"A 'landline' phone, you say?"
May 24, 2013 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Tech writers and their secret shame - outdated gear.
posted by Chrysostom (121 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
/laughs at all the young people, then sulks due to age.
posted by Artw at 6:16 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also you probably can be a tech writer now and have $400 be the most you've ever laid out for a bit of equipment, but wow...
posted by Artw at 6:19 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"To be a blogger today makes you feel a little like Norma Desmond after silent movies were replaced by talkies: ‘I'm still big; it's the internet that got small!’”
Pretty much.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:22 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, Technology Writers, not Technical Writers.
posted by tilde at 6:22 AM on May 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


And now I'm trying to think of the oldest piece of electronics gear I have that I use regularly, and I think it might be my Roku, which is sort of sad.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:28 AM on May 24, 2013


I like old tech. There's something about newer gadgets that just have to do all the things, the most obvious example being the smartphone. It seems to have creeped in to everything now, though, like cameras that are now camcorders and GPS receivers and wifi hotspots and whatever else they can cram in there.

On the other hand, I look at some of the stuff I still have stashed in drawers and closets and wonder how the hell did that ever fit in my pocket?!

Some stuff I have around that I still use:
-An old Garmin eTrex GPS, black and white screen. It needs a database update but is otherwise very usable.
-Two manual typewriters, a Remington and a portable Royal. Mostly showpieces now but they're useful for printing addresses on envelopes and other stuff like that. I wrote most of my papers in high school on the Royal.
-The cameras, oh god the cameras. Two manual Canons from the '60s, a couple of Pentax knockoffs, and two TLRs. I avoided digital until I didn't have a darkroom anymore.

Perhaps the oldest piece of tech I still use on a regular basis is the autopilot in the plane. That right there is an analog computer original to the airplane (so... manufactured sometime in the 70s I believe).
posted by backseatpilot at 6:29 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This technical writer just bought his first non-electric typewriter. Pretty excited.

(Remington Rand 5 Deluxe, if you're curious)

It'll be a nice addition. I fell in love with the model at a recent typewriter event, and I figure it'll give me the kick in the pants to start writing regularly and with discipline outside of work. Strictly speaking, I've often thought about getting a typewriter, but was never really impressed with the idea of getting a typewriter just to have a typewriter. But finding a specific model that was a joy to use? That is indeed the ticket.

People often forget that it's not about the newest technology, but about the best technology for the job. Try everything, find what works for you!
posted by Eideteker at 6:29 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


“Or,” he continues, “maybe there is a simpler explanation: You can't order a car stereo off Amazon, which is where I get the rest of my stuff.”

Say what?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:31 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


In regular use? Probably the cassette tape player in my 15 year old car. I have a slightly less ancient cassette adaptor that came with a CD player that still gets used with my iPods, and now iPhones.

Parents are holding onto an old rotary dial phone, even though they have more modern phones around the house.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:31 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably this Olduwan-period hand axe I use to crush herbs and the skulls of my foes
posted by theodolite at 6:32 AM on May 24, 2013 [38 favorites]


When I was applying to techy new-media-oriented advertising jobs, my roommate who works in the industry said to me "you know, you'll have to get rid of your shitty old [three-year-old, perfectly functional] phone if you get one of those jobs." I decided to go for another nonprofit job instead.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a glass window. I can look through it to see what's happening outside without actually going outside. It's wonderful.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:35 AM on May 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


I love outdated gear. I have a 12 year old Metz strobe I use with a brand new Fuji system. I have a Model M keyboard that came from an IBM RS/6000 Unix workstation - I use it with my Macs and Linux boxes.

I buy new outdated gear, because sometimes, the design was done right from the beginning: Cape Cod weeder and Yankee screwdriver and Opinel pocket knife. They offer the satisfaction of work being done well, which is actually hard to find in a tool.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:36 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Glass windows are okay if you like to follow trends, I guess. For me, though, nothing beats the ambiance of oiled paper.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:37 AM on May 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


So I had to catalog what I've got ...

An Arrow Portable Typewriter that's older than my parents. I it use when I have to fill out paper forms (though I'm looking to replace it with a 1980s era Smith Corona so the kids can fill out their own darn forms and practice typing).

A push button phone that's probably from the mid 1980s that we use when the power is out.

A lava-rock pestle and mortar that is merely a replicate of one I grew up with for smashing food into bits.

A tape deck / bookshelf stereo that dates from my high school years. I should try my tape/ipod converter from my old car to see it it works ... with my iPod mini that the kids use as a "wake up" alarm.
posted by tilde at 6:37 AM on May 24, 2013


RonButNotStupid: "I have a glass window. I can look through it to see what's happening outside without actually going outside. It's wonderful."

