/ Technology

Do you have any old tech gathering dust at home?

old technology

An architectural feature on homes for the past 40 years, the satellite dish could soon become obsolete. It will join a long list of redundant technology such as VHS and DVD players and MP3s – but do you still use yours?

On Wednesday, Sky announced that its customers will soon be able to get all of its TV services online, spelling the beginning of the end of the satellite dish.

As more people choose to watch TV via internet streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and even Sky’s own service, Now TV, the need to watch traditional channels using a satellite dish is waning.

In theory, I could now take down the dish sitting atop my front bay window. It was left behind by the previous owners and I’ve always considered it an eyesore. I’ve never actually used it, but left it there in case the next occupiers wanted to. Trouble is, my neighbour recently told me that Sky connected said dish to her flat last year!

Tech graveyard

If I did have the option of removing the satellite dish, I’d probably only put it in my cellar. Here, it would collect dust, along with the other bits of gadgetry I’ve cast aside as technology has advanced.

Breaking through the cobwebs, the area is looking increasingly like a tech graveyard. Taking up most room is a Technics ‘hi-fi’ stacking system, complete with two speakers. It features a CD player, a double cassette deck and, drum roll… a graphic equaliser.

Up until about two years ago, it was still in use, chiefly as a means to listen to the extensive 1990s back catalogue loaded on my MP3 player at volume. Alas, when the room was redecorated, I decided to take it, the MP3 player (I never even got round to upgrading to an iPod) and the little-used DVD player downstairs.

Nowadays, I use the DVD player in my TV to play DVDs and CDs. Saying that, I’m far more likely to connect my phone to the Bluetooth speaker to access my music library or log in to Spotify on my laptop or iPad.

Holding on to redundant technology

Joining my ‘music centre’, and DVD and MP3 players, is an indigo iMac, itself superseded by a previous laptop. Neither of them work, but I keep them, just in case.

The same goes for the video player, although that’s because I’m not yet ready to part with a VHS tape cassette collection of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 and several John Hughes films. Give me a rainy day and a telly with a scart lead, and I’d happily plug it in to watch them.

Museum pieces

With more space to squander, my parents still keep most of their old tech out – and occasionally still use it. Their music centre, also Technics, features a record player. So, when the mood takes, my dad will get out his old vinyl and blast out the, er, tunes through some amazingly oversized 1980s Sony speakers.

Also still in use is a retro-looking printer, digital frame and, the weirdest bit of kit of all, a VHS/DVD combo – a cut-and-shut gadget if ever there was one.

In the attic, it’s even more like a museum. Besides the motley crew of old PCs, TVs, ghetto blasters and both old-school and digital cameras, is a camcorder. My favourite of all? My grandad’s old cine camera. If only I’d thought to ask him how to use it…

What redundant technology do you still use? Or are there gadgets that you have stashed away that you still wish you could use?

Comments

I have a Windows XP video capture card that I can use to digitise films from VHS tapes.

My experience is that, once something is on VHS, you don’t need very much in the way of video resolution for an adequate working copy.

SVHS isn’t bad, but normal VHS only has 200-odd lines of resolution, so it can be tiresome creating a copy for a 55″ screen.

Sit in the next room and you won’t know the difference. 🙂

I had a couple of reels of old cine film ‘digitised’ by an old chap who projected them onto a screen and pointed a decent video camera at them. He did suggest a telecine conversion, where each frame is separately digitised. It would be nice but simply having the old film in a usable form is what matters to me.

The popularity of mp3 players at a time when CDs offered better quality demonstrates that many put convenience above quality. At least we have the choice.

I have been with SKY for many years and I currently have SKY Q with a dish. I do not stream programmes via my computer because it is not convenient either for me or my family. If the option is to view programmes on the computer I will simply cancel my subscription to SKY. There is too much of companies trying to force us to use all the new technology which we do not want. My wife and I have bog-standard phones – none of the Iphone, smart phone, tablet etc. They seem to think that we are all ‘tech savvie’ but forget that there are some people who are quite happy with what we already have. Change for change sake is rubbish haven’t they heard of the expression ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’? What are those customers who don’t have a computer, or these phones, and therefore no router etc supposed to do – there are a lot of elderly people who rely on the current service every day for their enjoyment and entertainment. I still use my VHS/DVD combi with great success and won’t get rid of them until they are ready to give up.

