Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 22, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DURABILITY....I'm obviously short of inspiration for blogging this weekend, so here's another trivial topic: what items have you bought that had spectacular levels of durability that you never expected? I don't just mean things that lasted a long time, but things that seemed phenomenal in some very specific way. I'll mention two.

#1: An old NEC monitor I had about 15 years ago. It was amazing. It never got dusty and it never needed cleaning. Fingerprints just vanished. I don't know what sort of magical pixie dust they applied to the glass, but it was miraculous.

#2: The EckAdams chair I'm sitting in right now. Once a day for about the last ten years Inkblot has jumped into it and clawed the living daylights out of the fabric. For about a minute he goes bananas and digs into it as if it's every cat's worst enemy. And yet....it's still in perfect condition. Like the day I bought it. What sort of space age material is the thing made out of? Whatever it is, I wish our very expensive living room carpet were made out of the same stuff.

Needless to say, the list of things that collapsed into ruin far faster than they should have would be considerably longer. But let's leave that for another day. Today we celebrate durability.

Kevin Drum 5:28 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (173)

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I've always been pleasantly surprised by how long Timberland shoes last.

Posted by: Wagster on September 22, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I've still got the Gameboy I got for Xmas in 1989. Also, my original DVD player from early 1999 (now living in the bedroom) handles scratched or smudged discs much better than the fancy one with more functions that's now in the living room, and also better than any of our several computers.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on September 22, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

My HP 4L laser printer has been going strong for 12 years. It's not fast by today's standards but it sure has been durable.

Posted by: smiley on September 22, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

A leather sofa, love seat, and arm chair. We splurged on the set in 1986 in Munich, had them shipped back to the States with us after several years; a few household moves later, the pieces are still sitting in our living room, without noticeable damage from sun, spills, or cats. Germans build some things to last.

Posted by: RSA on September 22, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

... what items have you bought that had spectacular levels of durability that you never expected?

Viagra ... not that I needed it, of course.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 22, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I have a little LCD clock that I stick on the upper right corner of my computer monitor. It says "Mindset" on it, it was a promotional item given out by Mindset Computers in 1984. Of course my Mac has its own clock in the upper corner of the screen, but I keep using the Mindset clock out of sentimentality, it outlasted the Mindset company and 5 of my computers.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on September 22, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

"Germans build some things to last"

Our Miele vacs - our Braun coffe grinder - Sure made a big mistake in selling the Leicas M2 and M3 after buying them in '61.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 22, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Germans build some things to last.

Posted by: RSA

Heidi Klum also comes to mind.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 22, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

A Sharp 21" color TV I bought at least 20 years ago. If the tube has faded, it's been so slowly that I haven't noticed; it still looks nice and bright to me. Color never needs adjusting, picture hasn't shrunk in the slightest.

Posted by: Swift Loris on September 22, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

A useless president I hadn't realized I'd thrown in my grocery cart. I've been dying to replace this thing for, oh, I don't know how long.

Posted by: junebug on September 22, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

In 1985, I bought a 1979 Marshall 50 watt amplifier head for $200.

I'm heading out to play a gig tonight, and that Marshall head is going with me. The most dependable piece of equipment I've ever owned.

Posted by: Stranger on September 22, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I bought a Sony CFD-120 portable CD player in 1991, and that sucker still works. It is a big, black model with speakers on either end, two-feet long, and as heavy as a boat anchor. If somebody ever broke into my house and threatened to harm my family, it is the first weapon I would reach for.

The sound quality has faded a little in one of the speakers, but it still plays CDs like a dream, umpteen generations in CD technology later. When I bought it, 8x oversampling was state-of-the-art.

It was my first-ever CD player. I have an iPod now, so I hardly ever use it anymore, but my wife uses it pretty frequently. Sixteen years, and going strong. I have gone through at least a half-dozen DVD players (including a couple of Sony's!) since I got my first one in 2000. I don't know what they put into that CD player from 1991, but they sure built it right.

Posted by: UncommonSense on September 22, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure it's still safe, but it works like a charm: A small counter-top microwave I took to college in 1987. I love it because it's so small and doesn't have a billion buttons and pre-settings, just cook, power, defrost and a keypad for the time. Even the auto-spinning plate still works. I use it daily. Oh, it's an "Emerson". I also have a 13" RCA TV I got the same year that still works perfectly except the remote died years ago.

Posted by: Fred F. on September 22, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Phenomenol - is that some kind of totally awesome alcohol?

Posted by: Gaffer on September 22, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

HP 5P Laser Printer - 1995.

Posted by: jerry on September 22, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

A nail file I bought from Boots pharmacy when I was in London in 1978. I still use it, still works, never rusted, moved with me to several countries in the last 30 years.

Posted by: Aris on September 22, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still using the JVC stereo receiver amplifier I bought in 1976. Its got 10 watts per channel.

Posted by: esther on September 22, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

We got a small Kenmore microwave for a gift at a wedding shower in early 1986, and it is not only still functioning, but has never needed repair. (I have now ensured its sudden breakdown by mentioning this in public.) We also picked up a Kenmore dryer later in the year, and I feel sure that it would still be going strong if not for the fact that about five years ago one of my kids sat on the open door and broke it.

So yeah, I'm pretty happy with the Kenmore brand.

Posted by: Cash on September 22, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

My marriage only lasted two years, from 1999-2001, but the penis pump I bought as a graduation present to myself in 1984 has been working great!

Posted by: Al on September 22, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have a blue t-shirt with a logo for a charity called Family Haven that I got from my aunt back in 1983 or 1984. The thing is as soft as silk and almost translucent now, but it doesn't have any holes or loose ends.

I also have a pair of blue flip-flops that I bought around that time from KMart. In places the sole is nearly three-quarters worn away, but the thong part of it still hasn't come out and they're still quite comfortable. They kinda smell though.

Posted by: lampwick on September 22, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

... the penis pump I bought as a graduation present to myself in 1984 has been working great!

Posted by: Al

You're supposed to use it on your cock, Al

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 22, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and my 1996 Honda Accord!

It was my first new car. I bought it a few months after I graduated from college, and only just got rid of it in March. I drove it for eleven years, and it never failed to start for any mechanical reason. The only time it didn't fire was because the battery had died. Talk about a quiet, comfortable, reliable workhorse of a car.

Prior to buying the Accord, I had gone through series of third- or fourth-generation used vehicles. Anyone who has experience with used cars is familiar with the when will it break mindset. There is always, in the back of your mind, the fear that this will be the time it doesn't start.

With the Accord, I lost that mindset completely. I took for granted that it would start everytime I got in it, and that it would take me where I needed to go and get me home. And for eleven years, it always did.

Another great, surprisingly durable, purchase.

Posted by: UncommonSense on September 22, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Mini Cooper. Strike 1: British. Strike 2: Engine by Chrysler (weird, huh?). OK, it's only four years old, but it's had less issues than the previous car (Geo Prizm, a rebadged Toyota Corolla, both built at the same assembly plant in California - NUMMI), but even that had hardly any issues over the ten years I had it - one seatbelt recall and the alternator failing twice without the idiot light turning on...

BTW, the Mini Cooper headlights can be replaced without a single tool. Whoa. I thought only the Japanese had such design genius.

Posted by: anonymous on September 22, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

In 1976 I bought a 1961 Ford Galaxie for $250. Three speed on the column, straight six engine and only about 60K miles on it. Didn't really believe that 60K mileage thing, but they had the repair records to prove it. But that six cylinder engine...what a beaut. There was a bad cold snap around the time Carter was inaugurated in January 1977, and the temperatures got down into the minus degrees, was working at Mall in NJ and every night when I left work I was jumping all the other cars because I had the only one that would start.