Get the right kind, and you'll be able to see into the past.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vernier calipers
Yankee push drill (original, not the $70 replica)
A Bostich stapler that shames all the bigger Swingline things that are supposedly the high standard now
Handspring Visor
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:43 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


God forbid we forget to consume the latest crap.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:45 AM on May 24, 2013


Just the other day I thought it was kind of funny that the main thing advertised in Wired magazine seems to be watches. Even I don 't use those anymore and I am an old.
posted by srboisvert at 6:45 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


If we aren't limited to electronic gear, I have multiple machining items from the early-to-mid 20th century. Lathe and mill were built in the mid-50s and some of the tooling (micrometers and whatnot) are likely from before that. One thread gauge I have is from the 1890s. All bought used, obvs, and for very reasonable prices compared to original and also compared to buying a comparable thing now.

Also many old (hand-powered) garden implements.
posted by DU at 6:46 AM on May 24, 2013


Non tech gear would have to be my Grandfather's Case knife that he took to Vietnam. Still carry it on a regular basis.

As for tech: At work I still use a G4 MDD tower and at home it's a younger G5.
posted by stltony at 6:49 AM on May 24, 2013


Does my shovel count?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:54 AM on May 24, 2013


The oldest gear I have in regular use is probably my collection of audio equipment, most hailing from the 80's (JBL L-100t speakers, Kenwood Basic M2 amp, Carver CT-17 preamp, Magnavox CDB-650 CD player), with a couple of choice pieces dating from my high-school days of the mid-70's (Pioneer SX-650 receiver, Technics SL-2000 turntable). All still in glorious working-order.

No smartphone for me. I'm still rocking my venerable VX-5300.

Computers are a different sort of beast, though. I still have my PowerCenter 150 (OS 8!) but it sits unused these days. My PowerMac 2x2 G5 is still being used by my son, but only rarely.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on May 24, 2013


Handspring Visor

I was very sad when my old Handspring Edge bit the dust. That was a fine little pocket computer. The Treo really paved the way for the iPhone.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:55 AM on May 24, 2013


I'm waiting to hear what the upgrade to a landline phone is. It certainly isn't a cell phone, with its shitty underwater voice quality and half duplex audio. That is, when it works at all, which doesn't really happen reliably in US cities. VoiP phones and Skype are only an "upgrade" in that they're cheaper. They're significantly less effective technology.
posted by Nelson at 6:55 AM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I still carry a steno pad. I'm still pretty good at shorthand.
posted by The Whelk at 6:58 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Silly Nelson, cell phones aren't for voice calls. Transmitting the human voice is a secondary use case.
posted by gilrain at 6:59 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Marty McFly's (and now, Walter White's) watch.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:00 AM on May 24, 2013


'62 Fender Jaguar
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:00 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm an incorrigible thrower-of-things-out, so I think the oldest piece of tech in my house is a TI-89 calculator, which is fairly old tech but is still sold new.
posted by gilrain at 7:02 AM on May 24, 2013


Silly Nelson, cell phones aren't for voice calls. Transmitting the human voice is for backwards compatibility with meat Popsicles .

FTFY
posted by tilde at 7:03 AM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


My IBM Model M is as old as I am (ok, a year younger), and almost works as well as anything else I own. (But that's the PS/2-USB converter's fault.) When it does work, it's the best keyboard imaginable, though I'm sure my officemates would disagree.

PING PING PING P-PING K-CHAK PING PING K-CHACK
posted by supercres at 7:08 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


cell phones aren't for voice calls

Goodness knows an iPhone in San Francisco or New York certainly isn't voice capable. But you're only proving my point that landlines aren't obsolete. Wired phones deliver lovely voice quality. As a bonus they work even without power in the house.
posted by Nelson at 7:11 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still have a landline phone. I've got one of those newfangled sets of several cordless phones on it, but also an old 1970's (or maybe very early 80's - it has touch-tone) bell desk phone, and a mid-1980's wall phone. I might still have a typewriter from the 80's, but I'm not sure. My family got rid of my dad's old typewriter which he used well into the 21st century - it was old enough to have a cent key and didn't have a "1" because you just used the lower case L. Also, my truck dates to 1996.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:12 AM on May 24, 2013


Just last week I fired up the ol' Laserdisc machine and watched "Let It Be". Today I'll be making DVDs of the 1984 World Series sourced from the Betamax tape I made (in 1984). Still having problems finding blank cartridges for my 8-Track recorder/player, though.
posted by TDavis at 7:12 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can order a car stereo from Amazon, but it doesn't come with someone to put it in, and as someone who has built my own PCs on a number of occasions, that process has intimidated me ever since an actual professional once installed my ex's car stereo in such a way that it disabled the turn signals. Which is, really, the reason I just have the stock tape deck in my car, too. I briefly had a bluetooth FM adapter. It worked terribly. In practical terms, if I'm in the car alone? I usually listen with one earbud in.
posted by Sequence at 7:14 AM on May 24, 2013