Nigel Bryant – I also have a Panasonic VHS/DVD combo and found it would not record TV from my old Virgin box directly to a DVD. However, it would happily record via the SCART lead to VHS tape (using the slowest best quality tape speed. It would then happily reply the tape and record it directly to the DVD!
Sadly, the DVD part has stopped working. Also, we now have a new Virgin V6 box. This has a strange circular “SCART” output connector which some have said doesn’t work. I haven’t tried it yet.
I also have a collection of old vinyl, a contemporary Dansette-style player for that traditional 60’s sound and for convenience I have a modern TEAC record player/tape player/CD player/radio with USB output.
Yes, I admit to a garage shelf full of scrap old tech, including quite a few redundant hard drives which are awaiting the ultimate Ctrl/Alt/Delete action with a lump hammer.
Like engineers of my era, I have my tech college slide rule. Also a fascinating mechanical calculator with a handle on the side to wind and perform the calculations – one rotation for each addition/subtraction and multiplication performed by successive rotations! As an ex-Rolls-Royce apprentice in the 60’s, I remember an engineering office that had one or two of these powered by internal electric motors.
Regarding quality of build, I recall a story of the Americans entering World War II. The Brits had high quality but heavy valve-driven walkie-talkie sets supported by trained engineers with a van-full of spares.
When the Yanks arrived, they carried aluminium cased light-weight sets which were thrown away when they packed up and replacement sets quickly obtained from the stores. The beginning of the throw-away society?
Like other correspondents, I wistfully remember repairing things, but nowadays you can’t get spares for even most toasters, kettles, etc. (although you can for the more costly Dualit models!)

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I work as a volunteer with several local archives and use most popular technologies from 19th century lantern slide projectors and still and film and video cameras to modern A2 printers, scanners and dvd reader writers. We digitise these now historic and ephemeral technologies before they are lost. The collection includes a full photographic darkroom and several sound and vision recording and playing systems from 78s to various tape systems. It comes under the grand title of Media Archaeology.

Bill Hutcheson says:
3 February 2018

I have 1/4 inch magnetic tape, reels and reels of it, and the earliest recording I have dates from 1963 and still plays today. I replaced my first recorder with a Sony machine in eraly 1971 and then in the 1980s replaced that with a Teac which still works perfectly today. I can still produce CDs from the Teac source via a computer running Windows 7. As for pictures, I have both reels of Standard 8 cine, Super 8 cine, and VHS videotapes from two full size cameras, one of which still works perfectly, but in 4:3 format. My “modern” 16:9 small Sony video camera can only record on a mini DV tape for one hour whereas the older ones could take up to a four hour VHS full sized tape which was ideal for recording long performances. I now use a Toshiba machine which can cope with VHS, DVD, and also has a hard drive which I use most of all to record TV programmes, but only in standard definition and that Toshiba is no longer being made – so what price progress? At least I can still replay my 1963 1/4 inch magnetic sound tapes. Oh.. and my minidisc has now been superceded by a Tascam recorder which uses an SD Memory card and records the most perfect sound quality.

I have a Technics/Sony full-sized stacking system of separates (purchased in 1982) which I use every day. This comprises a linear tracking turntable for my prized collection of classical music vinyl LPs (of about 150); a tuner, double tape deck and CD player (though no graphic equaliser!). I also play music from my extensive collection of both audio tape cassettes (!) and CDs.
I feel sorry for those fully committed to the digital storage of music. I know of two people who have sold their entire collection of CDs and vinyls for a few pounds only to regret it later. I, personally, derive real pleasure in sifting through the collection, selecting an item, pulling out the LP from its sleeve and placing it on the turntable – with the option of catching up on the information given on the sleeve’s reverse or reading the leaflet inside. This also applies, of course, to most CDs. The quality of full sound given from a vinyl LP from through a pair of good quality free-standing loudspeakers is unbeatable – particularly for classical music. It is the total experience which, in my opinion, is far superior compared to just finger-stabbing an item displayed on an illuminated screen.

