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Cheap junk

Updated on March 19, 2011
seventy years later it still works
seventy years later it still works

During the apprenticeship portion of my job, I noticed something that was going on in my mechanical drawing class. There were a bunch of guys using cheap plastic protractors and compass sets. over the course of two semesters several of my classmates complained that their compasses had broken. I felt fortunate that my father in law had given me a compass set that was given to him by his father who went through the same apprenticeship. This little set lasted through three generations of shipyard workers, and could easily last for several more generations.

I've been thinking lately about the fact that everything we buy is cheaply made from materials which were formed only with the purpose of breaking. We have so many things that we don't need, why is it that we have to buy those things several times?

My toaster broke the other day, and I stopped off at the local Walmart to get another one when I realized that the next one is going to be just as much a piece of crap as the last one. I've been scouring through the Internet and looking through various stores for something that will actually last and looks decent but so far I have had no luck. (Perhaps it is because the good stuff hasn't been thrown away.) On line there are so many old style toasters I just have to wonder if they will ever attempt to make them the way they used to. I don't know, perhaps out of metal. Ah metal! Now there's a word that we don't use too often anymore!

Edison built his first lamp in 1879. It still works.
Edison built his first lamp in 1879. It still works.

Throw away cars

The second most expensive thing a person usually buys is a car, but why is it that we feel compelled to buy some foreign piece of junk made out of plastic, and designed so that it's parts will break. I've had so many problems with my vehicles since the day I purchased my first Dodge Neon. After ten years of use the car is done and buried, thousands of dollars down the drain and four cars later I'm still forced to buy another so-called economical vehicle. It is a science for the auto industry to build more complex parts so the regular people can't fix their own stuff. and what is it all for?

The argument is that if we stopped perfecting things after they are invented, everyone would be walking around talking on the old cellphones that look like big walkie talkies, playing video games like pong or space invaders, and listening to cassette players. My admonition is not to stop innovation all together, I simply want to look back at the kind of ethics that people had in a time when things were built to last, and challenge the inventors, and distributors of our day to do the same.

Watch what you buy

Last year after working and saving up some overtime money, my wife and I decided to buy a new computer desk. It looked as though we got a great deal on it. It still cost hundreds of dollars, but it was advertised as being much lower than the origional cost. When I finished assembling it I noticed that a couple of the drawers were slightly crooked. There is a drawer that opens downward to reveal the computer keyboard, and after a few weeks of owning this thing, the cheap plastic hooks snaped and now the drawer is in the permanent open position. That's modern day innovations for you.


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    • Onusonus profile image

      Onusonus 6 years ago from washington

      That's what I'm talking about!

      We need more stuff like that.

    • The Earth Goat profile image

      The Earth Goat 6 years ago from South Downs, UK

      I agree with you - unfortunately many manufacturers are planning obsolescence into their products. Three weeks after the guarantee expires, the thing goes kerplunk.

      My best find recently was an old Singer sewing machine for £20 (about $30) - a 401G. Built like a tank - it's 50 years old and works like a dream.