I carry a pocket watch . Makes my wife absolutely insane to see a chain coming out of my pocket (in this part of the U.S., a chain going from your belt to your pocket is more closely identified with people who wear camouflage underwear), but there you go.
posted by Mooski at 7:16 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also the only phone in my house is a big black Bakelite rotary and I wear suspenders and wool shirts and I may or may not be unstuck in time.
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh right, and the pocket watch, and the vests, and piano....
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2013


Aw, I need to get the spring in my pocket watch replaced, but I honestly don't know where I would go to do it. So it sits, alone, in my jewelry drawer with three wristwatches and a wrist sundial.

I also have a couple of fountain pens, but I bought them new in the last month, so I don't think that counts.

I do have a huge pile of dot matrix printer paper I use for scratch work. Been burning through it for almost ten years and it's finally almost gone. Tearing the sides off is the best part. I miss making banners in Print Shop Deluxe on my IIgs.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:21 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have this Waring Blendor (yes, that's how it's spelled) from the thirties that I bought for $5 in a house sale twenty years ago and use almost every day. The thing is just unkillable; it's made of chromed steel, heavy pressed glass and bakelight and is so amazingly better built and durable than any consumer product made today.

I also have a couple of power tools from the seventies that I inherited from my dad, a 1/2 drill and a rotary saw, that make most modern power tools look like plasticy pieces of junk in comparison.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on May 24, 2013


I have one of those Safety Bicycles, a vast improvement over my old bone-shaker. It has hand brakes, and a confoundedly complicated drive-train. It allows me to stop at a moment's notice!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:22 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife does most of her sewing on treadle and handcrank sewing machines that are more than a hundred years old.
posted by drezdn at 7:25 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


HP-12C (my Dad's). which I will often use despite having two computers with R and or Excel open. Actually, I most often use it to check results from R or Excel.
posted by shothotbot at 7:26 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just updated the software on my circa 2001 Garmin eTrex GPS last light. Going hiking this weekend and we are trying to find something that is off trail and all I have is the GPS coordinates of the historical marker. I hadn't used the eTrex in probably 8 years but I guess I should not have been surprised that there is still an active user base and Garmin even updated the software as recently as 2008.

I've got a mountain bike in the garage that I bought in 1992. It still works just fine.
posted by COD at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2013


My portable stereo is an iPod, vintage 2006, that I've hotrodded with an SDD for a lot more storage and battery efficiency. I'm wearing a Seiko automatic watch from the 80s. The keyboard on my computer at home is a late-1980s Apple Extended Keyboard (lovely clicky keys!). The home stereo has myriad components, the oldest being a 1959 Fisher integrated amp (there's an older Harmon-Kardon Citation preamp on the shelf below it, but that's non-working).

The oldest thing I use every day is a Waterman fountain pen that's about 90 years old.
posted by ardgedee at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the oldest tech I own or use but I get some grief for our TV, the only one in the house - a 32" flat screen we bought in 2007. It puzzles me. My response is always the same: if you showed a HD broadcast on it to someone from 1985 they'd think you were a golden god.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2013


...my TV is from 1998.

And this is being typed on an iPad 1.

We fear change.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 AM on May 24, 2013


32" flat screen we bought in 2007

We have two TVs in the house. a 52" rear projection that I bought in 2002, and a 36" tube TV that I also bought in 2002. The tube is going on the 36" TV, the picture is fuzzy for about 5 minutes when you first turn it on. Given it's that last tube TV I'll ever own, I'm hesitating on replacing it, even though the picture quality is deteriorating noticeably.
posted by COD at 7:31 AM on May 24, 2013


My TV is also from 1998. I bought it when I moved into a house with a big den, and realized that my previous tv was tiny in the room. So I got a bigger one.

I use fountain pens regularly - including to write actual checks which I put in the mail to pay bills - but they're less than 15 years old.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2013


> “I am scared of car audio guys,” he says.

Wise man.

I just inherited my dad's old (i.e. mid-'70s) Kenwood KR-5600 stereo receiver. It looks and sounds great. And my wife still uses her 35mm camera.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a bunch of Pentax glass from the 60s and 70s but I don't think "outdated" is the right word: if an object still functions perfectly and hasn't been superceded by something better, than it's not outdated.

Since precious few manual primes with nice dampened focusing motions exist these days (or none? not sure) and the optics haven't really undergone any tech progress...

HP-12C (my Dad's). which I will often use despite having two computers with R and or Excel open. Actually, I most often use it to check results from R or Excel.

