They just don’t make ’em like they used to

"Droid Eris meets pavement." Image by Flickr user Robert Nelson.
“Droid Eris meets pavement” by Flickr user Robert Nelson

Six years ago, I bought a microwave. Even though it lived for part of that time in storage, after a bit of clean up, it worked, and still works perfectly. I just made breakfast in it this morning.

Nine years ago, I bought a wired, push-button phone (the kind your grandmother might still own with big, lighted buttons). Though it had been repeatedly dropped and otherwise abused throughout its life, it worked perfectly up until the day we cut the landline.

Twelve years ago we bought a Gamecube. I used it the other day to play Metroid Prime.

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Four months ago we picked up an Xbox One. Turns out it had a faulty disc drive. Now the wireless controller doesn’t work.

Six months ago I bought a faucet water filter with fancy indicator lights. Yesterday, the lights stopped working.

Nine months ago I bought a new phone. Last week I dropped it just right and the screen broke.

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Maybe I’m experiencing a cyclical period of bad luck, but I’m kind of in awe at just how many pieces of electronic equipment that pepper my life have recently, in one way or another, died.

After last week’s incident with the phone, I texted my husband:

15 years of owning and dropping cell phones, and THIS is the one that breaks.

This one being a Galaxy S4 (covered by insurance, thankfully). I had never really been one to take the best care of my phones in the past. They got shoved into bags, dropped (from varying heights) in the rain, and kicked across floors – but never did a single one become completely broken. Yet somehow with the S4, in its expansive, protective case, I found the perfect height and angle at which to drop the phone so that the screen broke. But it wasn’t like the screen shattered into a million pieces. The only visual evidence of abuse was two hairline cracks that appeared in the upper corner of the screen.  Well, those and the fact that the screen wouldn’t turn on.

You know what’s a hellish way to spend a weekend? Trying to recover data from a phone with no screen.

Also, do you know how easy it was to obtain another phone? Super easy. File a claim with the insurance company, pay a nominal fee, they send you a brand new phone! Old phone becomes but a memory! It’s great and convenient, without a doubt, but it’s also a little sad, maybe? Should we really be pleased to live in a culture where disposable and replaceable is the norm? I’m not saying that I want to go back to the days when your house’s wood burning stove had to last for a century because your family and your family’s future generations needed it for food and warmth. But those stoves lasted for a century because they were simply built to last. I’m also not saying that I expected any of today’s cell phones to survive to 2020 because the technology in them is practically designed to make them into paperweights after just a few years. (I still have my old Galaxy S from 2010 and even connected to wifi, it’s good for nothing. It even flunks web surfing because of Flash. Okay, okay, I’m sure with a technical tutorial I could figure out how to update the OS. But is it really worth it?) So we recycle the phones and turn them into newer, cheaper phones that will surely crap out or break more spectacularly than those of the previous generation.  Where’s the value in that?

If anything, the phone experience has made me much more careful. And like any good paranoid person who’s besotted with further paranoia, I’ve been handling my new phone with kid gloves and have placed it in an “armored” case. This also helps me avoid outside contact even more as I can barely hear my ringtones and notification through it. It’s pretty awesome. And just think of how long the phone will last then if I barely touch it! That’s the ticket to everlasting survival: make your phone last for a century by never using it.

Thanks technology!

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Like what you’ve just read? Cary posts to Geek Force Network every Friday; and you can also find more words that she put together in paragraphs at Recollections of Play and United We Game.

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6 thoughts on “They just don’t make ’em like they used to”

  1. I’ve been using an S4 with a cracked screen for over a year now. Can’t bring myself to replace it bc I I’ll probably just drop it and crack the screen again. Maybe I need one of those rubber nextels like my dad uses…

    1. Is that one of those phones with the heavy-duty rubber grips? They are seemingly indestructible! The case my broken phone was in was marketed as super protective; it turned out to be anything but. I could have totally lived with a cracked screen if it had turned on. And like you, I wouldn’t have jumped to replace it for the exact same reason – I’d be too worried I’d just break a new phone. Hope your phone survives plenty long!

  2. I was just thinking about this the other day. It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of stuff built to last anymore, but cell phones and electronics are definitely the worst. It’s a smart business model, I suppose, but it sucks for us consumers!

    1. Quite true! Thinking on it some more, I guess it’s kind of good for us that new-ish phones become ridiculous cheap a year or so after they’ve been released. And the electronics in them become less expensive by the day. It means we can all still stay on the slightly blunt cutting edge of technology if we want. Still, switching cell phones will never be as easy as plugging a new phone into the wall.

  3. It’s easier and makes more money for the company if you have to buy a new one from them. Everything is enclosed or with patented connections but some old boilers are more efficient than the new eco ones.
    Now you can’t even buy new batteries for the flagship phones, as they’re built in.
    Technology has gone the way of clothing, you don’t pay for the innards any-more, you pay for that shiny logo.
    I do find it odd that companies market the cases as super protective; normally it’s the screen that dies first due to you being unable to cover it.

    1. Precisely. Maybe I just didn’t have my “smart” cap on a the time, but I went with the non-covered protective case because it was marketed as being the equivalent of armor for the phone. And I had dropped the phone before while in the case and it survived fine. I guess the stars were aligned just right for it to break that one time.

      You clothing analogy is pretty spot-on when it comes to today’s tech. I still pay for that Samsung phone just like I’d pay for that Polo jersey — because it comes with a good reputation and I think it will last a long time. But take off those names, and all you’ve got is a phone and a shirt.

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