James says:
4 February 2018

I have a combined DVD and VHS player. I took lots of videos a few years ago and put them on VHS tapes and recently to save space I transferred all the VHS’s on my combo to DVD,s with little loss of quality. I did the same with VHS film recordings taken from TV.

Now I can just slip a disc in and still look at many happy times from the videos I took, etc.

Record decks are in.Vinyl is best sound for most hi-fi users and cd are ok but you need both if you have a top end or middle hi-fi systeme. Small speakers just don’t cut it, and MP3 players will never be hi-fi standard that is 20- 20000 hz. Newertech seams to have forgotten audio in favour of picture quality even old vhs could get better sound quality. Tv HD sound is so poor if you don’t believe me try switching to standard tv and back again a few times and hear the difference. Most downloads are MP3, so don’t kid yourself you are getting a bargain, your just getting inferior music, but if that is all you want, or all your equipment can cope with best of luck, but it wont sound as it was intended by the artist.
By the way Dab radio has a worse frequency response than the old FM radio. So much for new tec.

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I would like to say a very well done to all of you who appreciate that old tec can still sound good and old tec isn’t bad tec.
A big thank you to Duncan Lucas, your not a voice in the wilderness, keep on plugging away and one day people will like you and I come to realise what good sound relay is.
Not bluetooth or the compressed music of ipods and the like.
( must go to more concerts )

Stay with your reliable old “tech ” the latest new to cause problems seem to be LED lamps New ” tech “.pushed upon us by just WHO .Most are very happy with the older “out of date ” things that we now cannot buy EU rules and regulations ??

Not all ‘old tech’ was reliable and what we tend to focus on is the products that were reliable and have survived. The older products could at least be repaired, often cost effectively.

What about the resurgence of vinyl LPs? I still have all of mine plus cassettes/ CDs/DVDs etc. If I can still play them, why would I get rid of them? This doesn’t mean I haven’t adopted new technology – but NOT simply for the sake of it eg as with iphones etc.
I don’t believe in replacing anything unless I need to (or want to).

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I have a Grundig Satellit 2000 radio bought in the 1970’s in Italy. It is extremely heavy, it has 10 band shortwave as well at the usual FM, MW and LW bands. It can make a huge sound if you let it. Other radios in the house are not a patch on this.

Also a 20 year old Sony TV which needs two people to lift it. Still going strong. Wonderful sound and picture, the flat screen TV in the kitchen can’t compete. When asked why I keep it, the reply is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”.

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I have a new record player inc. 78 rpm and approp. stylus plus of course 33 & 45 rpm; hi-fi cassette player, very little used (for retail display). It has twin tracks, with Dolby x 2 (old deck failed); audio graphic equalizer, 30yrs old (unobtainable now); 30 yrs old amp (60W RMS plus into 8 ohms); 30 yrs old tuner; 30 yrs old CD player (6 disc); DVD(2); PVR(2); mini-disc recorder/ player, 3 pairs of speakers (seperates); surround sound from two front and two rear speakers; two TV’s; mini-hifi (FM/Dab, CD, separate speakers). Everything 30yrs old is Pioneer, only the cassette player failed! The oldest items I have are the 78’s which are pre-war.

I think old tech has a place: not least, because it can keep down the cost of entertainment at home. For instance, My collection of CDs and DVDs is still growing (mainly fuelled by 2nd hand or charity shop buys) and I’m happy to keep it that way, for one very good reason: I won’t be able to afford a subscription streaming service when I retire, which is not far off. The occasional download or purchase of some new music or a film will cost a lot less than a subscription to Spotify, or Amazon Prime. This is part of a bigger issue: subscriptions are a fantastic option for many people, but until there is a ‘senior discount’, then many people who don’t have great pensions might need to avoid them.

I have just dug out a nearly vintage printer – brand new and still sealed in the box shipping dated 04/05/2005 !!!!

It came free with a Dell laptop and until fairly recently I thought we had got rid of it to a charity shop.