Drove it down to Guatemala and back, kept it for a year and a half, put an additional 30K miles on it. Went through a radiator, two brake lines, five tires, a generator, muffler and tailpipe assembly, but the engine always turned over when I put the key in. If Ford were still making engines like the Japanese wouldn't stand a chance. Best $250 I ever spent.

Posted by: majun on September 22, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

The scarf I wind around my neck every winter, I've had for at least 15 years. It's only slightly frayed. I think it's acrylic or some synthetic.

Posted by: Grumpy on September 22, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

My '93 Corolla, bought new. 279,000 miles later, I replaced the original water pump only last month.

Posted by: John B. on September 22, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Best fake Al, evah.

mhr would perhaps like to brag on his bullet-proof "*" There ya go buddy boy, er, girl, uh....

Posted by: Trollhattan on September 22, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Stereo equipment bought in 1976; B&O turntable, Onkyo pre-amp and amp, an Akai reel to reel and Bose speakers. I'll play Beethoven on anything although the system isn't as good as a Bose Wave radio but it has lasted.

Posted by: TJM on September 22, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still working, three and a half years after after their three month design lifetime ended. That's not bad.

Okay, technically I didn't buy them, but I do pay taxes.

Posted by: mrkranky on September 22, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

I once had a '73 Plymouth Duster with an automatic and a 225 slant six engine. It just kept going and going. I finally had to have it put down afters years of exposure to winter road salt finally ate the frame too much to be safe.

I don't think I'll ever forgive Daimler for killing off the Plymouth name. They did their best to kill off Chrysler too; where's another Iacocca when you need one?

Posted by: xaxnar on September 22, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

My '95 Chevrolet Caprice. Still going strong and all that I've done to it is lube, oil, new tires every few years, and wiper blades every fall.

Posted by: CA Guy on September 22, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Powerbook G4 laptop, was my principal computer for five years, used every day, wore out three batteries.

1996 Ford Contour. 4-cylinder, manual shift, manual windows, manual locks. The car salesman thought I was crazy. I broke the cupholder but found a replacement on E-Bay. Still runs and handles great. 105K miles.

stereo receiver I bought in 1985. We have gone to digital music on the computer, but it still works.

Posted by: troglodyte on September 22, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Any shoes made by Doc Martens. You can't kill them, and believe I've tried. I always expected the upper part of the boot to come away from the sole, but it never happened. I have a pair that I bought in the early 90's and they're still great.

That and the Ibanez X-model Destroyer I bought in 1983. It still plays great and never goes out of tune.

Posted by: FuzzFinger on September 22, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

A Timex electric alarm clock I bought in 1977 when I was a college student. I went into the hardware store in College Park, Md., and asked for the cheapest model they had. Thirty years later it's still going strong.

A Wigomat coffee maker I bought in Georgetown during the same era lasted for almost 20 years and worked better than any coffee maker I've had since then.

There was a light bulb that was in the bedroom of my one bedroom apartment when I moved in in Jamuary 1985 and lasted until December 1993. When it failed, it gave off an ominous whistle for about thirty seconds before it blew. It turned out it was a longlife bulb but it reminded me of the anomalous light bulb in Gravity's Rainbow.

Posted by: sj on September 22, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

A set of electric rollers I've had since high school... I still use them to bend the ends of my hair under because I've never gotten the curling iron to work as quickly.

I graduated from high school in 1970.

Posted by: deuce on September 22, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

B&O television bought in 1985. Never had a problem with it, picture still perfect.

Posted by: Bette on September 22, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'd say my 27 year old Benz diesel is the surprise. Stuff like banjos and binoculars last forever if you treat them right.

The diesel is about 100 cubic inches and you get 30 mpg and can cruise at 75-80. The surprising part is the upholstery- just basically new, with 240k on the odometer. The springs on the driver's side of the car are wearing out faster than the driver's seat. And the clock still works.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 22, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Someone already mentioned Braun coffee grinders; I'm using one that's 40 years old. And a Saab from Reagan's first term is still purring.

Note that both of these magical machines predate the "Made in China" era.

Posted by: ColoZ on September 22, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

My Toyota Corolla, an old HP LaserJet, early Nokia cellphones, and my Johnson Leathers jacket.

Of course, this doesn't count various Persian and Persian-style rugs. But then, they're intended to outlive all of us.

Posted by: bleh on September 22, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

My parents have a Kitchenaid stand mixer that is as old as I am. I was born in 1971.

My Asolo leather hiking boots are 15 years old, although I don't wear them very often. They've been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, across the length of Isle Royale in Lake Superior, and have survived many Minnesota winters. Seams are still in good shape with no sign of fraying or splitting.

Posted by: Norsecats on September 22, 2007 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

A 20 year old Jag that I had until last year which was virtually repair free,
the pearl white color was splendid.
Great vehicle for road trips down south.
I miss it a little.

Posted by: consider wisely always on September 22, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al's skull.

Posted by: hozenAL on September 22, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

A pair of Sorel Caribou boots in service since 1989.

Posted by: RickG on September 22, 2007 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

I've still got a Levi's lined jean jacket from 1976 that I wear to work outside in the winter. There's only one hole in it-where it briefly caught on fire at a Blue Oyster Cult concert.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 22, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

1) Sledgehammer
2) Bug jar
3) tighty whitey underwear

1)- An old wooden-handle sledgehammer eventually cracked in the handle from heavy use. The newer yellow PVC plastic or fiber-glass handle put up with all sorts of jobs in the backyard and heavy use, breaking up old patio stones to mix with concrete mix, turning field stones that turned up in the lawn into gravel, and taken out stumps of pest trees.

2)- I got some kind of a teacher's bug jar from a teachers' store, and it's the most durable piece of glass I've ever had. It had the concave bottom a long time before they were improving the bottoms on most jars and drinking glasses.

3) I bought tighty whitey underpants from a generic-outlet store that were a brand I never had growing up and they lasted much longer than I expected, still looking almost new after a while, compared to many items of clothing I've owner.

Posted by: Swan on September 22, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

My little sister still uses the Hoover Lark vacuum cleaner that my mother bought when she built our house back in 1953.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 22, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

I have a Guild D35 that I've had since I bought it new in 1966. It's been used and abused not necessarily in that order and none of the original finish is intact. Below the sound hole is scratched away to within a couple of levels of wood fiber.

I own other guitars but beat as it is some songs just should not be played on any other instrument.

Sometimes I think of restoring it - the finish in particular - but then each change it goes through changes how I do what I do. And maybe vice versa.

I guess we will just grow old together.

Posted by: paulo on September 22, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

A pair of Ecco shoes I bought 6 years ago and wear everyday to work. Incredible. Like new.

An Oster ice crusher my parents purchased before I was born. Makes the best crushed ice I've ever seen and keep going. Looks like I have to replace the cord though.

Posted by: omonubi on September 22, 2007 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

K&E 12" slide rule, bought in 1938. Got my father through the South Dakota School of Mines, me through Brown. Still as accurate as always, never had to change the battery. Limited use last two decades, though.

Posted by: Bob Munck on September 22, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a second, Kevin, which EckAdams chair? I looked it up, because I'm in the market for a quality chair, EckAdam's not a brand so much as a retailer.

As for long-lasting products, Alain Miklis eyewear. Built like a tank.

