back to article The Wristwatch of the Long Now: When your MTBF is two centuries

If you've got a grand-and-a-half to splurge on rose-gold pocket tech, here are two contenders. One is a 512GB Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, which can tell the time and make phone calls. The other is an 1820 Garcerand French repeating pocket watch (see below) with verge escapement and quarter repeater, which tells the time. No phone …

  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

    And hiding them in mountains is really going to help.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

      The hiding it away in a mountain is an unfortunate requirement of the here and now. You can't build something like this in a dense urban area and expect it to survive 100 days without around the clock guards, lets alone 10.000 years. It also has a deeper meaning. Visiting the clock will require an effort, a long hike on which to contemplate whatever it is you feel contemplating,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        "Around the clock guards". lol.

        1. Philip Lewis
          Coat

          Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

          iamanidiot missed an opportunity there, reasons should be obvious enough

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        Given there was a 3.9 earthquake less than 200 miles away a few days a go I thing there will be a deeper contemplation long before 100yrs its up.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

          From the Wikipedia article on the Richter Scale:

          "3.0–3.9 ... III to IV ... Often felt by people, but very rarely causes damage. Shaking of indoor objects can be noticeable. "

          I would be absolutely astounded if a clock designed to last 10KA isn't designed to withstand the shaking equivalent to a large truck driving past outside, let alone significantly more. Given the amount of effort put into it, I reckon they might have considered this one...

          1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

            Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

            3.9 is a warning that you live next to a motorway. Or in an earthquake prone area.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

              3.9 is a warning that you live next to a motorway

              Or on a bus route in an area that is predominantly clay. And on a road wit speed bumps..

      3. Munchausen's proxy
        Pint

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        "Visiting the clock will require an effort, a long hike on which to contemplate whatever it is you feel contemplating,"

        What time is it? Are we almost there?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

          We used to call that a "pilgrimage". It's not such a bad thing.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

      In 10,000 years it's going to accumulate a lot of leap-seconds.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        I expect part of the thought is to reorient our time keeping away from the terrestrial to a universal standard time.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        And a year will be about 100 seconds longer than it is now.

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

        If it ticks once a year, then I'm going to assume it's measuring sidereal time, not UTC.

        1. tfb Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

          I believe it is designed to synchronise itself to the Sun, so I think so.

    3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Instilling new timeframes of thought in a world beset by faster/shorter.

      It's all a cover really. Bezos is actually Blofeld, and is actually building a secret base in the mountain.. Watch, in few years, Elon Musk's rockets will start to vanish, only to be rescued by some secret agent when he invades that mountain..

  2. Paul Johnson 1
    Holmes

    Beware survival bias

    No doubt there were lots of watches made 200 years ago that stopped working 6 months later. We don't see those. We only see the ones that have lasted 200 years, and we marvel at how reliable they are.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      The link to survivor bias is a good one, I think the point here is that it is referring to a device that, while it was not engineered intentionally to be long-lasting, it was built out of the best materials available and with the most precise mechanical engineering at the time of construction. It is also, one assumes a near 'one off' so making statistical predictions becomes difficult.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        "it was built out of the best materials available and with the most precise mechanical engineering at the time of construction."

        It was also built for a simple task. Add a perpetual calendar and day of week function and either (a) you have to be able to set d-o-w independently of the calendar or (b) you have to build in the correct leap year algorithm or (c) it goes out of kilter on 2100-03-01.

        1. HildyJ Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          As far as best materials and engineering - no. There are 100 year old Ford Model Ts that still run despite the fact that they were designed to be produced quickly and cheaply.

          Features are closer to the point but while they introduce complexity they don't necessarily affect survivability.

          The key is that 200, 100, or (in the case of my Omega watch) 50 year old survivors is that they were designed to be repaired. Given that, there are church clocks and organs from around the 14th century.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            100 year old Ford Model Ts that still run despite the fact that they were designed to be produced quickly and cheaply

            Almost certainly those cars have bee restored and then fanatically maintained or just fanatically maintained.

            Amusingly, the guy that maintains our Morris Minor usually turns up to pick it up driving a 1930's Morris (which he leaves onour drive while he fettles the MM). It doesn't have the capability to lock the doors..

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            "There are 100 year old Ford Model Ts that still run despite the fact that they were designed to be produced quickly and cheaply."

            At the time of the Model T, materials weren't as consistent and there was no such thing as finite element analysis (FEA) so a certain amount of overbuilding was needed to make sure they lasted through the warranty period (if any). Most of the mechanical items that are still working today are the ones at the top range of the market when they were new. The tat coming out of mainly China these days has so many corners cut that it's perfectly round.

            iThingys are a good example of product that won't be around in a decade to any great extent. They aren't made to be serviced and electronic parts go obsolete all of the time. That's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of EVs where everything funnels through one LCD. An LCD that spends many days thermal cycling in the sun until the separate layers delaminate and the goo leaks out. Will that custom screen be available as a spare 10 years from now? They're® saying that the "new" Tesla batteries will be good for a million miles. Will the LCD last that long? How about that Flash memory that's massively abused and bricks the car when it goes sproing?

            A lot of modern tech is very ephemeral. Its got no legs.

            1. ds6
              Coffee/keyboard

              Re: Beware survival bias

              I've got an original run X220T, Model M from 1986, and enough spare parts to service them for years to come. If they're ephemeral then I must be a ghost, and you'll have to take them from my ghostly ectoplasm-covered hands.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beware survival bias

          I think you have a misprint there. Day of week will be easy to do on a watch (Su-M-T-W-Tr-F-Sa repeats forever, just increment at midnight). Full calendar with leap year calculations is harder to do correctly.

          Your premise about do a simple task and do it well still holds (like Unix, there's our tech anglr if watches aren't techy enough!)

    2. Willy Ekerslike

      Re: Beware survival bias

      That reminds me of the case from WWII where the boffins were wondering where to put better armour plating on bombers. They started by considering those places with the most bullet holes on returning aircraft - on the basis that these were the places that were being hit the most. No so, suggested Abraham Wald (a Hungarian statistician) - those parts survived the holes; better to consider the areas with the fewest holes as these were probably less survivable.

      On the matter of watches - I certainly prefer a good mechanical one. There's something nice about mechanics, where you can actually see its workings.

      1. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I too prefer the mechanical watches. You don't need to keep a booklet with instructions on how to set the time, and its dial mimics what it is measuring. I think that design is one of the most elegant ever.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beware survival bias

          "You don't need to keep a booklet with instructions on how to set the time,"

          Nearly fifty years ago - working very long lucrative hours - I bought an Omega wristwatch with a day/date movement so I could keep track of the week. Every time I need to adjust it for the length of the month end - it takes a while to remember all the winding spindle's movements to engage the requisite functions.

          I still have it - relegated to a drawer to be worn only on more formal occasions. It was just costing too much at £200 a throw for maintenance every few years - and never kept good time. That was actually a longer period than Omega recommended viz a year. But they couldn't turn round regular maintenance in the UK in less than six weeks. It's had most of the gears renewed several times - as the waterproof seals were not replaced when Omega apparently outsourced the maintenance on older models.

          So - what I wear is an Aldi quartz analogue that cost £3.99 many years ago. I change the battery myself every couple of years.

          I also have an unusual 1920s Westminster chiming clock - full of beautiful brass gears. Unfortunately no longer working after two repairers seemed to bodge the job - and finally left it with a broken mainspring. The Maplin large digital MSF clocks have been running reliably for about 20 years - accurate to the second according to the FM pips. Just need a new AA battery about every two years.

          1. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I went through a period of buying cheap digital watches and just replacing them as the battery wore out, the strap broke, the screen became too scratched, etc.

            The drawback was that I relied on my daughter to reset the time for the daylight saving time changes. Which meant I was an hour off until she was next at home for a semester break.

            So: I can gut and rehab a house including wiring and plumbing, restore a car including the engine rebuild, and perform all the server/OS/programming tasks associated with a lifetime career in IT. But I can't set the time on a digital watch.

            1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

              Re: Beware survival bias

              And programme a VCR? Forgetaboutit.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Beware survival bias

              "The drawback was that I relied on my daughter to reset the time for the daylight saving time changes."

              A neighbour has a wristwatch that auto-corrects from the MSF (WWV/DCF77) radio time signals. I am tempted to buy one. Nearly every clock in the house is now radio time signal synchronised. Only the central heating clock updates automatically without a time signal. I suspect it has hard-wired dates that would be confounded if the DST algorithms ever change.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Beware survival bias

                "A neighbour has a wristwatch that auto-corrects from the MSF (WWV/DCF77) radio time signals."