A couple of weeks ago, our old trusty HP printer started playing up. Firstly a cyan splodge on a print that putting it through cleaning cycles did not rectify. I removed the cartridge and found it had been leaking. I then made the mistake of moving it and now have a magenta splodge on the carpet as that is also leaking. They are both compatibles installed only a few weeks before.

So I got out the printer that came with trial inks and searched the internet to see what this thing is, whether it is likely to work given its age and how much inks would cost to tide us over. Talk about cheap, I could almost lift it with my little finger !!!

More investigation needed but there are an unbelievable amount of these trial inks for sale that are likely to be around 15 years old.

One ebay seller states: Please Note that This Ink may have passed its expiry date! It has not been opened!

Compatible inks would appear to cost nearly £50 so with nothing to lose, I decided to try the old inks just for the heII of it.

Strange power adaptor that plugs straight into the printer then look for something to attach it to a PC.

The icing on the cake . . . .

The cheapskates have not supplied the cable that is USB one end and an unknown connector the other end.
☹️☹️☹️

So 2 printers will be going for tech recycling.

That’s rotten, Alfa. I hope the carpet will clean.

Not really wavechange. I have managed to spread it around by trying to clean if off. The carpet was to be replaced this year so I am not too upset about it.

The only time I had a leakage was when I had obviously overfilled the cartridge for an Apple Stylewriter printer that came ‘free’ with my first Mac, back in 1992. It used a Canon engine and cartridges that cost a fortune but I found bottles of ink on sale in Montreal. Previously I had only used dot matrix and daisy wheel printers and to have something that produced a range of fonts and sizes was amazing.

I wish that all ink cartridges were transparent so that you can see what’s left.

I’ve still got continuous paper for a daisy-wheel printer – the junk we keep !!!

The continuous (listing) paper was mainly used for dot-matrix printers whereas daisy-wheel printers produced high quality output on A4 or other sizes of plain paper. I recently binned a daily-wheel for a Brother HR15.

Hmmm, now I’m not sure what it was. What I do remember was when the ink ran out I replaced it with a 12-16″ ribbon on some sort of cartridge and got ink all over my fingers. The paper was A4ish (slightly wider?) and the perforated sides were removed before sending letters.

Dot matrix printers used long cartridges with a continuous fabric strip impregnated with ink – like an old typewriter ribbon – a bit messy. Daisywheel printers could use a dry carbon film ribbon in a cassette with two reels, much like a cassette tape. The output was much superior but the cassette had to be replaced when the feed reel was emptied. I believe that it was possible to put a cassette with a continuous fabric ribbon in daisywheel printers for draft printing, but dot matrix printers were much faster.

Em says:
17 May 2020

@alfa The cheapskates have not supplied the cable that is USB one end and an unknown connector the other end.

Unknown – are you sure? I’ve seen quite a few Dell inkjets in my time. There are only 8 possible types of USB connector and they are all supposed to be standard. Printers commonly use a Type-B connector, square with angled top corners.

How I miss Maplin – so handy for these situations. We needed a longer printer connector cable and it didn’t occur to me that there would be differences so I didn’t have the original one with me. They sorted me out in no time.

That trade has all gone on-line now but it’s not easy making sure you get the correct part, and if you get the wrong one you then have the hassle of returning it and getting the right one.

Em says:
17 May 2020

I never understood Maplin’s business model. As you say, I miss them, but I’m not surprised they failed.

Great if you needed a 10p resistor to repair something or an obscure £2 connector to make a cable. But the quality of their cheap Chinese imports was rubbish and reputable products like WD hard drives were over-priced, even compared to Currys.

Hi Em, You have just prompted me to look at the different types of USB cables.

The Dell looks like a USB 2.0 Type B Jack. The HP printer uses a USB 3.0 Type B plug. We had a good look at old cables and couldn’t find one that fitted.

At 15 years old, no cable, expensive ink, drivers unknown, not the best reputation, it really is not worth spending time or money on it.

Em says:
17 May 2020

I actually like the fact that things are online. It has enabled me to source the most obscure things to repair items that would simply have been impossible before.