Posted by: djangone on September 22, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

My parents have a working GE refrigerator in their garage that is older than me - and I just turned fifty. They bought it in 1954 when they first got married.

Posted by: mzepezauer on September 22, 2007 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

I stole a pair of beach flipflops from my mother over thirty years ago (the kind with the little zip compartment for your key?) and wear them around the house every damned day and they haven't worn out yet. It's starting to get kind of spooky, in an I-wonder-what-their-portrait-looks-like kind of way.

Posted by: Arachnae on September 22, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

about 5 years ago I was renting a floor in a house that had a gas water heater that dated from the 1940s.

Posted by: markL on September 22, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a loyal lurker and hardly ever post, but I can't let this thread go by without acknowledging my awesome General Electric "portable" dishwasher. (It fits right up against my cabinets, and I've never moved it, so it might as well be "installed.") I bought this baby 16 years ago for just about $200. It is still running beautifully, to this day.

Posted by: AuroraD on September 22, 2007 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

A friend of mine has a 15" Sony Trinitron monitor that he bought 4 or 5 computers ago (early 90s). The color is still perfect. He wants it to die so he can justify getting a larger monitor, but it refuses to oblige him. I type this on a 19" Trinitron, only 2 computers old, bought based on his experience.

Posted by: Peter VE on September 22, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Like sj, I'm still using the 2-alarm clock radio my mom gave me in 1981. And I finally threw away my first pair of Lowa mountain boots, which I bought as a teenager in 1972, in 2002. Three sets of soles but the uppers never gave out.

Posted by: DCBob on September 22, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

I celebrate my 9-inch springform pan from a German company (Turnauer), that I bought in 1972 from a restaurant supply shop in Manhattan, also my wok, bought from a street vendor in Chinatown (NYC), the same year. Both are still going strong. I also love Weber grills. I have bought only 2, each 20 years apart.


Posted by: Diana on September 22, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

my cheapy 4" very thin serrated stainless paring knife, bought for probably $0.99 in about 1969, can't read the etched brandname. it's never been sharpened, but it's still sharp and the (unknown plastic) handle is still good (and my standards are pretty high for "sharp", a regular kitchen knife, non-serrated, should shave, which my good knives all do).

my proton 320 clock/radio/alarm CA 1985, two independent alarms, two tones (radio or beep or both), clock/alarm setting will go up or down, none of that missed it by 10, go all the way around again crap. they still go for something like $80 on ebay.

my woolrich heavy weight chamois shirt, CA 1980.

Posted by: supersaurus on September 22, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of HP laser printers on this thread -- so I'll add mine: HP LaserJet II (1987). Still going strong.

Posted by: scottd on September 22, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

troglodyte, I am so jealous. My first car was a 1998 Contour. It was a tank; I had so many should-have-been fender benders in it as a kid, but the car never had more than cosmetic damage. It ran perfectly, got outstanding mileage (especially on the highway), and had enough space that I moved myself from Chicago to Washington in one trip with all my possessions in that car (first job after college; I didn't have that many possessions to begin with).

A construction van backing out of a driveway four doors down from my house took my baby away from me; otherwise I'm quite certain it would still be going strong on more than 100K miles.

Aside from that, I'm still using the same desk lamp my mom got me when I was six.

Posted by: jhupp on September 22, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

My cheap old nameless radio alarm clock that I bought in 1989 is still chugging along like a champ.

Posted by: Lux on September 22, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all are aware that you are jinxing your good equipment by posting here, no?

Posted by: Alex on September 22, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

In 1970 I bought a new Ives, Columbus tubed, campagnolo equipped racing bicycle. I raced it a couple years, switched tires and toured with it - went bike camping for several months, crossing the Appalachians and the Rockies,later I pulled my kids behind it in a trailer. I still ride it regularly. It still handles nice but it doesn't fly like it used to when I was 18.

Posted by: chowderhead on September 22, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

My 1987 Nikon FE2 still works like new, which isn't that unusual for Nikon manuals. But it's pretty sweet.

If you ever walk into research laboratories, look for bakelite-era labwear like constant temperature blocks and hand tally counters. Salvaging old gear from a closing lab often nets you a much more reliable item than the made-in-China crap that costs six times as much today. Old Zeiss and Leica microscopes from the era when they looked like they were made from grey-silver metallized concrete will work as preparatory/backup scopes until your students retire.

Posted by: Tim F on September 22, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

It still handles nice but it doesn't fly like it used to when I was 18.

Must be the bike.

Posted by: Tim F on September 22, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Any shoes made by Doc Martens. You can't kill them, and believe I've tried.

And here I was all set to post about my Docs in the "things you thought should've lasted longer" thread. I love mine for their looks and comfort, but I've killed three pairs of Doc boots in the last ten years.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on September 22, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

A Bostitch desk stapler. I bought it used in 1978, have used it in numerous offices ever since with no babying whatever, and it is still better than most you would buy new.

Posted by: kendo on September 22, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Phasar watch from 1976.

Posted by: Gar Lipow on September 22, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

" '73 Plymouth Duster with an automatic and a 225 slant six engine."

Are you Al Bundy?

Posted by: bmaz on September 22, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Raleigh's Technium line of bicycles in the late 1980s had a reputation for being fragile crap, but I had a Technium 440 that I rode ~5000 miles/year for 16 years until the drive-side chainstay snapped crossing some railroad tracks two years ago. I've been trying since then to find a new bike that I like half as much for everyday commuting but I just haven't had any luck.

Posted by: R. Scott Buchanan on September 22, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

My Pentax K-1000, lasted longer than that whole silver-halide fad did, despite rolling 100' down the side of Vesuvius at one point...

And a NEC Silentwriter II-90, still going strong after 18 years. It only does the Postscript equivalent of Proto-Indo-European, though...

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 22, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kitchenaid again. Still have the waste disposal unit and trash compactor we installed when we bought our house 26 years ago. Apparently appliances then were built really solidly, using stainless steel where they now use aluminum etc.
And my Honda Accord stationwagon from 1994. Can't find anything I want to replace it with.

Posted by: Andrea on September 22, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I forgot - some old shears that have been passed along through 3 generations of my family - over 100 years old. Very plain looking, black iron I think. But they certainly have held up. Sharpen them once every 25 years or so and you are set.

Posted by: Gar Lipow on September 22, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

1975 Olympus OM-1 Camera with f1.2 lens

Posted by: bmaz on September 22, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

I've been amazed at still using a tiny, simple calculator powered by solar cells. I've had it since returning to school in 1982 or 1983. Small, lightweight, reliable, easy to use, and CHEAP. Why don't we use these photovoltaic cells in more "stuff"? Can it be because it's so damn durable there's no profit? Now I use that little calculator to balance my checkbook, mostly, since retiring. I just pull it out of the shelf and say "Wow"! It could not have cost more than eight or nine bucks at the time.

Posted by: Violet Cauthon on September 22, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

A Braun coffee grinder, bought by my friend Alison at a garage sale in Wichita in 1987 for $.25 - passed to me in 1991. Passed on to my cousin in 2005, and back to me when she passed away in January. Still works like new. The cover to the hopper is long gone, but the lid from a cup of Stoneyfield Farm yogurt fits perfectly. My coffee beans this morning were ground with that grinder, in fact.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 22, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Any shoes made by Doc Martens. You can't kill them, and believe I've tried.

