December 5, 2023

Tishamarie online

Specialists in technology

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

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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.

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This Kenwood food mixer dates back to 1964, owner Matthew Rees says

Kitchen gadgets were built to last, with a number of 20-, 30-, 40- and even 50-year-old whisks and mixers proudly shown off, along with a 20-year-old Breville sandwich toaster, a rice cooker from the early 1990s and a 33-year-old Braun juicer.

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Rachel Rogers

Kate Bevan has a 30-year-old washing machine.

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

And the broadcaster Mariella Frostrup has a 25-year-old Magimix food processor.

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.”

Sarah is still using a Sunbeam iron she received as a wedding present in 1977, which “lasted longer than the marriage”.

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.”

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Ricky Boleto

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.

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Jorn Madslien

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

Jorn Madslien’s teenage son has acquired his mum’s Binatone console from the early 1980s.

And Peter Gothard’s Sega Mega Drive is “coming up for 30, and still working perfectly”.

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Ewan Spence

Ewan Spence still uses a Psion organiser from 1993.

And Amin has been using the same memory stick since 2005.

“This little stick has been ‘backing me up’ since before I can remember,” he says.

“It even broke and I fixed it with superglue many years ago.”

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Moataz Attallah

There are also a number of vintage calculators still in service – the one above belongs to Prof Moataz Attallah.

“My dad bought it for me in 1997 from France – hence the name, Graphique Couleur,” he says.

“It can plot graphs, do matrix calculations and more, with 64KB”.

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

And Paul Marks has been using his Casio FX-29 calculator since he got it, in 1977.

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

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This Sony Walkman, from 1991, is still going, reports Modha on Twitter

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.

“Functioning, probably – the Vestax recorder, which I have had since the early 90s,” Keith Devereux says, “unused now since I can’t really get audio cassettes any more. Currently in use? Almost certainly the trusty old iPod from the early 2000s.”

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Zoe Kleinman

Sean McManus says: “My Amstrad CPC 464 computer from 1984 still works fine.

“I’ve got some music keyboards from the mid-80s and early-90s too.”

And restaurant critic Jay Rayner asks: “Does a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano from 1993 count?”

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This 1960 Rock-Ola 1484 jukebox still has pride of place

There are also a variety of working FM radios, turntables, early digital radios and speakers.

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Neil Craig

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Neil Craig only recently parted with this working lawnmower, from the 1950s

“As hardware lifecycles get shorter and shorter, with some even measured in months not years, it’s easy to think that most people just want the latest version of a product,” Wired UK executive editor Jeremy White says.

“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.

“Hi-fi gear shows this time and again.

“A new Bluetooth speaker may have the latest software and chipsets – but this won’t mean it’s superior.

“I still use a TV sound system that came out in 2009.

“And I’ve yet to find one that sounds better or works as seamlessly.”

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Martin Mander

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Mr Mander’s modified 1975 Hitachi TV set

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

Martin Mander, host of the YouTube channel Old Tech New Spec, modifies old devices that continue to be of service in today’s world.

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

“At its heart, old technology was really bulky and modern technology is really tiny,” he says, “so you have more space inside an old device to modify it.

“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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