Thinking about my solid old oven, built when the war had just ended and America was dusting itself off, I’ve begun to think about old=good. In the 50s, and again in the 80s, we’ve had techno-crushes. Puppy love for anything new and modern. In the 50s you had kids wearing tinfoil helmets and dreaming of sleek silver rocketships. The 1980s version found teens with purple hair dancing like robots and idolizing the synthetic quirkiness of Max Headroom. Almost 30 years later, we may be due for another love affair with The New. But I don’t think people will fall for it this time. Despite our love of the next new gadget, people know that products are cheap. You don’t have to say that “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” because people expect obsolescence. But the old products are still around, and are slowly becoming prized antiques. But I wonder, were the Good Old Days really that good?
Well, no. Not if you were black, or Asian. Or gay. Or a woman. If the shirt-ripping rebellion of the 60s taught us nothing else, it’s that Americans will speak up. Enough, hippies chanted. Since then, we still voice our opinions with full-throated fervor. (See recent town hall “meetings” for distressing examples of this.) Maybe they built things better back then. I know my 1950s oven will be around long after the 2000’s oven has been buried at a landfill; I expect it. And while I reminisce about the glory days of the 1930s, when people dressed better and Pan Am Clippers were still swooping off to exotic locales, I don’t want to go back there. I can choose to speak out against injustice, and if I can find a 60-year old oven that still runs, all the better for me. So my new equation is thus:
Old product construction>new product construction. Old thinking<new thinking. New technology≠improvement.