I'll second that. I have Docs that are well over ten years old. One pair of Fishermans sandals show a slight bit of wear on the soles, but you can still read "water and oil proof" plain as day.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 22, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

My family purchased one of the first VHS players available - one with a 'remote' which involved a 'pause' button on a really long cord. Once my mom upgraded to a new VCR, I took the old one with me to college - and it lasted me through graduate school, probably 15 years total. I finally got rid of it because it weighed as much as a boat anchor and I got tired of lugging it from apartment to apartment.

Posted by: gg on September 22, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Norsecats touts his Asolo hiking boots and I concur. I had a pair that I bought in the mid 70's and the lasted me (with 2 resoles)into the early 90's. They could have lasted longer, but I couldn't find anyone who had the knowledge to repair them with any degree of competence!

Posted by: Fred on September 22, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Frye boots.....bought my first pair in 1970 , second in 1985 and i still have them and they still look good...every time I took them for repair due to wear , the shoe repair guys ( especially the old guys ) would praise the quality .
middle of the line Alverez acoustic guitar.I tune it once a night and play solo acoustic for 3-4 hours....no re-tuning , no hand fatigue...go Alverez
Carhardt insulated coveralls.......bought in 1979 and still going strong . They have hardly even faded .

Posted by: Beastofbourbon on September 22, 2007 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Amana refrigerator/freezer from 1988. Had to replace the rubber door seals a year ago, though.

My Onkyo receiver from 1974 finally gave up the ghost 3 years ago.

Posted by: calling all toasters on September 22, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

The Club (security device)I bought for my car in 1991, and have used several times a day since, is still as good as new

Posted by: Katherine on September 22, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK


You are tired.

Posted by: dms on September 22, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

wasn't mine but a friend of mine had a 1970 BMW R75 motorcycle with well over 100K miles, ran like a tank. He recently sold it but it was still solid.

Posted by: jvf on September 22, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

I routinely use consumer appliances, including computers, for 10+ years. My car is 20 years old. But what continues to amaze me is me - how did I get this old?

Posted by: craigie on September 22, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

My wife.

Amazing resilience.

Posted by: bmaz on September 22, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

My wife. Amazing resilience.

Did you get her for a good price, bmaz? ;-)

Posted by: UncommonSense on September 22, 2007 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

about 5 years ago I was renting a floor in a house that had a gas water heater that dated from the 1940s.

You're not my tenant, but we had one of those in our basement, too. Our plumber told us he wanted it when it died. God knows how much it was worth for the copper alone. Anyway, it finally gave up the ghost last year.

Posted by: Brittain33 on September 22, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

My friends tease me by saying that my hobby is returning things to stores. When I buy something, I typically put it through its paces at home since it's hard to do it in the stores.

Two items have impressed me: A Fedder window air conditioner. I bought it 1993 and just threw it away a month ago. Not because it stopped working, but because it didn't fit in the window of a new apartment. It never gave me a moments problem. I never did any maintenance on it, except clean the air filer. It outlasted 3 other air conditioners I used in a different window. It still cooled perfectly and I live in Phoenix.

The second purchase was a Global office chair that I bought at Staples also in 1993. I've sat in it everyday since and it still looks new. The material is indestructible. The mechanism that raises and lowers it broke earlier this year. After more than 14 years, I figured I had gotten my money's worth out of it ($100) and I was ready to buy its equivalent (now $150). I called the company to see how much it would cost to buy a replacement part. They told me it was free and sent it to me within a week with instructions on how to install it.

Not only is it a great product, but the company has great customer service. I didn't know it, but the chair has a 10-year warranty. Even though my chair was older than 10 years, I wasn't asked to show proof of purchase or warranty numbers or serial numbers or jump through any hoops like I have for smaller repair requests with other companies.

Posted by: brio on September 22, 2007 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Not unexpected, i guess, but i would contribute the hammered iron wok my mom bought in thailand in '65, been used several times a week for 40 years.

i also have my great grandmother (well, i guess her cook's, technically) lodge cast iron fry pan, thing is pre war (ww+ that is. Just getting broke in.

Posted by: Northzax on September 22, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

My trusty General Electric 8 Transistor AM/SW radio I got for Christmas circa 1961. Still works fine after all these years and appears to have a better tuning section than anything else in the house. I don't use it for shortwave broadcasts any more but can remember being fascinated listening to various English language broadcasts from Europe in the 1960's. Those folks from Radio Berlin International "The Voice of the German Democratic Republic" certainly sounded friendly enough.

Posted by: Ian on September 22, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Have an Onkyo stereo system that is still going strong--got it back in 1997--one of the speakers died and needed to be resurrected.

Also an absolutely indestructible low table which looks exactly like wood (indented grains, etc) and must be made out of the most space-age plastic around. It's had hot pots put on it, anything possible dumped on it, used to stand on as a make-shift ladder--it just keeps going and going.

Posted by: grumpy realist on September 22, 2007 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

The stupidity of George Bush is durable beyond belief.

Posted by: duh on September 22, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Golf clubs. Without a doubt, the best manufactured American product.

Posted by: Jim on September 22, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not trying to be a smart-aleck, but I have a ceramic bong with the original one-hit bowl and original stem. I've had it since 1982 and I estimate it has facilitated 35,000-50,000 bong hits (i.e., 9,000 days x @4-6 bong hits per day).

It was once lost for two years (sob) but my friend recognized it at the house of another guy and retreived it for me.

I think I should go make sure I haven't jinxed it!

Posted by: Joe on September 22, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

I still have the ORIGINAL Sony CD player from something like 1985. I don't use it anymore, but it still works. My other favorite was one of the first Honda Accords (1st shipment to the US, serial #113). I owned it for like 8 years, sold it to a friend at 187,000 miles, still had the original clutch.

Posted by: Art Smith on September 22, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

My mother still uses a dial telephone on the wall in her kitchen that's at least 45 years old and probably older.

Posted by: shnooky on September 22, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

My first Microsoft Wheel Mouse (purchased in 1997) lasted 9 years, at which point I gave it away because I switched to an MS optical mouse. It is, as far as I know, still working. Microsoft input devices (except joysticks) seem to be like those ugly '70s fiberglass chairs in college lounges; they seem completely indestructible. It's the one Microsoft hardware product which is not a disaster.

Posted by: Staircar on September 22, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

My still-running 1992 Cadillac Deville.

Posted by: Forsberg on September 22, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Durability. Hmm. How'bout a 1983 Toyota 2WD pickup that I put more than 275,000 miles on before selling it to a local mechanic, who flipped it to a guy who needed a work truck and is still driving it? Me, I'm still driving its '83 4WD cousin, which only has about 115K on the odometer and successfully fetched a ton and a half of decorative rock to a landscaping project. Plus I'm still making money writing, editing and doing graphics on a 2000 PowerBook G3 500 "Pismo." A friend's wife is making good use of one of my spares, a '98 G3 PowerBook "Wall Street," the weirdo with the 250 MHz CPU and the 13.3-inch screen. Now if I could just get Subaru to build a flex-fuel camper van with solar panels . . . .

Posted by: Patrick O'Grady on September 22, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

I let my 1989 Honda Civic go last year after 237,000 miles. It needed a new clutch, and my mechanic just laughed at me when I tried to get him to replace the old one.

My 26-year old Pentax K-1000-still my workhorse camera for 35mm shooting.

The queen-sized Hudson Bay wool blanket bought on honeymoon in 1979. My husband's long gone, but the blanket's ready to be brought out from summer storage for another winter.

Disappointments? A lot of new books are cheaply put together. The editing is pretty shoddy nowadays, too.