Hulsta wardrobes have a routed wooden cap over the espagnolette door bolts, held in place by special plastic spring clips that were beginning to break over time. You would never find those in B&Q and you could try a dozen specialist hardware stores. A fairly quick Google image search eventually came up trumps and I was able to order a pack for a few £s from some obscure trade supplier.

Similarly, Hulsta cupboards with gas struts that were leaking. Found a 3rd party supplier – perfect clip-on fit and right pressure for weight of doors. New compatible drawer runners. Hulsta would have changed me hundreds for all this.

A door lock on a custom roller door (£100’s new) started jamming. Again, removed the lock plate held in place by two screws and a quick Google image search revealed the Spanish manufacturer. A UK supplier was soon identified.

An ASSA Swedish door lock, not common in this country. Again the exact part was identified and a few Estonian locksmiths had them for sale. Could have gone with that, but I found one UK supplier that had them in stock for less.

I’ve been using wireless printing for many years, which is very convenient for laptop users. My desktop machine, which is never moved around, is connected via a cable. Using wireless printing might be an easy and tidier solution for John.

I have a couple of boxes of computer leads. I think I have now disposed of most of the SCSI, Centronics and ADB leads.

One of my fitted wardrobe doors started to come off its runners due to a broken plastic part – a fault waiting to happen because of a poor choice. of plastic. It was easy to find spares for what seemed to be an obsolete part thanks to eBay. Although I would not buy electrical goods from eBay it’s a brilliant source of new old stock items sold by British marketplace traders.

Thanks, Wavechange. All our printing is done wirelessly now after our old printers were replaced about two years ago. A new desktop PC had to be connected to the router by cable which came as a surprise as that wasn’t mentioned in the product spec when I bought it. It happens to be convenient to make a hard-wired connection but it shows how careful you have to be when choosing products.

I’m not sure why a recent computer should need connected to a router but it it’s convenient it’s a good way of making sure that interference does not reduce the connection speed.

Compatibility is another issue when updating equipment. My older wireless printer stopped working when I was provided with a new router when FTTP broadband arrived. I was able to get it back online with an old Apple Airport that had not been used for years.

I agree, Wavechange. It was matter of luck that it was convenient to hard wire the PC to the router – if the computer had been in any other room it would have been impossible. I did not unpack and install the new machine for a few months after delivery [I was waiting for the old one to collapse which it duly did] so it might have been difficult to exercise any consumer rights.

My laptop conked out yesterday. For months it had been showing a ‘weak battery’ warning which said the battery should be replaced. I bought a new battery immediately the warnings appeared but had not installed it, allowing the original one to expire gracefully. Between shutting down yesterday morning and restarting later it obviously passed away and would not switch on or light up any indicators, so it was completely dead. Having the replacement battery to hand I switched them over and full functionality was immediately restored. What surprised me, though, was that the laptop had not continued running on the mains power intake; presumably the power input runs through the battery unit and when that fails it will not function at all. Is that a design flaw in my particular model [a Lenovo] or a general problem? If it is normal then I would recommend heavy laptop users to get a new battery as soon as the ‘weak battery’ warning appears.

For both of these circumstances I was unusually well-prepared but in both cases my ignorance was a factor.

That was lucky John, I hope the new battery was a reasonable price.

I can’t remember exactly how long now, but the battery of the Dell laptop that was purchased in 2005 died far too quickly and wouldn’t work on mains alone. The replacement from Dell was about £130 with very bad reviews and never did get replaced although the laptop is still around.

I reckon it is not a design flaw, but deliberately designed to make you purchase another cr@p battery as other laptops have worked without batteries. Not sure about Lenovo, but Dell products didn’t use to accept non-Dell parts and replacements too well.

John – I’ve heard of dead batteries preventing a laptop from being powered-up and the solution is to remove or disconnect the battery, allowing it to run from the mains. I don’t think you can blame yourself because old batteries don’t usually prevent laptops working, as far as I know.