                You'd think that's a good solution. My "Atomic" clock keeps the worst time out of every clock in the house. It SAYS it's receiving signal, but I'm not convinced.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          "and its dial mimics what it is measuring."

          yeah, and if it didn't take it off first, it mimic'd me playing the drums, all over the place.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      Very interesting link. Thank you for that.

      It remains, though, that the article is on target concerning the shit that is sold these days. There are precious few things that will be working in the next ten years, let alone two hundred, and I will venture that nothing Apple sells today will be part of that group since Apple has a thing about not making the battery easily replaceable.

      1. Philip Lewis
        Facepalm

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I accidentally upgraded my kid's iWatch 3. Bad move because his iPhone 6 will no longer pair with it. I get it, newer, better, shinier and so on. But I am trying to instil in him the idea that one should use durable goods until they no longer are fit for purpose. Apple's planned obsolescence in this case is irritating.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          "But I am trying to instil in him the idea that one should use durable goods until they no longer are fit for purpose."

          Indeed. I am still using hammers, saws, files, chisels, screwdrivers and other tools that my dad bought at estate sales in the 1920s and 1930s. Some are surely more than a century old. They work fine. I did retire the brace and bits a decade ago when we finally got battery powered drills that could be relied upon to finish an outdoor job without waiting hours for one or more battery recharges.

          The modern obsession with constant "maintenance" seems to me largely a fad like the huge decorative fins that American cars sprouted in the 1950s. Why would anyone want to wake up every morning not knowing if the manufacturers have (yet again) broken their critical toolchain(s) overnight?

          This too shall pass. At least one hopes it will.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            waiting hours for one or more battery recharges

            What is the fad these days for selling you one battery and multiple battery-less tools? Several (DIY-oriented) manufacturers are touting these "systems". Buy your first tool which comes with a battery and a charger (occasionally two batteries), but save money by buying subsequent tools without the batteries.

            Waste time on the job a: constantly swapping batteries b: not being able to have two people using tools at the same time c: waiting to recharge.

            Here's an example. Six tools, three batteries and a single charging unit that takes over an hour to charge a battery.

            To be fair, other packs come with better ratios or better chargers and as it's possible to buy batteries and chargers individually (until they change the design) it's certainly a flexible system, but the thinking behind the "multi packs" doesn't stack up, except for the lone DIY-er with plenty of time on his/her hands.

            M.

            1. xeroks

              Re: Beware survival bias

              i always wondered why capacitor-based power tools disappeared.

              My use case for electric screwdriver is that it's ony used occasionally, with brief flurries when I use it a lot.

              I had a battery screwdriver which was flat every time I needed it, or sitting charging pointlessly. When that finally died, I found a capcitor screwdriver. Takes about 1 minute to charge from flat.

              Yes, it doesn't take long to go flat, but then it's only another minute to recharge again.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Beware survival bias

                And that's why I've reverted to mains powered drills.

                My grandfather's drill still works fine - the chuck got replaced about 25 years ago, and the key from the first chuck is still tied onto the power cable with the same orange string it had 30+ years ago (no idea where the replacement key ended up). Occasionally the hammer switch gets enabled accidentally, but the two speed options still work.

                I have also recently bought a low powered, reversible and variable speed mains drill as a small drill (small holes in wood/metal/CF) but mostly as a driver (screws, bolts) and the 'adaptor bit' from my little multi tool set lives in it's (keyless) chuck. I don't think it will last as long, but it does have replaceable brushes, so it might last a fair while yet. It's power cable is relatively short though, so I might replace the plug with an IEC 'kettle" inline plug, so that I can use any of my random (13A) leads so equipped.

            2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Beware survival bias

              "Waste time on the job a: constantly swapping batteries b: not being able to have two people using tools at the same time c: waiting to recharge."

              Systems like this aren't aimed at professionals/teams/large scale operations; the link you posted is for DeWalt consumer range. They're aimed at the kind of jobs that are done by one person, one, maximum two tools at a time, within the capacity of a single battery charge. Think putting up shelves, trimming a hedge or similar.

              If you are a professional/team/large scale operation, you're only going to use batteries if there's no realistic alternative (in which case you'll likely have a number of these tools and a charging bank with 20 or so batteries) - or for the bigger/more static jobs, an on-site generator and mains power.

            3. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Beware survival bias

              "What is the fad these days for selling you one battery and multiple battery-less tools?"

              And they do you good and proper for those extra batteries when you discover that you never have enough of a charge to get any project done. Of course you will buy more as you are already invested in all of the tools.

          2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I still have my grandfather's axe. The handle has only been replaced 3 times, and the head twice.

            1. Philip Lewis

              Re: Beware survival bias

              A guy from Rolls Royce once told me there are jet engines in service where only the nameplate remains of the original

            2. Imhotep Silver badge

              Re: Beware survival bias

              You may want to get an appraisal. It sounds a lot like the axe George Washingon used to chop down the cherry tree.

            3. ITS Retired

              Re: Beware survival bias

              As long as the replacement part overlaps the replacement of the other part, all is good.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Beware survival bias

            "I did retire the brace and bits a decade ago [...]"

            The brace & bit has the virtue of being slow - and long enough to keep it perpendicular resting against your stomach. An ideal tool when using auger bits on wood.

    4. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      Actually there were probably very few that stopped before due as they were [a] ferociously expensive (vastly more so proportionally than the phone) and [b] made by folks to whom you had direct access to complain if anything went wrong.

      However it's worth remembering that the great hand craft watch makers eventually went out of business in favour of mass production as they only ever sold one watch to each customer so the market dried up. In a commercial environment such as we have now that relies on disposability, churn and waste, such craftsmen could not possibly survive. It's hard now to find folks even prepared and capable to repair such watches.

      1. PerlyKing Silver badge

        Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

        I think there are a few Swiss watchmakers who might disagree. Not many, and it's definitely a luxury segment, but that's how it was 200 years ago.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

          What largely put the old watchmakers out of business was when Timex started stamping out zillions of inexpensive durable watches back around 1950. In most cases, when one broke -- which didn't happen all that often, it was cheaper to buy a new watch than fix the old one. They were pretty sturdy. I wouldn't be at all surprised that many of those 70 year old Timex watches are still running.

          1. Bryan Hall

            Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

            It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

              It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

              And I remember some pr0n magazine's spoof on that one...

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

            ...and then, Seiko came along. Timexes are good, Seikos are great.

          3. Cem Ayin

            Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

            "In most cases, when one broke ... it was cheaper to buy a new watch than fix the old one"

            In fact, most of the Timex watch movements that I'm aware of were non-repairable by design: held together mostly by rivets rather than screws. The only way to "fix" a Timex movement was to completely replace it with a new one, same as with most of today's cheap quartz movements.

            BTW, the industrialisation of the watchmaking business had already started about a century earlier in the USA, with Switzerland soon forced to follow suit, although industrial production was initially limited to the ébauche and a skilled repasseur was required to complete and fine-tune the movement.

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

            "I wouldn't be at all surprised that many of those 70 year old Timex watches are still running."

            Neither would I, but ones made ten years ago may be hard to find working.

            The thinking used to be how a process could be sped up while maintaining quality. Now it's shaving pennies off of every component and still having it work for the better part of the warranty period. The Chinese have a great angle on that. They build utter crap, write "lifetime guarantee" on the packaging and delete that brand so nobody can ever return anything. The lifetime of the brand might be a month. Change the blister pack and brand name and load the next container.

        2. Kernel

          Re: such craftsmen could not possibly survive

          "I think there are a few Swiss watchmakers who might disagree."

          Excepting the really high-end 'designer' grade Swiss watchmakers, I think you'll find most watches marked as 'Swiss made' contain movements of Chinese manufacture in a case of similar source, with just the minimum of work being done in Switzerland to qualify for the 'Swiss made' label.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Beware survival bias

        "However it's worth remembering that the great hand craft watch makers eventually went out of business [...]"

        There's a company in the Isle of Man who make hand-crafted custom watches for eye-watering prices - starting from GBP95k. In a radio programme the top man said that owning one of their watches was all about prestige. If you wanted long term accuracy he recommended a cheap quartz watch would perform better.

    5. Tomato42

      Re: Beware survival bias

      one issue is getting the thing working, true, there survivorship bias does apply

      but consider this, I have an working 8" floppy drive and a bunch of 8" disks, how would you connect them to a modern laptop?

      (protip: 3.5" floppy-USB converter won't do you any good)

      1. John Sturdy
        Boffin

        Re: Beware survival bias

        Wikipedia gives the fastest bit rate for 8" floppies as 500Kbits/sec, and ARM's web site lists their fastest real-time-oriented core as being able to go about 1.5GHz, so you can probably read it with "bit-banging" style software on a fast microcontroller board.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          ---

          "bit banging" style...