Posted by: lahke on September 22, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have a 1950's-era Hammerlund vacuum-tube shortwave radio. It has a metal cabinet about 2 feet by 1.5 feet, and weighs about 30 pounds. I bought in 1990 for $200 and it still works great.

Posted by: Fidelio on September 22, 2007 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Have to agree on the golf clubs. I have a set of Ping Eye2's that I've had since the mid-80's and besides changing the grips they still work without complaining. Too bad I can't the same about the idiot swinging them.

Other stuff, my Swiss Army knife, a Kmart floor jack, Sears Craftsman sockets, Nikon F2 and F3 cameras, and of course my Toyota 4Runner built in Japan by the way.

Posted by: Paul on September 22, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

A circa 1971 Sears 9" black and white tv and an old GE cassette radio I have on the back deck. They've been used and abused continuously over the years. These weren't stuck in storage for a decade. My mother watched that TV in the kitchen every day for decades and my dad used that radio all the time. I put them out on the deck over a year ago on the patio table, sometimes under a umbrella sometimes not. The outlet they plug into leaves the extension cord suspectible to being tripped over by yours truly and I've sent them both flying on occasion. Of course the winds here in Chicagoland sends the whole table ass over teakettle if I leave the umbrella up on windy days so more than a couple times I've found them face down half way across the deck in the morning. They've had a foot of snow on them and still worked. Both of them have lost their antennas, the tv has a rusty coathanger, the radio it's old one twisted into it's slot telescoped to half it's extended size.

As much as I torture test them they both work fine. The sound crapped out on the TV a month or so ago after a hard rain but once it dried out it was back in action. Occasionally the radio starts making electronic sqawking noises even when it's not on so I'll unplug it for awhile. The speaker sounds like it's getting a little frayed but that might be the tuner circuitry getting rusty.

Posted by: markg8 on September 22, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

Bmaz: My wife. Amazing resilience.

Uncommonsense: Did you get her for a good price, bmaz? ;-)

Wives are paid for on the installment plan. You'd better believe they're expensive, but boy howdy are they a good deal...

P.S. My Dad has a Trek bicycle which he bought in the early 70's, when they didn't even have model names. He commuted on it ~80 miles a day ever since, rain or shine, snow or summer. He retired, now he - get this - bicycles to the gym at the company plant. (Retirees pay something trivial to use the company gym)

He can still drop my ass when we ride together. He's 75.

Posted by: anonymous on September 22, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

A nightgown made of very delicate-seeming fabric that I thought would tear the first time I wore it. That was 15 years ago.

Posted by: shortstop on September 22, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Whoo hoo, Shortstop!

-- 1970 digital alarm clock his mother gave my husband for college. Unfortunately it works fine. My gawd it's ugly.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on September 22, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

I have a '94 Mazda Miata with 338k miles on it. It's still running like a champ. I'm stunned. What a good value.

Posted by: s9 on September 22, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. (Of course, I'm saying that it's my Dad that's amazingly durable.)

Posted by: anonymous on September 22, 2007 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, everything I own busts after a year, or else I lose it or it gets stolen. Feh, I suck.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 22, 2007 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have some Heathkit speakers that my father put together in 1970 and have been used continously ever since then.

Posted by: sj on September 22, 2007 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Bmaz: My wife. Amazing resilience.
Uncommonsense: Did you get her for a good price, bmaz? ;-)

Seemed reasonable at the time. Turned out to be ridiculously expensive. Best freaking deal I ever made in my whole life.

Posted by: bmaz on September 23, 2007 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

See the 225 Slant Six engine has been mentioned. Bought a 1975 Dodge Dart that had one in 1986 for $380. Gave me no trouble for eight years.

Laughing at the sandal mentions. That was the first thing that came to mind. Bought for a buck in a downtown San Diego discount store in 1986. On my feet now.

Posted by: HL Mungo on September 23, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

A cheap, battery-powered, Spartus alarm clock that I purchased in December 1984 that has kept perfect time ever since.

Posted by: biosparite on September 23, 2007 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Maytag washer and dryer from 1974. The lint screen from the dryer has been patched once.

Posted by: TrishB on September 23, 2007 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Advent "small" loudspeakers from 1972. Through HS & college, they were my pride & joy -- they were great.

In the late 1980s, they fell apart, and I set them aside. A few years later, I realized the problem was deteriorating foam surrounds. I've replaced the foam surrounds, and the 35-yr old Advents are now as good as new.

Beat this story.

Posted by: Tom on September 23, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

A Stanfield T-shirt.

I got the shirt somewhere in the late '60s or early '70s. It was one hundred percent cotton, light denim blue colored with a darker reinforcing at the neck and sleeves. It was the start of the age of non-white T-shirts and other underwear. At least for me. I liked the color and wore it as a shirt. Regularly. I hadn't thought about it till I noticed one day while dropping it into the wash that it had outlasted many batches of regular T-shirts that I wore as undershirts only. They had stretched out of shape and then disintegrated while the Stanfield kept its almost original look. The many brightly colored T-shirts that I had bought afterwards, for the same use as regular shirts, had faded and died while that old Stanfield endured. That shirt lasted years longer and after about 15 or so of them it finally began to thin. The reinforcing began to lose threads, and then a hole appeared in the thinned, once super, fabric. It was almost like an old friend. I had washed it easily hundreds of times. I was beginning to get too fat for it too.

I remember the brand because the company that made it was (family?) owned by the Conservative (PROGRESSIVE! Conservative - so much for the meaning of "progressive") politician that was the opposition party leader in the first Trudeau era in Canada. Stanfield was a tall thin bald man with poor posture and a spectacularly somnolent voice. Trudeau was Canada's Kennedy. He was the Justice Minister that would bring a "Just Society" to Canada. Within two years after the "just society" promise Trudeau imposed martial law where I lived.

The boring and glaringly dull (dullness shown from images of him on television as if he had a clear coat paint job over matte primer) Stanfield probably cared more about Canada than Trudeau ever even dreamed about (due apologies to Joe Louis). If Clinton was supposed to have wanted to be president for the chicks, Trudeau lived that longing. Trudeau was a jet setter whose hobby was playing prime minister.

If there's a single reason why I'm wary of candidates that run on "charisma" its the contrast between Trudeau and Stanfield. When Trudeau first burst on the scene in Canada he combed his balding hair forward and towards the center line. (It was more stylish than Giuliani's comb over, but still, it was a comb over.) I remember a balding television newscaster, (English television in Quebec - CFCF - CTV) who gave the editorials, changing his hair style to match Trudeau's. This was a staid and stocky middle aged man without the faintest hint of style, much less charisma, and he was copying Trudeau's look. That's the effect Trudeau had on Canada.

Style over substance. We now have as president a "man you want to have a beer with" who we've come to realize is the drunk at the end of the bar that only newbies talk to until they get the earful of raving bullshit that drove everyone else away long before. How could a malevolent good for nothing schmuck like Bush have become president? Looking at the election processes over the last few decades I can't help but wonder what would have to be done to make substance the key to selecting our leaders. Obama generation? I guess it's obvious that I don't fit.

"Where's the beef?" hasn't given us any insight into what politicians plan for us. The guy that profited by that line ran on a policy of "a thousand points of light." The current Republicans look like SCTV versions of WWE wrestlers, overdoses of steroids included. The Democrats have to worry about their hair and their bookkeeping about their hair. What will it take to give us honest quality leadership rather than fantasy "The Dudes?"

Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.