This is still the standard in accounting firms AFAIK. It works, it's durable, people understand it.
posted by selfnoise at 7:40 AM on May 24, 2013


I just updated the software on my circa 2001 Garmin eTrex GPS last light.

How did you manage that, by the way? If I remember correctly, mine came with a weird serial-to-proprietary cable and I don't think my computer even has a serial port anymore...
posted by backseatpilot at 7:40 AM on May 24, 2013


My wheel hoe is the oldest thing I use regularly I should put a gps on it
posted by mrgroweler at 7:44 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where I used to work, we had adding machines...that did fractions. (these were also the guys who had me print out emails, hand-wrote their responses below the printout, and had me type responses.)

Personally, I've got a calculator (casio fx-115) from high school in 1992. My chemistry teacher made me get it after I asked if I could use a log table help me on tests - for fun, I'd been multiplying, dividing, adding, and subtracting out longhand, but powers are a little trickier. In college, we were required to get HP48 graphing calculators. I accidentally ran over mine, bluescreening it (literally - LCD leak). That Casio got me through the rest of engineering school.
posted by notsnot at 7:48 AM on May 24, 2013


I have an Osterizer Classic VIII blender that my mom got around 1960. I think two speeds are dead on it, but otherwise it runs like a champbeast. I use it for making pesto or creamed soups.

My mother-in-law refused to pay the extra fee to get touch-tone on her phone line at her house when the phone company made the switch over. Therefore, all the land lines are pulse tone/rotary dial.

Otherwise, it's antique hand tools.
posted by plinth at 7:51 AM on May 24, 2013


If we're talking kitchen appliances, my parents had an electric griddle that was given to them as a wedding gift in 1967. When it conked out last summer during a family vacation everybody was actually kind of sad.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2013


Two items I'd list:

1. A Radio Shack remote control light switch. Two boxes, one mission, which it has performed flawlessly since its purchase in 1992.

2. A Fisher stereo receiver I purchased in 1980 that won't die and actually sounds pretty sweet. Indestructible. Analogue tuner and VR meters are the cherries on top.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:58 AM on May 24, 2013


I have an 82 Electra phoenix that I use to play punk rock pretty regularly.

Now what's more outdated, the guitar? Or the punk rock?
posted by lumpenprole at 8:00 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh and I have a wood and steel manual push lawn-mower that might be from the twenties, not sure since they never really changed much over the years.
posted by octothorpe at 8:07 AM on May 24, 2013


I've never owned an autofocus film camera with motor drive. My main bodies are F3s, the Bronica SQ-A gets pulled out on occasion, and I love those 70s Japanese rangefinders with fast lenses. They feel so good and usually aren't more than $60 used for a small, unobtrusive camera with a 1.8 normal lens.

I suppose CDs are outdated in a certain way, and since they don't have the tactile nostalgia or purported quality of vinyl, we won't see a fashionable renaissance anytime soon. I've got some of those and the machines to play them— frustratingly so in my car, where I also have a tape adapter hooked up with an infernal cable that always tangles.

The thing I plug into that cable? Working 3G iPod.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:07 AM on May 24, 2013


Also you probably can be a tech writer now and have $400 be the most you've ever laid out for a bit of equipment, but wow...

I think he meant that $400 was the most he'd spent on anything at that time (i.e., his late teens/early twenties), not the most he has ever spent on anything.
posted by asnider at 8:08 AM on May 24, 2013


I just updated the software on my circa 2001 Garmin eTrex GPS last light.

How did you manage that, by the way?


You can buy a USB to that weird 4-pin connector on the Garmin cable on Ebay.
posted by COD at 8:10 AM on May 24, 2013


Has to be the rotary phone. The rotary phone that was in my parents house. Back in the sixties.

If only it had caller ID. Hardly anyone calls on the land-line that isn't trying to sell me something...
posted by Windopaene at 8:16 AM on May 24, 2013


“Probably my little notepad and pen,”

This.

I get so much more joy out of writing notes by hand, or marking up printouts of written work before going back to edit them on the computer. And, if you don't care about gettin' all Moleskine- or Field-Notes-fancy, a tiny spiral-bound notebook is pretty darned cheap. I keep on waiting for the perfect e-ink writing tool to come along, but until it does I'ma keep killing trees.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:16 AM on May 24, 2013


> I have this Waring Blendor (yes, that's how it's spelled) from the thirties that I bought for $5 in a house sale twenty years ago and use almost every day. The thing is just unkillable; it's made of chromed steel, heavy pressed glass and bakelight and is so amazingly better built and durable than any consumer product made today.