          ---

          Or just get a Kryoflux unit. Works with a variety of disk formats, but only directions for 5.25 an 3.5 drives.

          A typical older (soft sectored) 8-inch drive is electrically very similar to the early 3.5 drives, so could be just a cable re-mapping of wires. The unit does, IIRC, have an ARM or some such but it does not decode the disk. Rather, it ships a stream of timed flux transitions (imagine something like the Roland MIDI interfaces) to the host, where software of varying sophistication does the actual decoding (and for some formats, encoding).

          That's the good news. The not-so-good is that at least when I got one several years ago, they were pretty WIndows-centric and a bit user hostile. And a bad combination of "won't state system requirements" and "Well of course, you idiot, we expect you to use the exact same OS and hardware we do".

          I recently revisited the website, which has changed, and is a bit more forthcoming, so maybe the cowboy coders have moved on. I'll be giving them another try when the stack of 8 and 5.25 disk makes its way to the top of the (virtual) to-do stack.

      2. DenonDJ DN-2500F

        Re: Beware survival bias

        http://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/s_drives_howto.html - or if your time is more precious than the contents of the disks, I'd pay someone to do it.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I wouldnt - but I've go an 486 that still works after 28 years or so and the drive would work with that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beware survival bias

          I'd be very surprised if your 486 actually has an 8 inch floppy drive, one of the reasons they became obsolete was the requirement to fit two disk drives in a PC cabinet that was pre 286 days. By the time the 486 processor came out machines were being built with 3 1/4 inch floppy drives. If your machine was purpose built you might have a 5 1/4 inch drive but I'd be amazed if it had an 8" drive in it.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          but I've go an 486 that still works after 28 years or so

          As far as I know - my very first linux box is still alive and ticking somewhere..

          (Mid 1990's - a 386sx25 runniing Slackware 1. Probabl been much-updated since. Once I replaced it, I gave it to a friend of mine to act as a mail/web server. Last I heard he was still using it..It had - at the point I gave it away - a 330M ESDI full-height drive. Since the drive wouldn't fit in the desktop case, it sat on the floor beside the case. It was also outside the case because it made a very effective space heater)

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I believe that some high end laptops still come with parallel "printer" ports. I think those might be fast enough to talk to 8 inch floppy drives ... with a bit of supporting hardware that you'd probably have to homebrew. Do you reckon that your 8 inch floppies will still read after 40 years or so? A few years ago, I tried to recover some software from 30 year old 5.25 and 3.5 inch disks. Some would read. Many wouldn't. Sic transit glorium datum. (apologies to anyone who remembers how to actually handle number and gender in Latin).

        1. Dog11
          Go

          Re: Beware survival bias

          In my experience, 8" floppies were far more reliable than 5.25, and vastly more than 3.5. They would remain usable after physical damage that would kill a 3.5. I never had read problems even when the disk was 10 years old. (I really should dig the hardware and disks out of the attic and see how they've held up 25 years later, but probably the electrolytics and the rubber bits have gone bad.) I think the big difference is that 8" has much fatter (and thus more redundant) tracks.

      5. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I have an working 8" floppy drive and a bunch of 8" disks, how would you connect them to a modern laptop?

        Well, just based on this video I'd use a PII running Win98. Those are IBM Type 1 disks though, which might be older than yours.

        Either way, you need to start thinking about getting the data off those disks and onto something newer, as the substrate will start breaking down over the next five-ten years. Backup now, regret never.

      6. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        (protip: 3.5" floppy-USB converter won't do you any good)

        What is the interface on it? If it is a standard cable (e.g. RS232 serial, or parallel), I'd get a USB-whatever converter and read up on how to hack together something that talks the same language. I might throw together something in C# to talk to it, or maybe dust off the Rasp-Pi. If it's something more proprietary, I'd wire it to the pin-outs on the Rasp-Pi.

        Actually, I'd probably just google it and follow the instructions in a youtube video...

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Beware survival bias

          I'm thinking Shugart interface (That came into my mind relatively swiftly - but still went to verify it on the Google machine).

          Icon - Grandpa is getting his coat.

      7. Mage Silver badge

        Re: 3.5" floppy-USB converter won't do you any good

        Though a motherboard 3.5" FDC port will work with some 8" drives, most 3", most 5.25" etc.

        But not with Apple II 5.25" drives, maybe not 8" hard sectored, perhaps not 3.5" Amiga. You just need dumb cables. Good support on Linux for 1000s of CP/M formats as well as Amstrad PCW.

        A 3.5" USB drive is a nearly useless thing. I've kept a couple of tower PCs with IDE and floppy ports, possibly among the last generally available MOBOs with Floppy ports. IDE, serial & parallel on the next newer. They can run Linux Mint 19.3 fine.

      8. Bitsminer

        Re: Beware survival bias

        I'd find a used VAX-11/780, it would have 8-inch floppy drive in the console PDP-11 *and* an Ethernet port, though you might have a bit of trouble finding a 10base2 style network interface for the Ethernet.

    6. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      On the other hand, how many smartphones and smartwatches from 5 or 10 years ago are still getting regular security updates? How many are still working? How many will still be working, let alone safe to use, in another 10 years?

      It is true that many old watches will not still be working, but, treated well, they have a chance. Modern tech pretty much doesn't. It isn't designed to last and it probably won't last very long. Ceased disk drives, corroded circuits etc. You can't repair them as easily as you can a simple mechanical device.

      We don't buy Internet of Trash stuff. We tend to buy the best quality "non-smart" stuff we can afford and, where some form of "smarts" is useful, we add a cheap "smart" to it. For example, the TV is just a TV, we plug in a FireTV for streaming "smarts", because it is cheap and can be replaced every 5 years or so, the TV on the other hand was expensive, so needs to last at least a decade. Will it last that long? Who knows, but if it was "smart", the software support would stop after 2 - 3 years anyway!

      But even that is short term. Our first colour TV was bought in the early 70s. My father was still using it when he died 30 years later. My mothers Sunbeam hand mixer was a wedding present in the 50s, that worked for nearly 50 years, before the brushes in the motor burnt out - and she used it at least a couple of times a week.

      How many smart mixers from today will still be working in 50 years?

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Beware survival bias

        How many smart mixers from today will still be working in 50 years?

        Smart mixers?

        Is there really such a thing?

        Shit, man ...

        We're doomed.

        O.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          "Is there really such a thing?"

          If there isn't somebody's missing a trick. A very lucrative trick. They'd be able to reissue cookery books with QR codes to scan to control the mixer.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I did a search. It returned some examples of smart mixers. This revelation did not surprise me.

            1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Beware survival bias

              > It returned some examples of smart mixers

              At one time you could buy mixers that could be removed from the bowl stand, stood on end, and a liquidiser attached to the top. These seem to have completely vanished from the market now.

              Best I've ever seen for sheer range of attachments was a no-name, bright orange coloured thing sold in communist Eastern Europe in the 1970s. Had large and small diameter mixers, a dough hook, liquidiser, coffee grinder and nutmeg grinder!

              [Icon - where' my chef's hat gone?]

              1. TimMaher Bronze badge
                Happy

                Re: Beware survival bias

                I have a Kenwood Chef that is no more than a decade old. It has all of those features.

                And I can still source spare parts.

                1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                  Re: Beware survival bias

                  My parents got one of those as a wedding present in the '70s. It still works, although IIRC, it had a motor replacement some time in the '90s when the brushes wore out. The blender attachment (that sits on top of the mixer head, if you remove a metal panel from the top) still gets use from my dad.

                  It's going to be a long, long time before it suffers any sort of mechanical failure that is irreparable. You could probably drop it off a car-park onto concrete and it'd keep working (and make a good old dent in the concrete to boot.)

              2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Beware survival bias

                At one time you could buy mixers that could be removed from the bowl stand, stood on end, and a liquidiser attached to the top. These seem to have completely vanished from the market now

                I'm pretty sure that they are still sold - https://www.argos.co.uk/product/7025916 for example.. You can't see the top-mounting gear because it has a cover over it.

                (Essentially a reskinned version of what my mum had 40 years ago!)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Beware survival bias

                  "I'm pretty sure that they are still sold - [...]"

                  Alas - not a good example. In 40 years I have owned three of the Kenwood mixers plus several attachments. At every change it was found that the drive linkage for the attachments was now incompatible. You had to buy their new version of each attachment - basically the same things but for the linkage.

                  That mixer was once portrayed as an example of "continuous improvement" viz reducing the number of components used. I gave one later version to a charity shop - the plastic housing was far inferior to the previous cast aluminium ones.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Beware survival bias

              Can't remember what I was looking for originally, but came across a link for some one who had posted a "my calendar has stopped working on my Samsung fridge" message.

              Excuse me, I'm off to install a firmware update. On a monitor.....

