Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-term

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Bregalad
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Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-term

Post by Bregalad » Mon May 27, 2019 2:26 am

So guys, with everything around us changing so fast and all, I wondered what items stay the same in medium or long term. People consider a 5-year smarphone is "antique", but in fact they don't even realize how new this item is and are just brainwashed by consumerism and marketing. So I started to create a list of technology-related stuff that stays the same, or mostly the same over the years.

There's still some rules for items to be considered :
  • It has to be technology related. People can come up and say that books never get old, or the Bible, or human behaviour, or whathever. This is all true but not technology related so it's outside of this scope.
  • It has to be normal to use the item today. Sure we can use a 30-year old game console, ride a 60 year old car, or even ride a 100+ year old tramway, and they still do the job. However it does feel retro and you notice a significant difference in their usage as opposed to their modern counterparts. Ideally you wouldn't realize how old the item.
  • The item could have changed a little bit in design or having been improved, but overall if you took a time machine and saw this item in the past you should not be surprised.
Now on the items I've noticed :
  • Electric power lines. Most of them were built between the 1930s and the 1950s, and they are absolutely unchanged. Sure, some newer lines have higher voltage than before, with taller pylons and more conductor cables per line. Also more lines are put underground, but that's about all. Modern aerial lines and pylons look exactly the same as lines built 80 years ago. And 80 year old lines are still used daily, without anyone finding this weird or retro. People might not even realize the current they use daily to charge their "antique" 5-year-old smartphone is transported through a 80 year old high-voltage line and supported by 80-year old pylons.
  • Bikes. Sure, they got disk brakes and other new fancy stuff, but often this is optional. You can use a 50-year old bike and, assuming you replaced the parts that needed replacement, it'll still work great today, and - as opposed to 50-year old car - nobody will immediately notice how old the bike is.
  • Skilifts and aerial lifts. Over the last 70 years, only some minor design changes have been performed, and the speed and safety has improved, but that's about it. Sure the cables have to be changed regularly but the design never changes. When going to a ski resort you can use a 60 year old skilift without even realizing how old this item is. The ski themselves however evolved a lot.
  • Musical instruments. OK this might be controversial whether they're "technology" or not, but they certainly never become obsolete, nor have they much changed in the last century. The fact tube amps are still used by guitarists says a lot. If the support for recording music have changed drastically, the instrument themselves haven't changed much.
I wonder what other items could fit this list.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by dougeff » Mon May 27, 2019 6:46 am

Books aren't even the same. The quality and brightness of the paper has changed. Old books had a textile over cardboard cover, today it's glossy cardstock.

Printing techniques went from a press to an intaglio engraving, and now a digital press.
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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Garth » Mon May 27, 2019 12:14 pm

Bregalad wrote:
  • Bikes. Sure, they got disk brakes and other new fancy stuff, but often this is optional. You can use a 50-year old bike and, assuming you replaced the parts that needed replacement, it'll still work great today, and - as opposed to 50-year old car - nobody will immediately notice how old the bike is.
Ah, an area I'm quite involved in! After the 2007 Tour de France stage race, I noticed that the winner's average speed was only 1mph faster than that of the 1962 TdF, and the '62 one had longer stages and still some unpaved roads. IOW, the '62 winner might otherwise have been faster than the '07 winner in spite of the technology advances. Most of the true advances however have to do with ease of maintenance and with comfort and with how practical they are to operate, not so much with speed. I could give a long list of examples. BTW, I am not in favor of disc brakes for road bikes. Our tandem has inexpensive Tektro mini-V rim brakes, and I can, with one finger on each lever, easily lock up both front and rear wheels, wet or dry, with 350 pounds gross weight. How much better do brakes need to be than that? (And on a single bike, you can't get away with locking up the front wheel, since with no second rider holding the rear down, the whole bike would roll over the front wheel, meaning you flip the bike. A tandem won't do that though, so it can brake harder.)
  • Musical instruments. OK this might be controversial whether they're "technology" or not, but they certainly never become obsolete, nor have they much changed in the last century. The fact tube amps are still used by guitarists says a lot. If the support for recording music have changed drastically, the instrument themselves haven't changed much.
The violin has had almost no changes in 500 years. The oldest playable pipe organ was made in the 11th century. The keyboard is the same as our modern keyboard.
I wonder what other items could fit this list.
I remember seeing a video about a mechanical computer from about a hundred years ago that's still running a subway IIRC. I can't think of the search terms to find it right now. Sometimes you still see very old computers being used at check-out stands in auto parts stores for example, or where they look up what gizmo your particular make and model needs.
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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Bregalad » Mon May 27, 2019 1:14 pm