I have a laptop that warns me to replace the battery soon but since it still operates for more than an hour and the nearest Apple Store is more than 50 miles away. I had planned to meet up with a friend while my battery was being swapped but thanks to Covid-19 it did not happen and I’ve bought another laptop. The durability of Apple batteries is very good in my experience, lasting considerably longer than the claims, but swapping them involves dismantling the computer, and the biggest problem is that you cannot buy genuine spares. I replaced the battery in my iPhone and it worked perfectly to start with and then over a week quickly declined to a state in which it would not take a charge. I’m not prepared to do a lot of work and find I have fitted a dubious battery. At least the laptop still runs fine on the mains.

Maybe one day there will be a requirement that all batteries are swappable by the user.

Thanks, Alfa and Wavechange, for your comments.

I bought the replacement battery [not an OEM from Lenovo] in July 2019. The price was £34.95. The laptop dates from 2013. I feel I have had good use out of the original battery. I very rarely run the machine on the battery alone so I occasionally get an ‘overcharged’ warning.

The actual swap-out of the old for the new battery was extremely easy and took less than a minute. Nothing to undo, just release a captive spring clip, slide out the old and slide in the new. There has been no degradation in the performance of the laptop over the years. Everything I do on the laptop is synchronised with content on my desktop PC so in the event of the failure of either I have access to all my material, and if I go away for a few days and take the laptop everything is available regardless of which computer it was created on.

It didn’t occur to me to remove the old battery and see if the laptop would run on the mains power only – I must have thought “these things are designed to run on a battery when there is no mains power, not run on the mains when there is no battery”. I should have factored in Chinese intelligence.

I also have a new unused laptop waiting for the old one to pass away but with a new battery in it that could be a long wait.

We use our computers in a very different way, John. Unless I want to use a laptop while it’s being charged I use mine on battery power. I’m making an exception for the one with the failing battery to preserve its remaining capacity. I would love to have batteries that could easily be swapped.

I extend the synchronisation to my phone. It’s not the best device for viewing a spreadsheet or other document but it can be invaluable when out and about.

My desktop machine is too old to be secure on the internet but that’s where I keep financial records.

Desktop PCs do not normally come with a WiFi card, hence the need for Ethernet. It’s probably faster anyway

I wondered if that might be the case, David. I can see that it makes sense for office machines but I’m surprised WiFi is not a standard feature on home machines these days.

When I had a PC built to my requirements 4 years ago I checked the spec before ordering and was surprised to find it was not WiFi enabled. I had a card included. The PC is located about as far from the router as it could be due to the house layout. A weak signal was resolved with a Tenda booster.

I’ve always used Windows OS and hadn’t had any experience of Apple products. However my old laptop now only works off the mains and I recently acquired an iPad. I must admit I find it generally easy to use although, as with my PC, I don’t always find software, apps, installation and use intuitive; but then I’m a bear of little brain. It’s big advantage is its portability. Initially I chose to use it for FaceTime at the beginning of lockdown to keep face to face contact with the family; I had a nice hour’s chat with a sister in Florida yesterday.

As David says, adding wifi to a desktop PC usually involves the need for an additional component, such as a dedicated wifi card or a USB dongle.

I don’t supose that wifi signals will readily penetrate the metal cases of ordinary desktop PC’s, so at the very least some form of external antenna will be needed.

In contrast, devices that have plastic cases, including laptops, SMART TV’s and so on can readily have internal wifi antennae / antennas.

Most of the oldish laptops that I’ve been inside have a separate wifi card that slots into the motherboard and connects to a pair of antenna wires, those then run up into the folding screen. I assume this helps to keep the delicate business of wifi reception away from the bulk of the electrickery on and around the motherboard.

Much of the design and build of newer consumer laptops seem to be convergent with phones and tablets. Over time, fewer discrete components are being used and much more is being integrated onto motherboards. Those boards are also shrinking in size, which leaves more room for internal batteries.

I have used WiFi on aluminium cased iMacs and MacBook Pro laptops without any problem. When I bought my first aluminium MBP I assumed that WiFi would not work as well as on plastic cased MacBooks but found no problem, presumably because the signals pass through the screen. I’m sure I’ve set up WiFi on desktop PCs but maybe they did not have all-metal cases.