              1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Beware survival bias

                "my calendar has stopped working on my Samsung fridge"

                We were looking at white goods recently and the salesbeing tried to interest me in a Samsung 'Smart Fridge".

                His supposed killer line was that you could scan all the things you put into the fridge and it would tell you when stuff was due to expire.. My response was tha was why we had a brain and memory..

                It looked to be running some Android variant on a large touch screen - the sales weasel was singularly clueless as to system update frequency (the fridge was conncted to wifi so that you could play streaming media and view YouTube)

                He seemed quite hurt that my response was "no - hell no." followed by "especially because it's a Samsung"

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            QR codes a re still a thing? Still, that gives an excuse to require both hardware updates and a new cookbook now and again/

          3. Joe W Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            This abomination is called a Thermomix here in Krautland...

            (ok, they are not at that level, but almost, and they do have a cult following, like Cupertino, and they are way overpriced...)

        2. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          I was just reading an article on smart dog feeders that have been down for a couple of weeks, and are now getting updates pushed out.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            smart dog feeders

            If you need a smart pet feeder then you probably ought not to have pets..

            (Hint - they are more than adorable yootoobe-able objects that exist only for your gratificaton. If you are ging away for any length of time then you need, at the very least a pet-sitter to pop in a couple of times a day. If you ned a SPF all the time then you really, really shouldn't have a pet)

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Norman Nescio

          Re: Beware survival bias

          Phone - Jolla 1 phone released 27 Nov 2013 still gets updates. Most recent is Sailfish OS 3.2.1 Nuuksio released for general use in December 2019. Mine still has original removable battery, but screen failed an inadvertent drop test onto a tiled floor, and the handsfree speaker has an intermittent connection.

          Stuff built to (gratis) open standards is likely to be able to be made to work ( be maintainable ) for a long time, and software can be run on a VM. Even proprietary standards will likely come out of copyright and patents will expire, so stuff that is popular enough could well be maintainable in the long term.

          The cloud on the horizon is stuff that is 'protected' by well implemented strong encryption/DRM. It is no good if something comes out of copyright if no-one has the keys to decrypt it any more.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Beware survival bias

            > Phone - Jolla 1 phone released 27 Nov 2013 still gets updates

            It's a bit slow compared to the original OS. I reset mine after switching to Sony hardware but point well made.

      3. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        It's true that a modern smartphone will be landfill in about 6 years and a really nice swiss watch will be for life.

        But the really nice swiss watch really only tells the time. I have numerous sources for accurate time around me most of the time anyway.

        For a tech-user, a smartphone can do far more in its short life than the watch can in the rest of your life.

        Of course, this doesn't apply to everyone. You buy the tool for the job as it applies to you at the time.

        My last family holiday cost several thousand and that only lasted 10 days.

        The value is in what you can get out of it in the time.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Beware survival bias

          If I buy a watch, I will still need a smartphone for all the other stuff it does, including reminding me what I'm supposed to do at particular times, so given that my phone will tell me the time very accurately, I don't need a watch, even if the watch would last 200 years.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          The current generation don't wear watches, the last that I heard. But I seldom meet one to ask.

          I wear a cheap retro-design Casio with weekday and time displayed to seconds. I set it by hand from the radio-controlled wall clock at home. True to the original, the backlight is almost invisible, but my phone has a flash function.

          1. RM Myers Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I also don't wear a watch, and haven't for well over a decade (since I got my first phone with a time display). However, I'm hardly part of the current generation - my grandparents were all born in the 1800's. Personally, I just don't like wearing anything on my wrist, and having 2 sources for the time seems redundant. YMMV

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: Beware survival bias

              On the other hand, the watch is always with me, because it is on my wrist, the phone, not so much. It is usually on the worktop in the kitchen, or at work it is in my bag. If I go shopping etc. I often don't have my phone with me.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Beware survival bias

              Had a cheepo watch that was given to me some time ago, (think it was a free gift when you spent a certain amount on something or other). Battery died, so took it to the shop for a replacement battery, think he told me it was £20-30, so never got round to getting it replaced and just used the phone from that day on.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            My daughter bought her fiancé a pocket watch as an engagement gift. He wears it regularly.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beware survival bias

          "[...] and a really nice swiss watch will be for life."

          Omega apparently recommend a factory service every year or so. The turn-round time used to be six weeks. Mine bought in 1973 has had various innards replaced several times - at about GBP200 a time.

          The local jeweller used to charge GBP7 to replace the leather strap - just a generic leather one. Then the shop changed hands and next time the same thing was GBP25.

          Now I keep the Omega for "dress" occasions - and a GBP4 Aldi quartz analogue one has being doing reliable service for many years now. A DIY battery change is easy and a lot cheaper than even Timpson's.

      4. Philip Lewis
        Thumb Up

        Re: Beware survival bias

        +1 for the SunBeam reference, though their toaster was more important and is the iconic pinnacle of mechanical toasters.

        I'm more of a Kenwood Chef man myself, and mine is still going strong, though used less frequently these days.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Beware survival bias

          +1 for the chef, my mum has one that she was given a as wedding present in 1972. Still works fine. I repacked the gearbox with grease about 10 years ago, following the instructions in the user manual... And when they changed the PTO in the front for a new design sometime in the 90s, they published the engineering drawings for the adapter so old machines could accept new attachments.

          And one day i'll have to make the reverse, as she has the flour mill attachment that goes down to 00, and the oil mill they don't make anymore, and they don't fit mine.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Beware survival bias

            " And when they changed the PTO in the front for a new design sometime in the 90s, [...]"

            I believe they changed the attachment linkage twice since I bought my first Chef in the late 1970s. The latest change was subtle - and only noticeable with the copious leakage when using the old glass liquidiser on the new liquidiser base instead of the new plastic one.

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          +1 for the SunBeam reference, though their toaster was more important and is the iconic pinnacle of mechanical toasters.

          You mean like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y

          1. Philip Lewis

            Re: Beware survival bias

            That's the one!

    7. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      If you want many, many, many examples of watches and clocks that still work after a couple of hundred years then look no furether.

      http://www.ville-de-la-chaux-de-fonds.ch/musees/mih

      I've been to the museum a couple of times, it's worth the visit.

      Whats most important about this article is that "Planned obsolescence" is most definitely not built into the fine pieces of art. Just like the Philippe Patek advert which goes along the line of "You don't actually own a Patek you just take care of it for your descendants".

      Whereas Apple only care about you buying another Apple whatever.....

      1. Philip Lewis
        Coat

        Re: Beware survival bias

        As I don't have a male heir for my PPs, I'll be taking them with me. Should I be exhumed many millenia from now, post C20 anthropologists will wonder why I needed so many mechanical devices.

      2. Philip Lewis

        Re: Beware survival bias

        Link: https://www.chaux-de-fonds.ch/musees/mih

      3. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        Also the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (London) has several of John Harrison's mid-1700's "watches" currently in working order. Originally created to solve the Longitude Problem for naval navigation, they're of serious historical value.

        It's worth a visit, to see these 300-year-old pieces of genius.

        They were "lost" for a while (actually the Observatory still had them), but rediscovered in the 1920's by a retired naval officer, who spent a lot of years nursing them back to working order.

        (Cue arguments about whether the Celestial Method was better...)

        1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

          Re: The Celestial method

          Well... using a clock still requires astronomical reductions, a bunch of learned skill to be able to do the math in the right order it in the first place, and it's also not overly accurate, or quick...

          I am quite proud of my RYA Ocean qualification and being able to navigate "celestially", but by Christ... on a dark foggy night mid channel or picking through traffic lanes or islands I'll take the genius of a fixed or handheld GPS with an Admiralty paper chart every single time.

          1. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: The Celestial method

            But if we shanghaied you and dropped you off naked in some deserted location anywhere in the world with just a chronometer, you could probably tell us what country you were in.

            This happens to me surprisingly often.

        2. Roj Blake

          Re: Beware survival bias

          Is one of them Harrison's "lesser watch" that was unearthed by a couple of Peckham market traders in 1996?

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I thought it was a Victorian egg timer!

            Icon - Getting me camel coat, sticking a pony in the pocket & off to get me suitcase from the van.

            You know it makes sense!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beware survival bias

      Yup, I was going to make a similar point - buildings, the popular mythology is that "They knew how to build back then, which is why old buildings lasted".

      No - the rubbish fell down or was demolished.

      How about simplifying what we are asking for?

      A pen - how do you make one that would still work after N years?

      Easy, they did that a long time ago, it is just that the less durable modern ones have attributes that make them more convenient, cheap and useful making the tradeoff between this and longevity.

      Is this good? Not in terms of sustainability no, but that unfortunately is not the only factor, maybe it should be.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        No - the rubbish fell down or was demolished.