The following linked video will be dated and meaningless if the ancient icons have no familiarity. 'Hillaryous' otherwise. Giuliani in drag reminded me of this SCTV skit of John Candy as Julia Child the boxer.

Robert Stanfield -

Posted by: Amos Anan on September 23, 2007 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

The solar calculator story above reminded me:

Still using my HP 10-C calculator I bought in 1982. On the third set of batteries now.

And just made a trip from San Francisco Bay Area to Seattle and back in my 1991 Honda Civic. I got 39-40 mpg during this trip; I cannot get a replacement car with that kind of mileage, even from Honda, without getting a hybrid.

Posted by: Wapiti on September 23, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

My mother's AT&T telephone, circa 1955. It's black and rotary and still works perfectly, and puts to shame the POS telephones that are sold today.

Posted by: a on September 23, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, a lot of lucky people here.

All my appliance/product stories end in tragedy or farce.

We don't seem to get along well, them and me. I guess the good news is I've buried them all.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 23, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

I love this post and am trying desperately to remember anything that's lasted long enough to brag about. Can't think of a damned thing so far. Maybe my relationship with my good friend i've known since i was 13 who later married my ex-wife? that's some durability. No luck with appliances tho.

Posted by: URK on September 23, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Back in college (which for me was 30 years ago) I used to go through cheapie backpacks - needed someplace to stow my stuff while bicycling, etc. They always went to pieces after a few months, so I got disgusted and went to an outdoor store looking for something more durable. When I bought my Wilderness Experience backpack, I asked how long it would last. They told me I would get sick of it long before it fell apart. They were right. Decades later the thing is still in good condition.

People upthread mention TV's. I think many modern TV's last essentially forever, which is a shame considering how a lot of them are being rendered obsolete by digital broadcasting and hi-def. In our house we have a number of fully-functional TV's (even after we gave one away to the cleaning gal) all of which unfortunately look like complete crap once you get used to watching a nice widescreen hi-def set.

Also I've been waiting for years for my 10-watt Miida receiver from 1974 to die and it won't. It's now on very light duty, so it may well last for years more.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 23, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I do have a pair of Sony MDR-7506 Professional headphones that still sound gorgeous 9 years after I got them as a present. These are the kinds of things I never buy myself because they're just that extra $20 more expensive. Shows what a freaking idiot I am; I've been through 6 pairs of those crappy little headphones with the mikes attached in just the past 3 years.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 23, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

ecco shoes. amazing wear. I used to buy Timberland, but quality seems to have dropped off a few years ago.

Forty year old Albin O-21 gasoline engine. Previous owner of the boat started the engine by spraying start gas down the carburetor for 5 minutes. I changed the points, plugs, oil and it now starts right up.

Posted by: expat on September 23, 2007 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

I say us cat owners start a bidding war on that chair.

Posted by: B on September 23, 2007 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

We've had a 1970 Peugeot 404 in my family for 37 years. My mother drove it, then my sister, then me, then my brother. Ugly, ugly car, but we've all driven it over the years between other cars & now my niece drives it. It always starts, doesn't rust, overheat or ever break down & runs like a boring, recurring dream. The bloody thing just won't die.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on September 23, 2007 at 4:12 AM | PERMALINK

My father's 'army shirt' that he got at Associated Military Stores in Chicago in 1928 - pre-war Egyptian cotton. Of course, it didn't get much use between 1932 and when I found it and started wearing it around the house around 1970. The wool version is also in good shape.

Posted by: cathy on September 23, 2007 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

My Ford Escort(s)! I now have 189,700 miles on the latest (1999), of five I have owned. I have bought them all used with 20-30K mi. and have done nothing extraordinary, just normal maintenance and they have all delivered at least an additional 150K mi. And this one gets 38-40mpg. Pity that Ford discontinued the Eyesore. Also I'm still listening to my Pioneer AM/FM tuner-amp I bought in 1979.

Posted by: Enver Hoxha on September 23, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

1/ betta lasted 5 years. Conventional wisdom is two year life expectancy and that they're already a year old when you buy them.
2/ Cat lived until she was 23, last seven with only six months to live due to cancer.

Posted by: Elroy Berdahl on September 23, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Many of you will scoff, but I don't care. The most durable item I possess is the stainless steel beer bong contraption that we used when partying at college in the early 1960s. It is made of a funnel and hoses purchased at a hardware store, circa 1962. It is held together with fasteners and wire that has rusted slightly, but has held up magnificently.

I fondly recall getting blitzed with it just last summer, causing me to fall into the pool. It could have been the cause of my demise, were it not for the fact that the hose attachment was so strong, I was able to pull myself out of the pool by grasping it and pulling on it. A good beer bong is more useful than anything else, and women secretly love them.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 23, 2007 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I have had some long-lived Fords, myself. We still own a 68 Cougar that is stored and rarely driven now, but as for daily use vehicles: I bought a full-sized Bronco at Jim Click Ford in Tucson when we were stationed at D-M in 1983, and drove that truck 386,000 miles. An Aerostar went 292,000 and a little four-cylinder Ranger went 225,000. I sold the Ranger to a neighbor a year ago when we moved, and just saw it a couple of days ago zipping down Main Street.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 23, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

HPIIIp printer. Bought it second-hand, 15 (?) years ago. Slow (by current standards) but excellent quality printing. And, of course, reliable.

Posted by: Jim on September 23, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

My ninety year old father is still using a hand drill he inherited from his uncle. It is about 115 years old made in Sheffield England and still works like a dream. If you just want drill one or two holes in wood it is much quicker and easier to use than an electric drill. He also has a chisel and plane of the vintage that are also better made than anything you can buy today.

Posted by: Displaced Canuck on September 23, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Two things for me:

I have a Samsung microwave that I bought second-hand in 1987--still going strong.

My Sony Trinitron TV with push button that I bought in 1982, I think, likewise still keeps on ticking. Never had to have anything done to it.

Posted by: Helena Montana on September 23, 2007 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

I'm amazed at the frequent mention of the Braun coffee grinders here; it's the product that first came to mind when I saw this posting. Mine was purchased with my first credit card, in 1979, and is still going strong. That same year I bought a Proctor-Silex juicer from Williams-Sonoma, and though it looks its age, it still works great.

Sing ho for the life of a Braun.

Posted by: joanbeach4 on September 23, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

1982 13" Sony Trinitron
Rancilio Silvia espresso machine (daily use for 7 years without a hitch so far).

Posted by: jc_atl on September 23, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

I have a radio/alarm clock and a desk lamp with a florescent light bulb my parents got me about twenty-five years ago and they still work. (I had to get a new bulb once for the lamp).

Posted by: Ted on September 23, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I have a wool blanket from the CCC - the Civilian Conservation Corps - still use it, still warm.

Posted by: trish on September 23, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Noticed some mention of older Kitchen Aid products, and it is a shame that KA appears to have made the mistake of others - Jumping too quickly into new lines, without the proper R&D - Two major disappointments for us, are the very pretty blue coffee maker and toaster - Toaster never browns evenly and the 3 year old coffee maker went south, although the blue did brighten the garbage can.

Shame that so many once reliable firms have been bought out and their products diminished by cheapening and poor R&D - Krups is not the Krups of old, for example.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 23, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Ooooh yeaaah- the ProtoPipe. The little beauty is machined from brass and copper so nicely you don't even have to use it to appreciate it. Use it four times a day for 20 years, give it a good soak in rubbing alcohol, and it looks like it did in the store.