Garth wrote: The oldest playable pipe organ was made in the 11th century. The keyboard is the same as our modern keyboard.
Yeah, but back then another person had to pump the air into the organ (or the player had to do it with his feet), today a small electric motor does this job.
How much better do brakes need to be than that?
Well I don't know but from the little experience I had you can break much harder with disk brakes - meaning riding the bike is also safer. Regular brakes do well but you need to start breaking very early, and only after a full rotation of your wheel will they start to break seriously - the disc brakes are instant.
I remember seeing a video about a mechanical computer from about a hundred years ago that's still running a subway IIRC. I can't think of the search terms to find it right now. Sometimes you still see very old computers being used at check-out stands in auto parts stores for example, or where they look up what gizmo your particular make and model needs.
I didn't know computer existed 100 years ago. I've always thought the first thing that can be considered a "computer" was developed by Konrad Suse in NS-zeit Germany (even this it's controversial whether it counts as a "computer" or not). It definitely would not feel "normal" to use such a machine today like it is for the items I listed.
dougeff wrote: Books aren't even the same. The quality and brightness of the paper has changed. Old books had a textile over cardboard cover, today it's glossy cardstock.
True, but the change is less obvious than with more technology things. It doesn't feel weird to read an old book because of it's old-style cover, but it might feel weird because of its content (especially if the book is about rising children ^^).

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by rainwarrior » Mon May 27, 2019 1:37 pm

Bregalad wrote:Musical instruments. OK this might be controversial whether they're "technology" or not, but they certainly never become obsolete, nor have they much changed in the last century. The fact tube amps are still used by guitarists says a lot. If the support for recording music have changed drastically, the instrument themselves haven't changed much.
Guitarists do still like to use tube amps, but I would say that cheap and effective digital simulation of a tube amp has been available for a while now, and a lot of people use those instead. It's a lot easier to fit a pre-amp + DSP device in your pocket than an analog amplifier, and much cheaper too. 20 years ago it was a very different story, and most "digital tube" simulators didn't sound much like the real thing at all. 30 years ago and DSP devices were about 100x as expensive as they are now.

With keyboards, pianos have certainly been on the way out. They're notoriously hard to get rid of these days, typically you have to pay someone to take it away for you. A 500lb paperweight. On the other hand, electronic keyboards are incredibly common, definitely more common now than they were 20 years ago. That's maybe a subtle difference but they've gotten cheaper, smaller, more accessible, which really changes how much they get used now vs. before. (Across the same period of time, software synthesis has exploded in popularity.)

Though, w.r.t. electronic keyboards I would say that MIDI itself hasn't changed much in a long time, and it's still going pretty strong, though it's usually transported in virtual form over USB (or internally) these days rather than via its original interface.

Other than the electronic thing, though, yes most acoustic musical instruments have been based on the same designs for 50 or 100 years or so, with only subtle changes. There are plenty of modern variations, e.g. carbon composite violin, but most things I could mention only make very small differences. Part of this is just because classical music culture is largely about appreciating a historical thing, so creating a new instrument works against that somewhat.