        How about simplifying what we are asking for?

        A pen - how do you make one that would still work after N years?

        They had this problem fixed centuries ago. I do historical reenactment and so learned to use dip pens. I noticed that the quality of my handwriting shot up when doing using them (since you simply can't write with a dip pen unless your holding the pen correctly) and so switched to using a dip pen at work too, because why the hell not? The things go for pennies.

        I have written with an original bone georgian pen (picked up from a carboot sale, because who else would want it?) probably with the original nib. It works fine ~300 years later with appropriate ink. Having to dip ever two paragraphs was fixed about a century ago with a clip on dip pen reservoir which reduces the "dip it in ink" to once every two A4 pages or so with a nib about as fine as a biro.

        All you then need is ink, which often comes in "that'll probably do you for a lifetime" size bottles. If your holding the pen properly then you don't actually discernibly need to replace the nibs and the (wood) holders last forever. I never tire of needling our resident "holier than thou" environmentalist type who goes through biros quite frequently (thereby using two lots of single use plastic; one for the biro casing and one for the refill bit in the middle and a bit of metal in the biro nib that won't get reused).

        One thing i'd point out from doing reenactment is that you quickly discover from close exposure to ancient stuff is that practically everything has conceptually better design and execution than modern things have, from clothing that is actually fit for purpose (higher collars protect you both from sunburn if it's hot, and from water running down the back of your neck of it's raining). Even absurd things like belt buckles have better historical designs that were basically superseded by the cheapest and crapest design that it was possible to make.

        As so far as I have seen in any number of areas "cheap throwaway" has historically won out every single time against a good design that required the end user to do even the most simple and rudimentary bit of maintenance every so often because people simply can't be assed, and would rather just buy a cheap replacement.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          W H Smith sells cardboard biros now, which I dide't try out, but I think the insides are as they were before.

        2. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Beware survival bias

          Nice idea to pick up a dip pen again.

          I'll guess that you're reluctant to hand it over if someone wants to "have a go", as biro-writers have all been trained to write with a bit of force. My fountain pen only gets handed over to a (very) few trusted users - untrusted users need not apply, as I quite like my current nib.

          Unfortunately, unlike you, my handwriting is still shit though.

          Now that you have an inkwell again, all you need is a girl with pigtails sitting in front of you...

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Beware survival bias

            I'll guess that you're reluctant to hand it over if someone wants to "have a go", as biro-writers have all been trained to write with a bit of force. My fountain pen only gets handed over to a (very) few trusted users - untrusted users need not apply, as I quite like my current nib.

            Actually, handing them over to people doesn't bother me a bit. I've got a bag of goose feathers which become quills the moment you chop the end off at the right angle with a stanley knife which people tend to ask for over the "modern" options, and the mental nibs generally go for about a quid for a dozen. After two years i've yet to actually need to replace one.

            Royal Mail is even happy to take letters done properly the old fashioned way and folded and wax sealed shut; I asked the postman that collects from us. (Wax sealing is an awful lot easier if you modernise the process via using a stick of wax in a hot glue gun...)

            It's fun to make the point of doing this via companies that require you to send things back via snailmail.

        3. Philip Lewis
          Coat

          Re: Beware survival bias

          As a child, Coke (tm) cam in 6 1/4 Oz. bottles IIRC. Again, if memory serves, because I am quite some considerable distance from my bookshelf, the Coca Cola company had determined empirically that this was the optimum size for "thirst quenching".

          It could be that I just imagined this, or not ...

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Beware survival bias

        No - the rubbish fell down or was demolished

        If you are talking about Roman Insulae, they mostly fell down by themselves..

        (Think 1920's Glasgow tenement by without the build quality. Very hard to sue slum landlords in Ancient Rome - especially if you were dead)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insula_(building)

    9. veti Silver badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      That's fine, but are there any instances of modern tech - within the reach of an ordinary middle-class consumer - that are likely to last that long?

      Or - scratch "likely", even "capable of" lasting that long?

    10. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

      Re: Beware survival bias

      Admittedly not quite 200 years, but I still wear every day the watch that my pa bought in California in 1945. And it keeps pretty reasonable time.

  3. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    An impressive piece of engineering - and as the article points out, good planning can make wonderfully resilient hardware - witness Voyager, still "mainly" going strong in a very hostile environment.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "Resilient" in the sense that as parts break, you manage to make the rest go on working.

      Also, Captain Janeway rationed use of the replicators, or the ship wouldn't have made it past the first season.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Ummm... I don't think the OP was referring to that "Voyager", but the real one (well, two).

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1 has a handy table of what doesn't work any more, but that is mainly because the radioactive power supply is deteriorating.

  4. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Made to last

    Sure we've still got my great grandfather's false teeth somewhere. Pretty sure there still good to go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Made to last

      Have they not suffered from bit rot by now?

  5. M7S

    Prior art

    Being centuries ahead of the patent lawyers with a device so round it has no corners.

    Now, about the flip front some other fob watches have....

  6. Warm Braw Silver badge

    We can have all these things

    'We' really can't. One or two people, possibly.

    Anything made by hand from relatively common materials is always going to be capable of being repaired, assuming the materials continue to be available. But making things by hand is expensive. If you want them to be readily available - and not have to hang them from a chain on your waistcoat because of their size and weight - it's inescapable that they will contain components that cannot easily be made by hand. As technology improves, more components can be integrated which make the product cheaper and probably more reliable but that means the components become more specific to the product and that the previous components are no longer made.

    A pocket watch also has one function - to tell the time. A smart watch has lots of functions. I can't see the point, myself, but you're not going to be able to continue to sell smart watches if you freeze their functionality in time, Or the type of sensors they contain. Or the resolution of the display. What would be the point in a Sinclair Black Watch in 200 years time other than as a curiosity and symbol of technical immaturity?

    We need to get a lot better about recycling stuff, rather than hold out for technology stasis, but if you think stuff should be engineered to last, you could buy one of these: note how it sticks to doing one job, though.

  7. Rafael #872397
    Thumb Down

    Physics won't change.. Maths won't change.. Humans won't change...

    One of these things is not like the others!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Physics won't change.. Maths won't change.. Humans won't change...

      Human NATURE doesn't change: sinful creatures that give in to pride and selfishness all too easily.

      But human behavior does change -- a continual slope downhill due to that nature. On the outside, wealth is up, health is up -- making most folks think that as a race we're better every day -- but the health of our very souls and true happiness are crumbling.

      With society at large tolerating and even embracing more and more sins, we are seeing the degradation of long-lived legacies (such as products built to last) in favor of what gives pleasure NOW -- and damn the future, especially the Undiscovered Country that awaits us all.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Physics won't change.. Maths won't change.. Humans won't change...

        Has Thought for the Day come to El Reg?

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Physics won't change.. Maths won't change.. Humans won't change...

          What I want to know is, when will we get the party political broadcasts? I for one want to hear more from the natural law party, regarding their yogic flying policy.

      2. Clunking Fist Bronze badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Physics won't change.. Maths won't change.. Humans won't change...

        "But human behavior does change -- a continual slope downhill"

        Indeed from bear baiting and cock fights to... the NHS, public transport and libraries.

  8. theOtherJT

    This is a nonsense comparison.

    The watch may represent the pinnacle of technology for its time, but when it comes down to it, it's a bunch of gears and springs. Very precisely made gears and springs. The vast majority of people today are in no position to maintain the watch either. Parts for it are not going to be available in your local hardware store, or delivered next day by amazon. You want that watch maintained, then it's going to require work from a trained craftsman with specialist tooling.

    So, in 200 years, am I going to be able to find a trained craftsman with specialist tooling that can work on a 20xx system on a chip? You know what, I have no idea, but it's no weirder that such a person might start a business making low production run silicon for the antiques restoration market than it is that someone might be in the business of making intricate metal components for a watch that no one has built in 200 years - and if technology development continues the way it has thus far, it might even be possible to print SoC's in the same way that there are now businesses who can rush you a 3d printed prototype of simple metal parts in a couple of days.

    Sure, it's easier to make watch gears than silicon chips, but then it was easier to make horse shoes than watch gears - that's the nature of increasingly sophisticated technology, it has nothing to do with planned obsolescence. Sure, planned obsolescence is a real problem, but comparing a smart-watch with a mechanical one from 200 years ago doesn't really do anything to highlight that.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

      Mechanical watches are still being made, mainly for the luxury market, and while they are fewer, the trade of watchmakers still exists, and will exist as long people use mechanical watches, for whatever reason.