Oh man, my parents have two of them, and for the longest time it took me forever to figure out why milkshakes made in them tasted better than any other milkshakes. And then I realized the distinct flavor / smell was ozone, because the motor on that thing is just a giant coil of copper and magnets in the base.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, man, GPS units.

I have a sort of "long bet" style thing going with a friend that GPS is probably going to be in hindsight one of the great advances of the late 20th century, second only to the Internet. But I think it's one of those things that people take so completely for granted that it doesn't seem as impressive as it ought to.

I'd love to find a working Magellan NAV 1000, which was the first GPS that I ever actually saw. It was so expensive at the time that the guy who had it -- who wasn't even the owner, it was owned by a government agency -- got visibly nervous anytime anyone else was holding it.

I bought a Magellan GPS 300 a few years later as a result of that demonstration, which I still own, and still works just fine. I think it was basically the first reasonably-priced consumer oriented GPS receiver. It's almost useless without a map (all it does is tell you the coordinates where you are, or the distance and direction to a known point that you enter), but I can't really bear to get rid of it. It was such an amazing gadget when I got it, because it seemed like magic. It's just a black box with some buttons, and you turn it on and wait a while and maybe wave it around a little, and then it tells you exactly where you are. "How does it work?" "Satellites." That felt like living in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just two days ago I threw out almost all my cassette tapes and a bunch of thrift store records, as I didn't replace my tape deck when it died a couple years ago and I've never owned a record player in the first place.
posted by Jahaza at 8:20 AM on May 24, 2013


Unfortunately I lost my TI-83 in college, but MuddDude still uses the TI-89 he got in high school. My dad pretends to still use his slide rule, but that's just for show.

I pull out the old Motorola RAZR when I'm between phones - it's a great phone, and I'm always tempted to keep using it and use a smart"phone" with no data plan just as a pocket computer.
posted by muddgirl at 8:21 AM on May 24, 2013


Absolutely ecstatic that someone else used a cassette adapter to play mp3 music in their older car! Sadly, they don't make the right cassette adapters any more for certain players.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:21 AM on May 24, 2013


If only it had caller ID. Hardly anyone calls on the land-line that isn't trying to sell me something...

You can get a Caller ID box with glorious early '90s product design for $10 online.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If only it had caller ID.

When Caller ID first came out as a feature, they made external CID displays that you plugged in between your phone jack and your actual telephone. My parents still have one, because their phone doesn't have a CID display itself.

If I was going to go and buy one today I'd probably check at Goodwill, for some reason they always have a pile of them next to the old phones.

I'm pretty sure the phone company sent them out for free at one point, in order to encourage people to sign up for Caller ID service (which used to cost $3.95/month or something like that).
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:24 AM on May 24, 2013




Oldest piece of tech I own is my HP-15C calculator, about 30 years old. It's not outdated though; rather, it's perfection in a calculator, and I use it regularly, even finding occasion to program it a couple of months ago.

Oldest piece of non-tech I have is probably my father's set of Keuffel & Esser drafting tools.
posted by Numenius at 8:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The few old pieces of tech I keep usually have to be currently useful to me and not older than me (helps keep the clutter down). There are two... no three exceptions to that second rule:

A Braun HL1 desk fan, which is near dead silent but still pushes a decent breeze.

My grandmother's Adler 108T, which is easier to reach for than a software calculator and is a 'separate screen' I can carry around the room.

A 50lb 1960 Raleigh Superbe Roadster I use for commuting and have used for 150+km day rides alongside carbon fiber riders, just because I'm kind of a dick.

Also, I also use a cassette adaptor for my music player in my car. They seem to have superior sound quality to fm transmitters, but I've yet to try out those bluetooth audio dongles yet.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 8:39 AM on May 24, 2013


An Atari "light-sixer" VCS. A Toshiba (!!) SA 520 amp/tuner which used to be my dad's. There is one on eBay.
posted by marienbad at 8:47 AM on May 24, 2013


In terms of electronics, my most outdated "gear" is probably my VHS/DVD combo unit, which I keep despite owning probably only 2 movies on VHS, both of which can probably be streamed on Netflix or "upgraded" to DVD for about $2 each if I go digging through the bargain bin at Walmart.

Next after that is probably my iPod "classic." I'm pretty sure I actually still have my old Discman in a box in the basement somewhere, but I don't actually use it so it doesn't count.

If we're going to speak more broadly and talk about non-electronic type stuff, then probably some of the old hand tools I got after my grandfather died. A couple of them are probably genuine antiques, but I actually use them because they're well-built tools that are a joy to work with.
posted by asnider at 8:49 AM on May 24, 2013


Electronics: My livingroom sound system is a Nordemende Samba HiFi console stereo from 1968. You have to wait for the tubes to warm up, but the sound is lovely. AM, FM, and 2 shortwave bands; the equalizer pre-sets are labelled 'orchestra', 'soft' and 'brilliant'.