Art, utility, durability- the single greatest tool of the second half of the 20th century.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 23, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Displaced -- you mean a brace? Hold onto it, man, those things are priceless: likewise with all old hand tools.

My entry -- my grandfather's staplers. We think he had 'em made as a promotion for his construction company in the the 30s, although it could have been before the Crash. There are still a half-dozen or so around that my father kept when he closed the company around 1968, so they were maybe 40 years old then, and have survived the company they advertise by another 40 years. Still work fine.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 23, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

My mom bought me a Swingline Cub stapler around 1954. About $4.

I still use it.

The company still produces a similar stapler, but it is a cheesy piece of plastic trash next to my all-steel one.

Posted by: Repack Rider on September 23, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

A 19 inch Toshiba television I purchased my first week in graduate school in 1988. Still using it. Getting dimmer over time, but watchable for all but the worst lit movies.

Also, my key ring, which I picked up at the welcoming event on my first day of college in 1984. Still using, will probably have it til I die since I can't think of any reason to get a new one.

I also still have my Texas Instruments calculator I bought in high school. I haven't used it much in the last 15 years, but still drag it out now and again when I need some square roots or trig functions. The amazing thing is that the original battery was still working 20 years after purchase (have since had to chance it, though).

Posted by: Yancey Ward on September 23, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, seconds on the solar calculator. I have a Casio model that I bought for college in 1983 and it still works great. It's been through hell, and it's awesome.

Posted by: s9 on September 23, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I bought an 87 Mustang, brand new, with the 5.0 V8. I drove that 240K with 5 tuneups, 1 brake job, and two transmissions. The tranny second was an external injury. I drove that car HARD. I broke the gas pedal from floorinf it. Drove it over 100MPH for an hour once. It will run more, when I get that new tranny.

Posted by: Richard W. Crews on September 23, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

That and the Ibanez X-model Destroyer I bought in 1983. It still plays great and never goes out of tune.

I had one of those - bought it for $35 and used it for three years until somebody stole it. I worked in an auto body shop and gave it a distinct paint job when i owned it. I fully expect to walk into a club one of these days and see somebody playing it.

And I'd like to add my Black & Decker drill to the list. I worked for an interior design firm throughout the 80s, and when the owners decided to retire and close up shop, I inherited the tools. The thing smells like an NYC subway tunnel when it runs, but it was at the store when I started there in 1980 and I used it yesterday to take out a couple of kitchen cabinets.

It. Will. Not. Die.

Posted by: Stranger on September 23, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

96 Saturn SL, manual transmission, 301,000 miles, original clutch. It has needed 2 brake jobs and two sets of tires. The AC doesn't work anymore, but it still gets 35-40 mpg on the highway, 30-35 city.

Posted by: Donald Clarke on September 23, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I've got a Hitachi belt sander I bought in 1984 and used evey day in the cabinet business for 15 years, and I still use it for hobby woodworking projects today. There are several things about it I've never liked, but I couldn't ever justify buying a new one because it will not die.
I also have several woodwoking hand tools easily over 100 years old, and they work much better than anything sold today.

Posted by: Lee Vinson on September 23, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Two items come to mind.

1) A World War II Era Steelcase "battleship" desk. It was 40 years old when I bought it, used, in Pittsburgh in 1986. I *supidly* gave it away in 1998 before we moved to the Midwest from San Diego. The thing was completely indestructible. It weighed a ton, but, man, that thing was durable.

2) The same day I bought the Steelcase desk, I bought a wooden office chair made by Business Furniture Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The serial number is 19484. I believe it is now 60 years old and has gone through unimaginable abuse. It's still the best chair in the house.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 23, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Klipsch speakers...the La Scala model. Bought in 1976 and they still sound great. Best consumer purchase I ever made.

Posted by: StevenD on September 23, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

My insulated Timberlands purchased in 1975. I also had a '71 Plymouth Duster slant 6 225 that ran until salt ate out the brake lines and the frame.

Posted by: Melanie on September 23, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

You folks have missed a great example I expected to see here.

IBM Selectric II typewriter.

I still have a Selectric I traveled with for years, carrying it in a wonderful leather case. I'd go in for, say, a job interview, and the interviewer would ask for a sample of my writing. I'd ask for the topic, then think about it while hauling the Selectric out of the car. Instant writing sample, coming right up. Spelling and grammar perfect, yes? My rate is...$100/ day (1975).

It's been through a house fire that resulted in a thorough cleaning, otherwise...no maintenance since new. And no failures ever, though when used infrequently it must be allowed to warm up, because the typeball doesn't whirl too quickly at first.

Still the finest keyboard touch ever. I look forward to an excuse to get off the computer and onto the IBM, just to touch the keys. And I would give a LOT of money for a computer keyboard with the touch of that Selectric.

Want to change fonts? You change the type ball. True Selectric freaks have a whole drawer full of type balls.

And of course, there is the correction tape. No more whiteout...you use the correction key to edit your work.


Posted by: Skippy on September 23, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

A few have mentioned the Honda Civic already, but wanted to add mine. Was a 1989 Civic hatchback, bought in the early 90s for $3000, with about 70k miles already. I took it to over 200,000 miles, and the engine still ran smooth and silent. I practically never changed the oil, too. No problems, no maintenance, 'cept a disk brake pad or two.

Honda's rule. Wish their newer models were more attractive.

Posted by: luci on September 23, 2007 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

I still have the JBL speakers I bought for my first stereo system back in 1972; they sound great still. I also have a Sanyo 25" television I bought in 1988. Other than a cold soldering joint, it hasn't had any problems and still has a bright, sharp picture. The remote is held together with masking tape because the kids throw it across the room, but it works.

Posted by: coldhotel on September 23, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

coldhotel, I just got back from watching "The War" on PBS on a 25" Sanyo. I think it was made around the same time, perhaps early '90s. The screen is still curved and rounded at the edges, but that nearly eliminates the geometric distortion in the picture that you do see. What's great also (as with most CRT's), is dark scenes... it's all pure black.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 23, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

I mentioned these in a Friday Cat blogging thread, but they are so damn cool, I'll do it again

In 1949, when the REA finally got electricity out to the hinterlands of North Dakota where my Mom's farm is, my grandfather installed a refrigerator and an electric stove, both made by International Harvester. Both white, both built like trucks. Both are now 58 years old, and have NEVER been repaired.

(The stove, in addition to 4 burners and an oven, also has a cast-iron firebox where one can burn coal or wood. This feature has come in hand a lot over the years, when ice storms take down the power lines. )

For the first 30 years of their lives, these two appliances served breakfast, lunch, and dinner to anywhere from 4 to 12 people - more during the harvest season. For the last 28, they've stood all winter in an unheated, 30-degrees-below zero farmhouse - then picked up right where they left off when they're plugged in again in the spring.

They match the 1952 International Harvester 4-wheel drive red and white pickup, that my brother -in -law still gets running every summer.

(sigh) and my 8-year-old Kenmore Washing machine, that does maybe 12 loads a month, is now rusted and leaking, and my 8-year-old Kenmore fridge is making ominous noises.

I'm just saying - Americans INVENTED quality manufacturing, damn it! So why can't we do it any more?

Posted by: mldostert on September 23, 2007 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

My parents have a Kitchenaid stand mixer that is as old as I am. I was born in 1971.

No joke! I am currently using my mother's Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I'm pretty sure she got as a wedding present in 1972.

