding Luddite demanding a return to the good old days before the Industrial Revolution. It would make it harder to have a blog, for a start. But I do think there is a case to be made for some of the old technologies.

Angry peasant mob

Take my sewing machine, for example. (Please don’t – I’m using it.) It was made soon after World War II by Japanese craftsmen, in an early example of the time-honoured principle of using someone else’s idea and selling more of it (the idea in this case being Mr Singer‘s).

It is largely composed of cast iron and weighs about as much as a moderately-sized child. I wouldn’t call it indestructible, but if I dropped it on the floor I’d be more worried about the floor than the machine.

Ceiling Hole

The best thing about it is how relationally-friendly it is. OK, the marketing guff on modern machines probably talks about how quiet they are instead (it’s a shorter word, to begin with), but the result is the same. And I’ll bet mine’s quieter. I can have it running at full speed (i.e. as fast as I can turn the handle) and still keep up an audible conversation. In a whisper.

Not to mention my machine is about as old as the oldest surviving member of my family, and is still in perfect working order. Look so good when you are sixty, you will not, o sewing machine of today!

iWaste

It isn’t just sewing machines. I’ve mentioned before that I write with a fountain pen (more than one, in fact). I wouldn’t give one to a five year old, perhaps, but once you’ve mastered the art of writing, using a fountain pen is not all that esoterically difficult. And it’s beautiful, fun, and better for the environment – same as the sewing machine.

And then there’s the candle-lamp with glass shade I inherited from my grandmother. No naked flames, so it’s fire-safe, but it provides enough light for me to read by. Again, there is no obsolescence, planned or otherwise. As long as they keep making machine needles, candles and ink, I’m set.

Reading By Lamplight

Of course, there are those who are all for the new and shiny and can’t imagine why someone would see value in the pre-penicillin era. Well, we’re rapidly approaching a post-penicillin era, so at least I’ll fit in.
And when the fossil fuels run out (or the price is more than most can afford), will my life be obsolete? No. I’ll be sewing, writing or reading, by the light of my candle-lamp – just as I do now.

What’s your favourite ‘old technology’ – or would you like to make a case for the new? If you’d like to make the argument for no technology at all, get off the internet, you hypocrite! That aside, all comments welcomed – have your say.

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