My HP 990CXi is probably the same vintage and it remains my main printer. I can still get cartridges for it and these contain print heads, so it is only the carriage that might wear out one day. The cartridges run out when they are actually empty and no software updates spoil the way they work. It duplex prints and I don’t have to wait long for them. I shall be sorry when I need to replace this.

I had an HP printer that used the same cartridges (45 and 78) and only replaced it because I wanted a wireless multifunction printer. One of the reasons I like HP printers is that cartridges remain available for so long. It’s still possible to get cartridges for the ancient HP500 printer.

You are lucky to have a duplex printer still working after so many years, Vynor.

When I moved home a few years ago I decided not just to transfer the contents of the loft to my new home and some boxes were stored in the garage to await my decision about what to do with them. In March, when the coronavirus outbreak was in its early stages I set about organising the garage and found a Pioneer CT-F500 cassette deck that I had purchased in 1978 and retired less than ten years later in favour of a tapedeck with Dolby C, which I still use.

After 40 years I would have expected it to need new drive belts and replacement capacitors, but rashly I plugged it in and it worked perfectly. The tape deck has been reunited with an Arcam amplifier after more than 20 years.

I expect we could shut down manufacturing worldwide for ten years if everyone liberated their lofts and garages of useable equipment.

We could stock a whole kitchen, right down to the sugar tongs and tea strainers with the stuff in the garage. I was going to arrange for a charity to collect it all but then isolation intervened.

I’m sure you are right, John. It’s amazing what finds its way to recycling sites and is scrapped.

A few months ago I found a home for a Hitachi micro-HiFi that fitted nicely in a kitchen cupboard in my previous home. A friend now uses it to play audio book and other CDs. It took months to give that away. I have fond memories of a discussion with a cashier in Comet who tried three times to sell me an extended warranty. I addressed the queue behind and said that according to Which?, extended warranties were very poor value for money.

I regret having disposed of two vacuum cleaners belonging to my parents – one given away and the other taken by a charity shop. Having another vacuum cleaner would have been useful when I moved from a bungalow to a house.

I confess to rarely buying something new unless it is necessary. However, some items – domestic appliances for example – do fail. I’d like to see a much more extensive network of repair shops to help us keep our possession in functional order. I’d also like to see far more of us given the confidence, knowledge and the tools to repair things for ourselves. I’d love to see the return of night schools at sensible cost where I learned smallholding, bricklaying, welding and some other useful skills.

I do think extended warranties, used wisely, are a way of protecting against the possible high cost of failure. I’d like Which? to reinvestigate them and look at multiple product policies as well as single ones. But we do need reliable products in the first place with declared nominal lives and reasonable initial guarantees; those products will not be in the bargain basement If we buy cheap stuff we must accept the consequences.

For many products the killer blow is the labour charge. My eldest son spent an hour repairing an obsolete cabinet door self-closing hinge; it now works but you could tally the labour cost at £30 + vat. Cheaper to have bought a new set if you were not so capable.

It would be interesting to know how many people regularly use electrical goods that are over say 20 years old, whether or not they have repaired them. Discussions about old products usually ignored whether they are regularly used or sit unused most of the time.

My bread machine is not far off 20 years old and still going strong. Earlier this year I got replacement pan and paddles sent from Japan.

I presume this was because the non-stick coating was worn, which is exacerbated by adding seeds. I’m not expecting mine to last long. I have been told that the same pan and paddle can fit a range of models, which makes a lot of sense.

The drive belt can fail with extended use but they should be easy to replace. There are toothed and flat belts and they are not interchangable.

The non-stick was coming off the paddles and pan was starting to look a bit old on the joints although the non-stick coating is still quite good and will be kept just in case it is needed.

When the baking cycle is complete, the bottom of the loaf is slightly hard. If I leave the loaf in the machine for 30 minutes, the crust softens and the paddles come out easily instead of getting damaged. I bought 3 sets of paddles that will hopefully see the machine out as the manufacturer won’t let me have any more parts.

I keep old parts too. 🙂 I used to buy several sets of oven door springs for a Belling cooker, which I kept going for 34 years.

If I turn out the pan as soon as a loaf is ready, the paddle normally stays in the pan but if not I extricate it using a pair of Spencer Wells forceps, inserted in the middle and opened to grasp it without damaging the non-stick coating. I had not realised that the crust will soften with standing.