Mechanical: My most-used spinning wheel dates from the mid-1800s. Outstanding design, none of my modern wheels can beat it for making fine lace yarns.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:51 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just be careful about inviting people to christenings with a spinning wheel in the house.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


At this moment I have 27 IBM-5081 cards in my shirt pocket, 3 of which are not yet written upon.
I finally brought in my model M keyboard to work a month ago, but it's flakey. I need to find a 7/32" thinwall socket so I can clean it out.
posted by MtDewd at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


We still have a landline (because 911 in Canada doesn't work on cellphones or IP phones), and I still carry a Blackberry (for work), but the piece of old tech that the family fought over was my Grandma's lid opener. A major rift between my sister-in-law and myself was averted only by a fortuitous find at a garage sale.
posted by bonehead at 8:55 AM on May 24, 2013


Between my L.A Noire binges and period movie/novel binges it was a joke that I could slip easily into 1947 without missing much but then I found myself in the smokey backstage of a burlesque theater with a no cell phone policy and william morris wallpaper, drinking an old fashioned and wearing about 40 pounds of heavy wool clothing (all period, of course) and suddenly it wasn't really a joke anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Count me in as another person who has a cassette deck in the car. I use a cassette adapter to either play my hand-me-down 2gen iPod mini or my smart phone. I also play cassettes sometimes, as I made some interesting mix tapes sourced from the radio back in junior high.

I have my TI-81 calculator somewhere that I got 21 years ago.

I also have my Grandpa's soldering iron. It's probably 40 years old by now. Mr. Nerd uses it.
posted by luckynerd at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2013


911 in Canada doesn't work on cellphones

That's not true.
posted by asnider at 9:01 AM on May 24, 2013


The difference between policy and reality: Cellphones 'difficult, frustrating' for 911 Dispatch. My understanding from the folks I know in Emergency Management Ontario is that VOIP phones continue to have problems too.
posted by bonehead at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2013


Forgot to mention my mixer. Had my mom's, but it gave out a few years back. Got another on eBay for $25.
posted by MtDewd at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2013


I've moved a lot the last few years, so things have gotten purged on a regular basis. I think the oldest tech I have that I still use regularly is my stereo receiver, from around 2000. It's old enough that the cutting edge video technology at the time was S-video, and it has no HD capability. I also have a 5-disc carousel cd changer, but I don't use that so often now that I can just plug my iPod with my entire music library into the receiver.

My car still has a tape deck, but it's from 2003 so that's somewhat excusable. I have a tape hookup for my iPod in there since there's no other way to connect.
posted by LionIndex at 9:09 AM on May 24, 2013


Sadly, they don't make the right cassette adapters any more for certain players.

The last one I bought, I found at an Auto Zone auto-parts store. The sound quality is better than those FM transmitters, but not great. My '02 Subaru's tape deck doesn't accept most of the adapters.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2013


My clock radio (Sony Dream Machine) from 1989 or so still works great.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2013


i still have a walkman. occasionally i still use it to listen to old mixtapes at work.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2013


I have a number of antique-ish woodworking hand tools. I say antique-ish, because antique is kind of a precious term to use for old restored hand tools that actually get used. Also, my body is pretty old tech, except for the machine that breathes for me when I sleep. That is one futuristic cyborg face-hugger, there. Also, add me to the pocketwatch crew. Wrist watches cease working in my presence, but I've only had to have the pocketwatch repaired once. The watch itself isn't more than five years old, but the tech is plenty old.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


From TFA: I think it's the sound system in our car 2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Oh the humanity. What an indignity having to drive a ten year old car. My '94 Accord has a tape deck. I use a cassette adapter to play tunes from my iPhone. FYI, when you're not using the tape adapter, the cassette slot is the perfect size to hold your iPhone or iPod.

Early 50s Pacemaker Speed Graphic, complete with lightsaber flash. It's the best camera I own.

It's one of the first serious cameras I used. I used to shoot a lot of Polaroid 55 P/N film. You needed to wash the negatives immediately, or put them in a water bath to hold them. I remember once doing an aerial photography shoot with a bucket of water between my feet.

But seriously, what the hell is this about these guys and "retro" stuff? Do people throw out everything after 2 years? These idiots are gushing about retro techology from 2003. Hey my everyday shoes are twice as old as that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:59 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still use fire.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:12 AM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


So you're a science friction early adopter?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:15 AM on May 24, 2013


My house if full of ancient tech. Some doesn't get used often, some just sits around gathering dust. Some I use almost every day, like . . .