      1. theOtherJT

        Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

        Sure, but that's exactly my point. Maintaining a watch requires a trained watchmaker with watch making tools. Maintaining electronic components requires trained electronic engineers with similarly specialist tools. That might be a mainstream skill, a slightly niche luxury skill, or even a very niche one that only exists to service the antiques market, but either way it doesn't really speak to the "disposable" nature of the device. The mechanical watch wasn't built to be "easy to maintain" it was built to be a watch the only way that people were at the time capable of building watches.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

          It's also interesting to note that mechanical watches being manufactured today are broadly similar to the ones being made a hundred years ago (albeit with perhaps a bit more automation in the production of the basic parts).

          Just last week I got a new Rotary - lovely skeleton thing where you can see all the internals...all cogs, springs, jewels and whatnot...I really can't see much difference to that and the insides of antique watches.

          1. Philip Lewis

            Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

            Broadly speaking, you are correct, but the devil is in the details and complexity of the movement. A top line movement with multiple complications is a wonder to behold. However, while a movement is a movement as you noted, new materials and constructions are still being developed and patented today.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

          "Maintaining electronic components requires trained electronic engineers with similarly specialist tools."

          Those "tools" are getting more and more out of reach for somebody servicing electronics. I can barely see some of the resistors being used these days. There is also the practice of stamping chips with in-house numbers so somebody else can't reverse engineer the product even though it's a silly practice. Even if a gear is broken, you can measure the parts and have a very good idea about the original dimensions. I'm not going to decap a chip and image it under an electron microscope to figure out what it is so I can find a replacement. I didn't have the cash on hand when a friend had a good deal on an EM from a surplus sale.

      2. Philip Lewis

        Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

        You might be surprised how many mechanical watches are made for the broad consumer market. I suspect you are the victim of sampling bias (you rely on tech rags to tell you that tech is the only thing that matters).

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

          A year or two ago I actually looked for a mechanical watch for daily use, but the ones I found were either dubious-looking Chinese, or well out of my spending limit for this (not going to pay much more than about 150€ for an item suffering daily wear and tear - I also apply the same to smartphones).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

            > A year or two ago I actually looked for a mechanical watch for daily use...

            A Seiko 5 - self-winding, tells time, day and date. (The day/date bit was important for me as I constantly found myself starting a note in my notebook and being unable to remember the date!). From £60-ish on-line; circa £100 from high street jewellers. Good choice of straps.

            1. Ken 16 Silver badge

              Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

              Or a Vostok Amfibia?

              There are more modern designs of movement, with less moving parts or plastic elements but they don't better the cheap Chinese standard movement in any real way.

            2. MacroRodent Silver badge

              Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

              Could be, but it is 197€ here (local webshop) and I'm uneasy ordering such stuff from abroad.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

      The vast majority of people today are in no position to maintain the watch either

      And proper clock/watch repairers are rarer than hens teeth - I inherited a lovely Victorian mantle clock from my parents which currently doesn't work (to be more accurate - it works intermittently which isn't a desirable state in a clock) and there's a 12-month waiting list at both of the local clock repairers..

  9. Symon Silver badge
    Go

    That's a fine watch...

    ...but I doubt that it's been running continuously for 200 years. In fact, I expect it's only been reading the correct time twice a day for most of that time. However, this Kiwi clock has been running for most of the last 150 years, without being manually wound.

    Also see:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Electric_Bell

  10. Aaiieeee
    Trollface

    So in 10,000 years

    Somebody will discover a load of rusted, decayed cogs at the bottom of a well and think 'wtf??'

  11. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Re: The tech bros and the late-stage capitalists are all about "creating value"

    Yes, shareholder value.

    1. Citizen of Nowhere

      Re: The tech bros and the late-stage capitalists are all about "creating value"

      Surplus value. Well, its surplus for them, anyway ;-)

  12. MJB7

    great-great-great-great-great-great grandkid

    I'm old enough to have a grandkid born this year (the other parent has already been lined up, but I am pretty confident they are taking active steps to ensure no baby occurs). At the optimistic estimate of 25 years per generation, my great6 grandchild won't be born for another 150 years - in 2270. If we use the more plausible 30 years per generation, it won't be for 180 years in 2300.

    I think there is *at least* one too many "great"s in that subhead - and probably three.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: great-great-great-great-great-great grandkid

      Please send us the plans for your time machine ...... where I am at the moment 180 years would only get me as far as 2200!

  13. Joe Harrison

    Jeff is a doofus

    Well maybe he's not (I never met him) but he certainly strikes me that way. I am sure all the ooh-shiny titanium cogwheel tick-tock nerds will slam me for this but Jeff's has always been typical behaviour of ludicrously rich individuals, which is to say "let's find something to spend it on - we'll build a folly."

    Basically this is an utter waste of money disguised as some sort of deeply mindful alternative thinking. Whatever he's spent on his daft mountain clock I can guarantee would have been enough instead to wipe out starvation in some little corner of our planet.

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: Jeff is a doofus

      Joe, you're doing it wrong. The rich travel around in private jets fretting about YOUR carbon footprint. They take taxes off you to pay the salaries of their university educated children as policy analysts and stakeholder relations officers. And you are asked to contribute to the give a little pages of victims of crimes or unfortunate illnesses.

      After all, housing and support for for ex-cons, rehab centres for the addicted, none of that is sexy.

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I often explain this to customers. There is no technology around today that’ll keep data for decades, guaranteed. Even if it did, what chance have we got of being able to plug it into something? A customer once asked me if I could get him a flash drive of some sort so that he could put his family photos on for his great grandchildren to see and I explained to him that there’s unlikely to be a device in 100 years time that can read USB sticks.

    The problem is that all our digital information is ephemeral. It needs to be refreshed every few years to keep it alive. Contrast this with the Domesday book, which is 800 years old and still works fine.

    1. Norman Nescio

      There is no technology around today that’ll keep data for decades, guaranteed.

      Neutral-pH ink on archival quality cotton-rag paper stored in a cool dark place with humidity neither too high nor too low.

      Polyester microfilm/microfiche

      (Rosetta Project) Nickel deposited on etched silicon disks

      What all three have in common is optical retrieval.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > What all three have in common is optical retrieval.

        Yes, because that's an interface rather unlikely to become obsolete any time soon.

        Not to mention the KISS principle: Written stuff needs no mechanical parts, no energy, the information stored requires no processing, all you have to do is know the language used (and being able to read it).

        Problem is engraving cat videos on slabs of marble is very work intensive, and thus extremely expensive...

      2. baud Bronze badge

        Printed in a book, then stored in a dry place?

      3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        > Neutral-pH ink on archival quality cotton-rag paper stored in a cool dark place with humidity neither too high nor too low.

        Alternatively, get an artist to paint copies of the photos using egg tempera on board! If Botticellis from the 15th century have survived then I'm sure it will be good enough for the grandchildren.

        On a slightly tangential note regarding leaving messages for your descendants: remember that 2021 is likely to be the last paper-census in the UK. You can write anything on the paper - as long as not obscene - and it will be preserved courtesy of the Government. Your chance to leave a message to future genealogists in your family.

      4. tiggity Silver badge

        You missed out the oak gall ink on vellum (not vegan friendly) - still in use in UK

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          oak gall ink on vellum (not vegan friendly) - still in use in UK

          Not in Parliament any more though..

        2. Norman Nescio

          You missed out the oak gall ink on vellum (not vegan friendly) - still in use in UK

          Thanks for the suggestion: in fact I made a deliberate choice not to include oak-gall ink because it is often acid, as it is prepared from tannic (and gallic) acids and iron sulphate (aka copperas), so the resultant ink can be acidic - so much so that in time it eats through the vellum/parchment and you are left not with a manuscript, but a doily. It is a problem with old manuscripts.

          An example is at the the bottom of this interesting page:

          Patricia Lovett:How Mediæval Manuscripts were Made

          ...you will be able to see the effects of the ink on the vellum. Note to the right in the middle line where the ink, which contains acid, has eaten through the skin to create holes. This is a problem with this manuscript as in some places the letters, or the spaces between letters have fallen out of the manuscript. This is not an isolated instance with oak gall ink.

          But thank you again for the suggestion. Oak-gall ink on vellum is not a bad choice, and there are very many well-preserved manuscripts made in this manner, but it is not, perhaps, the best possible choice nowadays. On reflection, I should have made the reasoning behind my choices clearer, so thank-you for the opportunity to clear this point up.

          NN

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Neutral-pH ink on archival quality cotton-rag paper stored in a cool dark place with humidity neither too high nor too low.