...but look at the instruments used by a pop band today and 20 years ago. Drums are maybe still there, if they're not electronic. Guitar is more iffy. Everything else is up in the air.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Garth » Mon May 27, 2019 1:51 pm

Bregalad wrote:
Garth wrote: The oldest playable pipe organ was made in the 11th century. The keyboard is the same as our modern keyboard.
Yeah, but back then another person had to pump the air into the organ (or the player had to do it with his feet), today a small electric motor does this job.
Organists' feet were busy with the pedalboard for notes long before electric air pumps came along. It was normal to have an assistant operate very large bellows. Se https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHoXn_dQQGY . Oh, I found something on the oldest playable organ, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxwZTfILJDA . I had forgotten some details. The first part of it was built in the late 1300's, not 11th century. They show the bellows at 7:30.
How much better do brakes need to be than that?
Well I don't know but from the little experience I had you can break much harder with disk brakes - meaning riding the bike is also safer. Regular brakes do well but you need to start breaking very early, and only after a full rotation of your wheel will they start to break seriously - the disc brakes are instant.
I never noticed any delay at all. This is with the right pad compound though, brake pads about 2½ long, and with machined rims, ie, not having shiny sides like they did just a few decades ago. I have far more braking (not "breaking"!) on that tandem than I can use. Disc brakes require beefing up the frame and fork in places making it heavier, not because of any harder braking, but because of where the forces are applied. They also have more wind resistance. Pads also don't last anywhere near as long. Bill McReady at Santana Cycles found in his testing that none of the normal disc brakes are suitable for tandems. You have to go out to 8" or larger discs, as the normal-sized ones get so hot on downhills that the heating warps them and makes them unusable, and plastic parts in the caliper assembly melt, and worse, on the hydraulic ones, the fluid boils, leaving you without brakes. Nevertheless, alas, disc brakes have become a fad, because they look cool. They need to just stay on mountain bikes where mud justifies their existence.
I remember seeing a video about a mechanical computer from about a hundred years ago that's still running a subway IIRC. I can't think of the search terms to find it right now. [...]
I didn't know computer existed 100 years ago. I've always thought the first thing that can be considered a "computer" was developed by Konrad Suse in NS-zeit Germany (even this it's controversial whether it counts as a "computer" or not). It definitely would not feel "normal" to use such a machine today like it is for the items I listed.
Again, it was not electronic.
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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Garth » Mon May 27, 2019 6:59 pm

Near where I worked around 1990 there was a truck-repair place. To save the labor cost, truckers would often buy parts there and do their own repairs out on the street, parked nearby. I used to go out for a walk at lunch time, and sometimes got to talk to them. One time there was a flatbed with a couple of train locomotive trucks on it. The man I talked to there said each electric motor had 750 horsepower, and that the truck design was from the 1930's, that the design was so good they're still using it so many decades later (although the controllers now are mostly solid-state).
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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Oziphantom » Mon May 27, 2019 10:55 pm

Hammer, Hand Saw. While we have computer assisted sewing machines most "industrial" ones are just motor and pedal. Scissors, pencil, rulers, rivets, I bars, rope.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by gauauu » Tue May 28, 2019 8:17 am

Ceiling fans. So many still have the same terrible interface that they had 30 years ago:

There are 4 settings (high, medium, low, off) that can only be toggled by pulling a chain. And because of the inertia of the blades, you often have no idea what setting you're currently on, so you pull the chain about 10 times trying to turn the dumb thing off.
Hammer, Hand Saw
Yeah, hand tools haven't changed much.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Bregalad » Tue May 28, 2019 8:28 am

gauauu wrote:Ceiling fans. So many still have the same terrible interface that they had 30 years ago:

There are 4 settings (high, medium, low, off) that can only be toggled by pulling a chain. And because of the inertia of the blades, you often have no idea what setting you're currently on, so you pull the chain about 10 times trying to turn the dumb thing off.
Wow incredible I barely remember those things when I was a kid (or did I just see them in movies ?). I can't believe they're still used somewhere.
Yeah, hand tools haven't changed much.
Yeah, but indeed they're not really technology related.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Oziphantom » Tue May 28, 2019 8:42 am

Celing fans are still used, you can easily buy them new https://www.bunnings.com.au/our-range/l ... iling-fans

However I've never used a pull cord model. Most of the ones I know have a switch on a wall somewhere usually with 5 speeds and sometimes a winter setting. Newer ones have a remote control however, make it easier and cheaper to install.