- a 1972 Texas Instruments desk calculator at work
- a 1960s rotary phone at home
- a 100+ year old wall and mantle clock in my house
- a 1980's tape deck answering machine attached to my landline
- a 1982 TI-99/4a computer (this is the only "gaming console" in- my house, I've had it since new)
- a 1970's flip alarm clock
- a 1960's tube fm/am radio
- a 1950's toaster
- a 1988 IBM Model M keyboard

To hell with new. If it ain't broke, why replace it?
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2013


Even though they're far from the oldest technology I use on a regular basis, from the way people act sometimes my most outdated technology are my wristwatch and standalone mp3 player. Or, if you want to expand the scope a bit, a checkbook and paper money.
posted by ckape at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2013


I'm not sure which is older, the Palm Pro (with still functional serial cradle) or the Toshiba Libretto 70. Of course neither is as old as my S-100 bus dual 8 inch floppy disc PC running CP/M.
posted by cmdnc0 at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2013


I still shoot photos with my grandfather's 1953 Rolleicord. Not lots, but I get through maybe a dozen rolls of film a year. There's something beautiful about the constraints you adopt when you pick it up, especially when using black-and-white film: there's no zoom, nothing electronic at all, and the images are square, so you don't even have to decide which direction to hold the camera. It's just aperture, shutter speed, focus, and composition, a totally pure photographic experience.

Also expensive as hell, and it takes a week or two after you've shot the photo before you get to find out what you captured. So I use modern digital cameras too... but I suspect there will always be a place for the Rollei in my camera bag.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have my Dad's slide rule, which I haven't used since college Trig. class, which was the same year that the 1st 4 function silicon chip calculators came out, and a red dial wallphone, which someone gave me knowing I'd love it, despite not having land line service. I have a woodstove that kept my furnace use quite low this past winter, and oil lamps that are used for power outages. I also have several Model M keyboards; memail me if you desire one.
posted by theora55 at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wear shoes - that's about a 10,000 year old technology.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:56 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rushkoff wins. Writers will never stop using pen/pencil and paper.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:59 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unix.

Except it's not "outdated," because that word is ridiculous.

So probably the chief reason I dislike the tech industry is the fetishization of the new. The chief reason I like digital computing, though, is because it is a fantastic tool for preserving, extending, and adapting old ideas. I am quite glad that there's a line running more or less directly from an OS bashed together in the late 60s on a PDP-7 to the operating system that runs the macbook I'm typing this on. In his "In The Beginning was the Command Line...", Neal Stephenson describes Unix as the "Gilgamesh epic of the nerds," and that is the aspect of technology that I'm attracted to. I have a hunch that this aspect of tech — the Don Knuth, Ken Thompson, Richard Stallman line — is what's actually worthwhile about these neat little machines, with the gadgety froth out of Kevin Kelly's corner of the bay area being an irrelevant epiphenomenon (that is, when it's not straightforwardly pernicious).

When it comes to technology, I'm sort of like a Christian who's hung up on apostolic descent. If you want to impress me, don't tell me how new your toys or ideas are, tell me their histories.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:00 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


My father, himself a woodwork teacher, regularly uses his father's tools that were used to make wooden gliders for the D-Day landings. Hand drill, plane, etc. They're beautiful.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:22 AM on May 24, 2013


My father-in-law passed away recently. I was pleased to have his HP-11C and his HP-41CV calculators. I love RPN and calculators that use it are darned hard to find these days. Still trying to decide which one will end up on my desk at work.

We also discovered a Commodore 64 and disk drive in his attic. The kids are moderately intrigued by it, but they would have been more impressed if it was an NES or something like that.
posted by lhauser at 11:28 AM on May 24, 2013


I wear shoes - that's about a 10,000 year old technology.

I was going to say "wheelbarrow," but then I remembered, whoops, no, that's a solar-powered disco wheelbarrow.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:29 AM on May 24, 2013


I still carry a steno pad. I'm still pretty good at shorthand.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on May 24 [2 favorites +] [!]


These seem like song lyrics.
posted by sweetkid at 11:44 AM on May 24, 2013


So probably the chief reason I dislike the tech industry is the fetishization of the new.

There is something equally despicable about fetishization of the old. I especially despise people that think something is vintage when I bought it new.

Example: My SOL-20 microcomputer. I built it from a kit, it predates CP/M (slightly). A retrocomputing geek (yes it's retro not vintage or antique) told me I ought to restore and sell it soon, since anyone who is interested in buying it is probably elderly or retired, and the natural market will die off soon. Literally dead and buried in the cemetery.