        Our work building that has one of those attached.. The archive team would be most displeased if I started adding random items though. And you really, really don't want to annoy an archivist - they hold grudges *forever*

  15. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Bronze badge

    Electrics (especially batteries) are a problem, one of many

    I have a lovely, well-built Swiss watch. It is (currently) correct only twice a day, because the blasted battery won't even last a year -- doesn't matter if I actually wear it or not. I get it serviced at a local, trusted location of a well-known nationwide jewelry retailer/customizer. They use the best batteries possible (about $25) and charge an extra $50 to make sure the water-resistant seals are also replaced and pressure-tested. That's $75/year to maintain a ~$1000 watch -- totally not worth it when in my line of work sometimes wearing a watch is a safety hazard. I would love an atomic pack that would last until I'm gone, and the watch is either with me in the casket or someone else's problem, as long as said seals and the stainless case keep the radiation from flooding (or thermally cooking) my wrist.

    How many times has the power supply been the problem to an otherwise working piece of computational kit? My parents had an old dot-matrix printer (Citizen 10) that worked fine for decades until the main fuse gave out. I tried replacing it, but I must have choose wrong because POP something else blew and the whole thing became garbage. (And who in a small town in Minnesota possibly knows how to diagnose and repair a printer circuit board that's at least 20 years old?)

    All our technologies have evolved to utilize some form of power more "advanced" than before, and I think that's the problem. Human-powered kit works for almost any given human (performance varies). Then we used animals, which requires the proper animal and training. Then we used steam, which involves a LOT of maintenance but could be reliable. Then fossil fuels (or vegetable oils), which made the parts WAY more complex and the risk of sudden shutdown much higher (in addition to failure to start). Then AC mains electric, which wasn't bad as long as the power plant was okay, then AC/DC or pure DC (battery) power which limits life to the battery and availability thereof. See? The MTBF at each stage tends to get smaller.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Electrics (especially batteries) are a problem, one of many

      "the main fuse gave out. I tried replacing it, but I must have choose wrong because POP something else blew"

      You should have replaced the dried out cap. that caused the fuse to blow in the first place.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Electrics (especially batteries) are a problem, one of many

      <$1,000 would buy you a well-made Swiss watch with an automatic movement, so no batteries to worry about.

      1. Boo Radley

        Re: Electrics (especially batteries) are a problem, one of many

        Very true, I have an excellent Tag Heuer with a self winding mechanism. They've been using this particular mechanism for 2 decades or more, so they've apparently got it sorted. The only problem is that it gains a minute every couple of weeks, but that's an easy fix.

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Could not agree more

    The computing arena in general is one in which newer, shinier, and allegedly better is the way to go and yet it results not only in ridiculous amounts of waste but also a mindset that doesn't even consider the possibility of repair and longevity.

    For some reason I need to buy a computer with processor speeds in the gigahertz range and gigabytes of memory... to edit a document no more quickly than Wordstar did in 1980. Certainly there are use cases for a fast computer, but for many people it's a waste pure and simple.

    1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Could not agree more

      Thumbs up because you have a point, but the tool "wordstar" in 1980 is not really comparable to the tool "Word" in 2020. 40 years ago (wow! 40?!) whilst the tools of the day purported to do the same job, they didn't do even a small proportion of what you take for granted today, such as:

      - named files (with long file names) on a secure filing system on a hard disk

      - a WIMP environment (I'm showing my age now)

      - colour

      - proper WYSIWYG

      - fast colour printing

      - Dictionary with definitions

      - Grammar checker

      - web browser to look things up with

      - Font size control

      - More fonts

      True though, you don't actually *need* most of those things, but then it does reduce the functionality of the word processor somewhat if you don't have those things. I'd venture so far as to say that there's more difference between Wordstar in 1980 and Word today than between an IBM Golfball Typewriter and Wordstar.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Could not agree more

        > there's more difference between Wordstar in 1980 and Word today than between an IBM Golfball Typewriter and Wordstar

        I bed to differ: The big difference between (any) word processing and (any) typewriter is the very unique capacity to edit text (rewrite parts, add stuff, copy/paste, in short change your mind till you're satisfied with the result), something no typewriter can do.

        That is the big advantage of all word processing software, the thing that sets them apart, everything else is just bells and whistles, since what (usually) matters is the message, not the messenger's clothes. To me Wordstar and Word are the same, the latter just has more bells and whistles (note I didn't say "bloat").

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Could not agree more

          The big difference between (any) word processing and (any) typewriter is the very unique capacity to edit text (rewrite parts, add stuff, copy/paste, in short change your mind till you're satisfied with the result), something no typewriter can do.

          FWIW, I learned to type on an electric typewriter. Back in the day, there was such a thing as white-out paper (and probably still is), where you would put the sheet between the ribbon and the sheet you were typing on, and over-type your mistakes to white them out. Then type something else over the top.

          It's not perfect, but it exists...

          1. Philip Lewis
            Coat

            Re: Could not agree more

            As I recall. Later models with rudimentary memory and whiteout ribbons could backspace over the typed text, whiting it out.

            Or maybe that was an invention I forgot to invent. So hard to tell theses days.

        2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

          Re: Could not agree more

          I take your point, as editing text is a word processor's USP. But the difference between word and wordstar for the average person is that you need to learn how to use Wordstar, and DOS, and floppies. You don't really need to learn how to use Word to get a lot out of it, as you already know how to use the platform it's on: Windows or MacOS.

          Maybe a fairer comparison would be a horse and carriage vs a modern car. It'll get you from your house down to your friend's house much like a modern car would, but you'd need to know a lot more about how to operate the horse, feed it, etc that you would about how to look after a car.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Could not agree more

            I do get your point, but I'm going to continue to play Devil's Advocate with your analogy.

            With a horse, you put oats in the front, and fertiliser comes out the back. You need to know how to make it go forward, how to stop, and how to turn.

            When I took my driving test (and I acknowledge that this wasn't always the case), I was required to know how to open the bonnet, check the oil, washer fluid, brake fluid level, know about legal tyre tread levels, keep it fuelled, as well as having to demonstrate control of the vehicle, operate the gears (which I don't believe horses have), apply brakes, etc. etc. Of course, to anyone who has been driving for any length of time, most of the skills required to operate a vehicle become second nature, as, no doubt, those to drive a horse-drawn carriage would do. I'd posit that the set of skills for a car is more extensive than those for a horse.

            As for the comparison between word processing software and a typewriter, it is worth noting that in evolutionary terms, there have been a series of progressions from typesetting, through manually operated typewriters, to electrical ones, to word-processing ones (as seen in the '80s and '90s), which allowed you to edit a line fo text before typing it, to "word processors" which were single-purpose computers, through text-editors and WYSIWYG word processors to what we have today with the likes of MS Word. The progression at times wasn't always in great leaps-and-bounds, but incremental. For instance the distinction between a typewriter and a "word processor" might not be immediately obvious to most.

            1. Colin Wilson 2

              Re: Could not agree more

              "operate the gears (which I don't believe horses have"

              The sportier models come with four gears - Walk, Trot, Canter & Gallop!

              1. Philip Lewis
                Paris Hilton

                Re: Could not agree more

                How equestrian of you. And you may have inadevrtantly discovered why the 4-speed became ubiquitous. The model T was just 2-speed of course, and we had "3 on the tree" for a bit but "4 on the floor" was for generations the goto, not unlike the past.

                (It's time for Paris, because y'all have forgotten about her too)

              2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Could not agree more

                Walk, Trot, Canter & Gallop!

                Last riding lesson I discovered that my horse had the optional 'buck until your rider falls off' mode enabled..

                (It was a cold winter evening and she really, really didn't want to leaveher nice warm stable to have some idiot sat on her back. Every time we went round the track and faced into the wind and rain she got restless and, after about the 5th iteration decided that she'd had enough. It was a case of "dismount rapidly but under control" or "get thrown into the fence". I chose option 1 (I'd had experience of falling off gracefully riding motorbikes..))

                PS: I didn't blame the horse one bit. I did blame the stables and, after a somewhat tense cnversation, they refunded my money.

          2. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Could not agree more

            > as you already know how to use the platform it's on: Windows or MacOS

            That's observer bias: You need to consider someone who isn't fluent in (any blend of) computers, deciding to start a career as an author and needing a tool for this. Not considering hardware/OS issues (since they are irrelevant to his needs), what would be the best tool for him? Wordstar, or Word?

            Suddenly the difference narrows down to secondary and mostly unimportant things like "I like / don't like the look of the GUI on that one" or such. The fact is both are capable to do what's required, and much like two cars, the choice would solely depend on the personal taste of the user.

            1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

              Re: Could not agree more

              Having spent a long time over the years in the company of (published!) authors - some of them are bloody fussy about what they write with. Personally, I wouldn't touch Word with a bargepole for anything as long as a book - perhaps its got better in recent years? - but then, I prefer LyX.

              So what do I know?

              My original point, though, was that an increase in computing resources has led to bells and whistles which leads to a requirement for sufficient resources to deliver those bells and whistles... a circular development process which doesn't actually change the functionality, just the look and, just possibly, the ease of use (Word excepted).