I even left it in a basement for a year, and the basement flooded. I took it home, opened it up with a screwdriver, spent 10 minutes cleaning out some gunk, and it still works perfectly. It's amazing, too, that I can go into any store in 2007 and buy a pasta maker attachment or some other specialty piece, and it will fit and it will work. I assume the same is true of replacement pieces, but I've never had to buy a single one! Because NOTHING ON IT EVER BREAKS. I'm seriously thinking of sticking it in a field during a rainstorm and seeing if getting struck by lightning will knock it out.

LOL, it's been around so long that even its obnoxious '70's green avocado color has even come back in style! It never quits!

Posted by: anonymiss on September 23, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

1990 Dodge 350 Cummins Turbo Diesel pickup. When I die someone will take the engine out amp it up from 160 hp to 450 hp and put it in a boat and run it for 40 years and all it will need is oil changes and new filters. The truck had to have a new paint job last year and the head liner is falling apart. It will surely outlast me and maybe my children. Great car to drive around Palo Alto and scare the shit out of the yuppies and their spawn. No one fucks with this truck at intersections, not even the Mussolini Brutalist newer trucks/Hummers.

Posted by: DILBERT DOGBERT on September 23, 2007 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

The green Nokia winter boots that I bought about 20 years ago. They came with an extra set of felt liners--I have not even had to swap them out. A bit of the waterproofing has worn away from the fabric under the laces, but they are still mostly snowproof.

Posted by: Tim Francis-Wright on September 24, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

I had a 1987 VW Jetta. I once got in an accident - I was side swiped. The car landed on its side a spun 180 degrees, we crawled out of the sunroof, after dealing with the accident report and having a tow truck set thing on four wheels again -- I drove it home. And through all that abuse and years of driving, and leaving the sun roof open in the rain (i was young, we forget these things!): the interior looked brand new.

Posted by: DC1974 on September 24, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

1.) The 68 Cougar my wife mentioned earlier that I have owned since 1970, bought from an uncle on his way to Vietnam, a week before I got a drivers license.

2.) The 57 Stratocaster that I inherited from another uncle in 1967, after he died in a head-on car crash.

3.) Fatigues from the last lot of cotton fatigues issued at Lackland AFB, in 1976. (Three pair of the pants are still serviceable and BG still wears them.)

4.) A Browning .270 that I got for my 12th birthday (Dad was a Marine. 'Nuff said.)

5.) BG

Posted by: Blue Girl's Better half on September 24, 2007 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

this has turned into a most interesting thread.

in 1956 i bought a 1930 model a ford roadster---
this was the best decision i ever made. in 1968 i sold that model a ford roadster---this was the worst decision i ever made. god,i loved that little car.

two facts concerning the durability of model a

1)of all the cars built from 1928 through 1931,
that are still on the road today, half of them are model a fords.
2) in 1985, when model a fords were all over 50 years old, half the taxi cabs in mexico city were model a fords.

Posted by: wschneid25 on September 24, 2007 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

I bought an electric pencil sharpener before heading off to college in 1987. It still works like a charm, though I rarely need to sharpen pencils anymore.

My wife has a Singer sewing machine that her grandmother bought in about 1932. We had to have it serviced recently, but I expect it will be around for our grandkids.

Posted by: CrackWilding on September 24, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

I love these types of posts. A welcome respite from Bush adminstration outrage.

Auto: 1960 Chevy Apache 1/2 ton pick-up. Bought from estate of neighbors sister for $250 in 1981. 235 cu.in. straight 6. Indistructable. Dependable. Repairable. Sold in 1993 and still see it on the road.

Camera: Pentax Spotmatic. Brought back from SE Asia in 1970. Quarter of a century bouncing around in backpack, boat and car and still that reassuring crisp shutter snap that digital just doesnt deliver. Bonus feature--works even with dead battery. Semi-retired since the advent of decent digital cameras.

Stereo: Pioneer reciever, and turntable; Sansui speakers. Same Asian adventure. Reciever and speakers have been demoted to the shop/garage for the last twenty years. The turntable is still performing occasional duty in the house. Just about all the lights on the reciever are burnt out but all functions still available. And the speakers still sound great. Or maybe they're just slightly more durable than my hearing.

Appliance: Kenmore refridgerator. Wedding present from parents in 1973. Also relegated to the shop but still happily cooling beer and Costco booty. That reminds me.. it does need a new door seal.

Posted by: Digital Amish on September 24, 2007 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

The Singer sewing machine needs to be given a thumbs up. Both my wife and daughter have ancient, ancient Singer sewing machines. Both work as advertised.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 24, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Got a set of Bozak DMS 2500 loudspeakers in 1987 - 20 years later these things are still as smooth a silk, and sound better than any of these subwoofer & satellite things they sell today.

Mom gave me a Samsung 13 inch color TV for College in 1985. The picture is still killer...I can't let this thing go, as it's the TV I watched Villanova upset Goergetown on in 1985.

Posted by: steveconga on September 24, 2007 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

A black nylon Banana Republic jacket I bought five years ago. I've worn it nearly every day when the temperature is between 35 and 50 degrees, or when it's raining (the jacket is waterproof.

Except for a few tiny little shiny spots that are barely visible, it looks like it's brand new. Every other article of clothing I have that is that old is threadbare or has holes in it.

Posted by: dal20402 on September 24, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Strong second on the IBM Selectric. I didn't mention it, cuz I don't have one (dammit).

When I first started working, they were everywhere, and the feel was great. And I still miss the correction tape -- for awhile there, I could type backwards nearly as fast I typed forwards.

I hear there is a lively underground business maintaining and supplying 'em -- the US government gave away the thousands they used to have to historically black colleges, but I dunno what happened to 'em after that.

But still, well-made hand tools of all sorts rule.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 24, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Lasts for generations.....

Posted by: robd on September 24, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

I play a ton of soccer. Several times a week. Soccer balls wear out fast, even expensive ones. Seven years ago I was given a Nike ball, free, by a rec league in which I entered a team. Since it was given away free, you have to know it was cheap. Seven years on, not only is that ball still spherical and the surface undamaged despite very heavy use, but I have NEVER ONCE had to add air to it. Still as firm as they day I got it.

Posted by: Ryan on September 24, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

A small white Samsung microwave that's at least 10 years old. Its best feature is that I have never had to think twice about how to use the controls.

George Nelson bench by Herman Miller, also 10 years old. It's solid maple and even after my niece finished smashing her toys against it the other day, there was nary a scratch.

Posted by: Andree on September 24, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

note, from a reader, concerning my earlier post above (at 6:54am)
about the durability of model a fords:

i never owned a model a ford but i did help a man, who lived next door, rebuild one when i was a kid---i actually thought i was helping to rebuild the car but all i was doing was providing an extra pair of hands or an extra pair of eyes when he needed them.

however i can tell you about something that was
just as dependable and just as reliable as a model a ford:
the old time do-it-yourself-er hi-fi heathkits(*)
from the early 50's to the early 70's.
there is no pleasure, this side of paradise, to compare with turning on a big fairly sophisticated
piece of hi-fi equipment in a living room full of people and saying: I BUILT IT MYSELF.

(*)for you young fogies, who have never heard of heathkits there is a wonderfull obituary for the heathkit in the 1992 new york times(**)

(**) go to nytimes.com and type in the search box: heathkit plug -----then click and it's hit1 on p1.

Posted by: wschneid25 on September 24, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I had the same hot-pink, GE radio alarm clock for almost 20 years before it finally started adding aboout 40 minutes of time each day.

Posted by: Scott Herbst on September 24, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK



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