My breadmaker came with a second paddle for rye bread but that has yet to be tested.

It turns my stomach a bit, and my imagination runs riot, when I hear of people having to get the surgical instruments out during their home baking exercises. At least it’s only the paddle that requires a forceps delivery. Hopefully the loaf turned out beautifully – but did it look like its father?

I usually put olive oil in the mix, so it’s an extra virgin birth – no parents involved.

Spencer Wells forceps are now readily available as tools for the DIY enthusiast, though my first pair came from a former medical student and lives in a toolkit rather than the kitchen. If I try Alfa’s suggestion I might not need to perform operations on wholemeal loaves again.

Liquids go into my machine first so I pour olive oil over the paddles as lubrication that might also help elongate their life. I only need to give the pan a shake and the loaf comes out leaving the paddles behind.

I also don’t add seeds or anything else that might be scratchy.

100% wholemeal recipes also want vital wheat gluten that I can get from Holland & Barrett. They started off really well then the last few loaves sunk at one end and I feared the machine has a problem. Going back to part wholemeal and part white flour the loaves are near perfect again so a sigh of relief.

One of the books that was a formative part of my childhood was my mother’s Baillière’s Medical Dictionary. It was packed with fascinating diagrams of apparatus for carrying out all manner of surgical procedures. I was suspicious of doctors for ever after and my heart rate shot up as soon as they opened their bag. Great to know these things have excellent alternative uses.

Medical items have all sorts of uses in DIY, John. I have a box full of disposable syringes and needles that were past their expiry date when I acquired them. I recently used a 1 ml syringe and needle to inject adhesive into a loose joint of a chair that had belonged to my grandparents. That did the job and I will do the same with a small table.

Em says:
17 May 2020

Does a Fleischmann model steam engine count? Probably still works if I fire it up. With modern low energy LED lamps available, I might even be able to power something useful with it.

Em says:
17 May 2020

End of the satellite dish? Really? What about Freesat? That’s sponsored by BBC and ITV, providing signals to remote locations, motorhomes, caravans, and even places in northern Europe.

I have a Panasonic TV, twin channel HD recorder, and another Sony TV with direct satellite free-to-view feeds. Everything serviced by a single satellite dish with a quad LNB, on an end wall no-one can see and satellite cable distributed throughout the house.

I would hate to loose all that, as it saves the clutter of multiple aerials, splitter boxes, etc. Otherwise, it’s another case of built-in obsolescence and more electrical waste for no gain.

Coincidentally, I have just enjoyed watching Kazumi Imai breathing new life into electronics that shops refuse to repair; we look at his astonishing repair techniques and his dedication to his way of life.

The programme titled ‘The Professionals’ is repeated again at 20.10 – 21.00 this evening, in English, on NHK, channel 209 on my TV. He voices his initial concerns when retailers decided to dispose of his services due to falling sales, so he decided to form his own repair shop to the utter delight of his many customers.

Time is the great enemy if repairs are carried out commercially – the hourly rate (+vat) to provide a living income and overheads. So economically it can be worthwhile for more expensive items, or those with emotional connections; for more run of the mill products it may not make monetary sense. Some idea of what is involved can be seen on Salvage hunters – the restorers, The repair shop, Wheeler dealers….. Be nice to establish a network of amateur enthusiast repairers and restorers who are prepared to help people in their locality for modest reward.

I have watched some of the Repair Shop episodes and found them very interesting, but many tricks of the trades are not revealed nor details of the financial arrangements. I have found from personal experience that any specialist repair job by an expert costs a lot of money. I have had paintings restored, frames repaired and regilded, clocks and watches repaired, and furniture re-upholstered. The closest I have got to doing the work myself was restoring and French-polishing a side table which was inspired by the furniture restoration series.

Some years ago there was an informative series on re-upholstery and furniture restoration which actually helped amateurs gain the required skills and described the tools and materials required for each project. There was a well-illustrated companion book that gave further information and sources. There are too many rubbish and repeat channels nowadays so there is no room for programmes like this.