      2. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Could not agree more

        But most of that existed on a Xerox Daybreak in the late 1980s (not all of it: no colour, obviously no web browser). The ones I used had 3.7MB of memory and I'm not sure how fast the processors were, but probably a little faster than a VAX 11/780, but slower than a good Sun 3. I used these things (albeit usually in the Lisp-machine incarnation).

        Obviously they were expensive machines (£10k? Not sure), and obviously Word is more competent than the tools they had, but what they definitely were not were machines with a processor running at several GHz and several GB of memory. Somewhere a few orders of magnitude of power has got used for ... what?

  17. andy 103

    General issue with expensive watches nowadays

    My late father had an Omega mechanical watch which he'd owned since the 1970s. I was purchasing my own watch and trying to weigh up whether to buy a similar timepiece of my own - something to keep, treasure and maybe pass on which had started from me. I was presented by a jeweller with a Tag Heuer smart watch and told that since we were getting towards 2020 (at the time) smart watches were the way to go.

    My dilemma was whether any smart watch would actually last as long as a mechanical one. Given that I was buying it for longevity it seemed an odd choice and in the end I didn't purchase it.

    If you're looking for something to pass on then it's clear to me that a watch that's lasted 50 years and still going strong is probably a better solution.

    This also became apparent when I bought an iPhone XR for £750 only for it to be reduced significantly by Apple a few months later. Knowing that in maybe 5 years time it might be in landfill made me feel a bit stupid for purchasing something that expensive that won't last beyond a relatively small amount of life time. Note: life time and tech/computing time are very different!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: General issue with expensive watches nowadays

      I was presented by a jeweller with a Tag Heuer smart watch and told that since we were getting towards 2020 (at the time) smart watches were the way to go.

      I don't believe that was really a jeweller that you were talking to - it sounds much more like a watch salesman who had a load of overpriced smartwatches that he wanted rid of.

      1. andy 103

        Re: General issue with expensive watches nowadays

        Ok, it was a high street "jeweller" ;)

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: General issue with expensive watches nowadays

      Arguably you only need to buy your own watch that will continue to function as long as your dad does.

      (Or get an Apple one that reminds him to take old-person pills and senses wrist movement to confirm that he has done so. Then who wants Omega.)

      Woody Allen (back when he was acceptable): "My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch."

  18. holmegm Bronze badge

    Well ...

    Our tech has become consumable. Consumables don't generally last 200 years. The antiquities lover in me regrets it, but on the whole, that's a good thing.

  19. ThatOne Silver badge
    Stop

    Smartwatch of the future?

    > an expensive smartwatch with pretensions of becoming an heirloom

    That is impossible, since it defies nature (mostly human). No problem with the "watch" part, but the "smart" part is blocking: Definitions of "smart" are all over the place and change constantly, as they tend to mean "doing whatever people want to do at that spot in time". In short, even beyond technical questions of battery life, communication protocols and ecosystems, the very definition of usefulness is bound to change in mere decades. Not to mention unforeseeable events like the general public adopting Internet to the point younger ones can't imagine their lives without it.

    How could a 2020 "smart" gizmo anticipate the fads and needs which might or might not appear in the future? I still have a gadget from the early 90ies, a sort of pocket calculator in which you could also store (with difficulty) names, phone numbers and addresses, and to-do lists. At that time it was high tech, it still works just fine, but is is of any use today? No, definitely not. My smartphone (at that time pure Science Fiction) does everything that old gadget did, and much better too.

  20. IGotOut Silver badge

    10,000 years.

    There is a debate going on about nuclear waste and underground burial site i.e. the signage.

    You can't use language, as it will almost have changed beyond recognition by then and pictures are open to interpretation.

    You could say the same about almost anything. You have a iWatch or phone, but in 10,000 years what will it be seen as. A decorative Anke bracelet and hand held tinted mirror? Maybe organic as it was swollen and an acid like blood had come out?

  21. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Engineering to last 100,000 years

    "Into Eternity: A Film for the Future" is a 2010 documentary on the Onkalo nuclear waste repository in Finland. The waste has to be stored safely for 100,000 years which seems like an engineering impossibility in itself, but it also raises questions such as what warning signs will be understood by then. It's impossible to watch it and still support nuclear fission power plants.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Engineering to last 100,000 years

      Signs will have to have their formats refreshed every so often like old saved files.

  22. Chris Gray 1

    Electronics die...

    Don't electronic things decay and stop working over time? The smaller the transistors, the shorter the lifetime. That's why an old electronic whatsit based on individual transistors can last for 100+ years, but very high density IC's are unlikely to last more than 20. Or has this issue been resolved?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laserdiscs

    'nuf said.

    The 1986 BBC project to update the Domesday book that was obsolete within 10 years ...

  24. Blackjack Silver badge

    By that year...

    The money used on clock repairs would be the equivalent of buying a house. Without adjusting for inflation if course.

  25. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

    Sorry...

    ... what's a "watch"?

    I was startled when my teenage children looked at me blankly when I mentioned "CDs".

    "Kinda like a DVD for music" I explained. They were somewhat aware of DVDs.

    "They came after records and cassettes and before mp3"

    "Empee what?" they asked...

    I point to the big mast on the hill and they laugh when I try and explain broadcast TV and radio.

  26. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

    I'm actually disagreeing with the sentiment. In the olden days, no one needed a watch. We looked at the sky and had a fairly good idea whether we were hungry because it was lunch time or dinnertime.

    A watch back then cost a packet, so only the wealthy had them. Now most people can afford to carry the time and their calendar with them. Plus a camera. And make phone calls.

    Having a watch was an improvement on not having a watch. Having a timepiece that can make phone calls and take 4K video for less than a fortnight's salary is an improvement. Why make it last more than 2-3 year, when there will be amazing new features that we'll all want.

    Years ago an Omega, etc was a status symbol, not merely a time piece. So too is the S20. But a J5 will do the job...

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > Why make it last more than 2-3 year, when there will be amazing new features that we'll all want

      Huh? While I agree with the gist of your post, please be so kind to remind me of the amazing new features today's phones have, and those of 2016-17 didn't?

  27. tfb Silver badge
    Boffin

    This is confused

    It's obviously good if things are not gratuitously obsolete. But things which are both physically small and very complicated tend to have parts which are very small indeed, and those parts make such things impractical to repair other than by replacement. If the whole object is reasonably large then it may be possible to have some kind of modular design where you can replace only parts of it, and if you design to standards then those parts could be replaced by compatible versions of themselves when the old ones are not available. But if you want the whole objects to be small then it becomes harder and harder to do this, so you end up having to repair it by replacing the whole thing, unless you want the thing to be enormously expensive.

    As an example, I have a camera designed before the second world war which works fine, and I'm sure it will continue to work, with some maintenance, essentially for eve. I have lots of cameras made from the 1950s to the 1980s for which that will probably be true as well. Indeed I have a camera I bought, new, in 2011 which will continue to work for a very long time unless I break it. But it's made substantially of wood and it's a little impractical to use. In all these cases the cameras have really not very many parts (and in the case of cameras they cheat by offloading the hard bit of actually capturing the image to film, which you replace).

    I also have some digital cameras, and they kind of need to have both rather small components (the pixels on the sensor need to be reasonably small if you want to be able to carry the camera) and significant complexity (you really want the computer inside the camera to be able to process the data coming off the sensor quickly, and the processing required is not simple). And I'd quite like image stabilization, WiFi, at least two screens (EVF and the screen on the back) with as many pixels as I can get, and so on and so on. And I'd like the whole camera to be something I can carry in one hand, all day, which means it's going to be really pretty tightly packed inside. At some point these things are going to break and not be repairable.

    OK, you could design these things so they can be disassembled and have a bunch of tiny-but-standard interconnections in them, but then you'd need some kind of clean-room with special tools to take them to bits because humans can't deal with things that small and dust & other crud inside them has to be avoided. That's going to make repairing them hard.

    Summary: if you want things which are small but which do complicated things, then they will have very small and complicated parts inside them. Repairing such things is either not possible or is hugely expensive. If you want repairable you need large and/or simple: in particular the number of parts per unit volume needs to be low (how many distinct components does a mechanical watch have? a few tens, maybe a hundred or so counting screws & bearings). That's incompatible with what people actually want the things they buy to be like, in many cases: it's not some conspiracy.

    (Software obsolescence is a different matter: it bugs me that I might have to upgrade devices because the software they run is no longer maintained.)

  28. SALOME SMITH

    THE POCKET WATCH OF THE NOW

    This reminds me of the CASIO G-SHOCK I just bought. Should still be operational in 200 years, though it might need some smithing on the year entry.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020