So I'll tell you where these two opposite trends converge. I read an article somewhere today complaining about the profusion of articles that patronizingly tell "oldsters" how to use those newfangled computer devices. Then it points out that they are the generation that invented those devices, being lectured about them by little kids who grew up with those inventions and have no clue how they work.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:46 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, for me it's not about the vintage, it's about how the relation between the old and the new is like a cross-generational game of telephone. So I guess instead of fetishizing the old, I fetishize historical relationships.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:49 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an old no-name tower computer running Linux on a Pentium 3. I keep it because it's got a Zip drive and a floppy drive. You never know...

I never had an 8-track tape player. Skipped that one completely. So I've only had to buy my dinosaur music 2 or 3 times.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:23 PM on May 24, 2013


A 1962 Waring bar blender (like the one mentioned up-thread) which pulverizes ice; I got it at an antique store for $25 and it had the original owner's manual and date of purchase in a ziploc bag stuck underneath it. A digital alarm clock my dad bought me in 1982 because he got sick of waking me up for middle school. A Marantz receiver and 5-disc CD player and Cambridge Soundworks speakers from 1999 that I need to figure out how to wire my digital music to. That's about it.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:18 PM on May 24, 2013


I write down my to-do lists on a real-ass notepad.
posted by four panels at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm still using Windows XP.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:39 PM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is that a see-through coral-reef Magic 8-Ball on Kevin Kelly's outdated phone, or just wishful thinking on my part?
posted by limeonaire at 4:25 PM on May 24, 2013


Oldest tech in possession is a Hobart mixer with the glass bowl and my M keyboard. I also have some vintage yard and carpentry tools from my grandfather from the turn of the 20th century when he built his house for my grandmother. An old piece of technology in my kitchen? A hand crank, manual meat grinder gotten at an estate sale.

I am trying to decide if I will have grave goods like my father. I think his casket was filled with stuff and the six burly people carrying his casket looked like they were under some strain.
posted by jadepearl at 4:32 PM on May 24, 2013


> Probably this Olduwan-period hand axe I use to crush herbs and the skulls of my foes

I'm still using e, Π, and some other irrational constants that have been around since forever.
posted by jfuller at 5:49 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have a little 13" color TV I bought in 1986 that was our main television while I was in grad school and a bit beyond. It still works but hasn't seen regular use in about 10 years.

For a while, we had my mother's crockpot from the mid-1970s until we upgraded to a newer, bigger one. I think we gave the old one back to my mother, who probably still has it.

I still own the very first music CD I ever bought. It plays just fine.
posted by briank at 6:10 PM on May 24, 2013


I still have all of the CDs that I've ever bought, the first one was The Birds "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" probably somewhere around 1987. I don't think that I've listened to a CD directly in at least five years but I still have them.
posted by octothorpe at 6:57 PM on May 24, 2013


I'm another one with a cassette player in the car. And I have 19 years worth of tapes from when I used to be a reggae DJ. My daily driver computer at home is a 2001 G4 Mac that still runs OS9 so I can play some of my old games.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:47 AM on May 25, 2013


Treadle sewing machine. Works like a charm and will outlive me.
posted by windykites at 7:06 AM on May 25, 2013


I have too much old tech to itemize. Why replace working things with inferior if more recent and widely available iterations?

LaserJet 4 series, either the nuclear-hardened LJ4 itself, or the 4200 (still the best office workhorse there ever was.)

Chrome and wood Pioneer analog stereo equipment (70s and early 80s I think?)
Or the black plain looking Yamaha stuff from the late 80s through mid 90s.

kitchen appliances: old Osterizers (I now have two), a harvest gold kitchen aid stand mixer, a bulletproof 80s Cuisinart (DLC7), inherited Le Creuset and Corningware, good quality wood handled knives.

My dryer is probably 20+ years old. My parents had a set from early 70s that they kept on a Sears contract till Sears went down the tubes.

About a year ago I managed after many years of searching, to replace the 89 SAAB 900 convertible I grew up around with a nearly identical 91 with very low mileage. My other car is a limited commerative Grand Cherokee (the 5.9).

On preview, I have my grandmas ancient Singer now, maybe my GF will muster the patience to show stubby fingered me how to mend or make a few things; and I'd be lost without a Sony DreamMachine clock radio (problematic to replace these days, the ones available now suck).

Some things just dont need to be improved upon, and later changes are really about wider availability, cheaper production, and so on. Which has its pluses but not for longevity or capability.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:08 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno what Nelson's using, but my VOIP PolyComm is a far better phone in every measurable way than the POTS set it replaced. Modern cell phones are an upgrade to land service in any city with decent coverage; the device is smart. It remembers calls and people for you, can send messages in text or voice, and most connect to the Internet.

It's possible that in some circumstances an ancient plain-phone might produce marginally better voice quality, but it's nowhere nearly enough of an advantage to switch from the modern replacements. Good riddance.
posted by uberchet at 11:41 AM on May 31, 2013


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