Hand tools are technology just old technology, while the pen has undergone lots of upgrades and improvements over the years, hammers have been hammers.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by supercat » Tue May 28, 2019 9:03 am

rainwarrior wrote:With keyboards, pianos have certainly been on the way out. They're notoriously hard to get rid of these days, typically you have to pay someone to take it away for you. A 500lb paperweight. On the other hand, electronic keyboards are incredibly common, definitely more common now than they were 20 years ago. That's maybe a subtle difference but they've gotten cheaper, smaller, more accessible, which really changes how much they get used now vs. before. (Across the same period of time, software synthesis has exploded in popularity.)
Decent pianos which are in good condition can still be worth something. The biggest problem is that pianos need a few hundred dollars worth of major maintenance every few decades--a cost which would be small if figured on a per-year basis, but many pianos haven't had any maintenance in over half a century. Worse, many pianos have mechanical problems which would require over a thousand dollars of specialist labor to fix. A piano whose bridle tapes are fifty years old, but which hasn't been played much in the last 30 years, may play for awhile just as well as one whose bridle tapes is brand new, but become unplayable after a few hours as the bridle tapes start failing. A piano which has been recently serviced may be a bargain, but one which hasn't been serviced in 50 years may not be worth the cost of a move.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by gauauu » Tue May 28, 2019 9:23 am

Around here (the American midwest), you can get old pianos for nearly free if you want to move it yourself. The cost of the move is usually just finding a friend with a truck, and 3 other friends who are willing to help you move the thing. They do often have problems, but are usually good enough for casual playing, or for a child that's learning to play.

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by Pokun » Tue May 28, 2019 4:36 pm

The oldest technology I can think of would be the knife and fire.

I guess in the early days knives was about anything sharp that could be used and eventually evolved into striking off flakes from flint or other similar stones, but ever since iron-smithing was invented knives haven't changed much. It counts as hand tools though.

Fire haven't really changed at all since Prometheus stole it from the gods. It is maybe not used as much in modern societies for cooking, unless you are camping or if you count gas stoves. But my parents still use a fire stove to warm up their house with, even though it is a modern house with good insulation and central heating. It is a bit more work splitting and stacking logs every summer, but it makes the heating a bit cheaper. Making a fire doesn't feel retro or unmodern at all.

Fishing using a line, hook and rod is also very old, although the tackle is usually quite modernised. But it doesn't really feel strange at all to make a primitive fishing rod from a stick in the woods (at least if using a modern line and hook).

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Re: Technology-related stuff that stays the same in long-ter

Post by mic_ » Wed May 29, 2019 4:04 am

After the 2007 Tour de France stage race, I noticed that the winner's average speed was only 1mph faster than that of the 1962 TdF, and the '62 one had longer stages and still some unpaved roads. IOW, the '62 winner might otherwise have been faster than the '07 winner in spite of the technology advances.
The average speed over the entire race doesn't seem all that meaningful to compare. I mean, for one, the route wasn't the same. Maybe the 2007 route had more and/or steeper climbs. Maybe the weather was worse. Maybe the tactics were different (nowadays the guys at the top of the GC will take it easy on the flat stages, and use the big climbs and the time trials to make the difference. I don't know if that's how things worked back in 1962). Maybe the dynamics between the teams were different (if one team is very dominant it may lead to a different kind of race compared to if several teams are fightning for the yellow jersey). To compare a 1962 bike to a 2007 bike you really should have the same guy race it over the same course under the same conditions.

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