If it ain't broke: You share your oldest working gadgets

BBC Technology 08 Jun 2020 11:12
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
Nintendo Game BoyImage copyright Ricky Boleto

These days, your shiny new gadget is likely to be rendered obsolete by software updates (or a lack of them) before it physically grinds to a halt.

A recent report by the consumer campaign group Which? suggests the lifespan of a smart fridge could be just a few years if the brand behind it stops providing software support and updates.

Meanwhile, Sonos has released new software for its internet-connected speakers that does not work on its own-branded older devices.

And this prompted me to casually mention on Twitter that I have a 12-year-old TV.

To make myself feel better, I also asked people to share their oldest working gadgets.

And a floodgate opened.

Made in the days before software updates, operating systems and security vulnerabilities were part of of the ecosystem, they're all still going strong.

Image copyright @ReesMF
Image copyright Rachel Rogers

Rachel Rogers has a working toaster, which belonged to her grandmother, from 1925.

Mary Branscombe, meanwhile, writes: "Dishwasher from 1996, fridge and washing machine from 1997 - but the Braun hand blender is from the early 90s. And of course my mid-80s sandwich toaster from college is still going strong."

And Sue says: "My Prestige High Dome pressure cooker was a Christmas present in 1975 - still in use. My mother's identical one, from Christmas 1953, was passed on six years ago, still good."

A surprising number of Nintendo Game Boys (launched in 1989) and the occasional NES (Nintendo Entertainment System, launched in 1983) are still being put through their paces too.

Chris Green still plays on a 37-year-old ZX Spectrum.

And Peter Gothard's Sega Mega Drive is "coming up for 30, and still working perfectly".

Ewan Spence still uses a Psion organiser from 1993.

"This little stick has been 'backing me up' since before I can remember," he says.

Image copyright Moataz Attallah

"My dad bought it for me in 1997 from France - hence the name, Graphique Couleur," he says.

Meanwhile, Peter Gillingwater's Casio FX-602P, which he bought in 1981, still works.

"Fitted well in the knee pockets of high-waisters - anyone remember those?" he asks.

Plenty of iPods, Sony Walkmans and hi-fis are still in good working order, along with the occasional Minidisc player and one 1960s HMV record player.

Image copyright Zoe Kleinman

"I've got some music keyboards from the mid-80s and early-90s too."

Image copyright @_Tumulus
Image copyright Neil Craig

"Well, that view may have value in the worlds of laptops and smartphones but sometimes older products are just better - better components, better design and a better lifespan.

"A new Bluetooth speaker may have the latest software and chipsets - but this won't mean it's superior.

"And I've yet to find one that sounds better or works as seamlessly."

However, some older gadgets may need a little bit of 21st-Century magic.

On his wall at home is a Hitachi CRT TV from 1975, which he has refitted to stream digital video.

"You can fit something new inside it, like a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino, to make it work like it is supposed to but in a more modern way."

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Kate BevanRachel RogersMary BranscombeJorn Madslien
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